More than 20 states could vote to legalize marijuana in November, according to recent news reports.
That means 2016 could be the biggest year yet for cannabis reform. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that elections officials in 19 states have already received petitions to legalize the drug for recreation or medicine. When additional states are added, the list grows to 24.
If the winds blow in favor of pro-pot activists, reform could literally sweep the country in this year’s election. But that probably won’t happen.
Experts say only a handful of these states stand much chance of legalizing either personal or medical marijuana use. But even that would be a huge victory, opening up large swaths of the country to legal cannabis
25 states already permit some form of legal marijuana
Those states would add to the 35 that already permit some form of legal cannabis. Some allow any use of the drug, others allow full medical use, and the rest allow non-intoxicating medical use.
According to the Ballotpedia, the 19 states include: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming.
As several states were omitted from the list, the real total is at least 24, according to The Weed Blog. The omitted states include Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and New York, all good bets to legalize in coming years. Each but New Hampshire could legalize by way of legislation rather than referendum, a first.
Marijuana is currently legal in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and the District of Columbia. The last two elections in these states, in 2012 and 2014, were landmarks of cannabis reform, but 2016 could ultimately be even bigger.
Election could bring legal cannabis to the East Coast
The election could see the arrival of legal marijuana on the East Coast (Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New York), and in the Midwest (Michigan). But many of the 24 states are long shots at best.
California, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts are considered the best bets to legalize. Arizona is also a promising target, though politics are more conservative there.
Public support for legalization is strong and increasing across the country. The most recent Gallup poll on the issue reported 58 percent of Americans want their states to legalize.
That doesn’t mean the fight is easy now. Opposition is still fierce, especially from law-and-order politicians, police, federal agencies, and prosecutors. All these people have a financial interest in perpetuating prohibition.
Even so, 2016 is shaping up to be a banner year for marijuana reform. By the time the dust settles, weed could be legal on both coasts and in parts of the nation’s interior – a major victory for the future of legalization.