Marijuana is at a crossroads in the United States. Four states and the nation’s capital have legalized the drug for any use, while more than two dozen others allow medical cannabis.
More reform is right around the corner. California stands a good chance of legalizing marijuana in November, as does Nevada. Arizona, Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, and Michigan could also move on legalization this year.
So what exactly comes next for weed? Just how rosy is the future, and where will it take hold next?
The simple answer is that 2016 is shaping up to be a great year for people who oppose cannabis prohibition. The slightly more complicated answer is that success could vary from state to state, with activists likely to pull off some efforts but not others.
The best chances appear to be in California and Nevada. Marijuana advocates in the Golden State are currently gathering signatures to put the issue on the ballot in November. They have already attracted more than $2 million in funding.
Strong support in California
Public support among California voters is well above 50 percent in most polls, suggesting the initiative stands a good chance of passing if it makes the ballot. If voters approve it, California would become the most populous state to allow legal cannabis for personal use.
Nevada will vote on legalization in 2016
A similar initiative has already satisfied election requirements in Nevada and will appear on the statewide ballot. Few pollsters have tried to measure public opinion there, but the state’s libertarian leanings suggest the plan could make it past voters.
Activists are also pushing a legal marijuana initiative in Arizona, which borders both California and Nevada. That state is more conservative, which means advocates will likely face stronger opposition.
Maine and Massachusetts gathering signatures
Legalization could be on its way to the East Coast as well. Volunteers in Maine and Massachusetts are working to put the issue on the ballot in both states, and odds in each appear to be good, if not ideal.
In Vermont, lawmakers could vote to legalize pot later this year, which would make the state the first to legalize by way of its legislature.
Michigan seeks to become first legal Midwestern state
Hopes are more subdued in Michigan, the first Midwestern state to consider legalizing marijuana for recreation (voters in Ohio, a neighboring state in the Mid-Atlantic region, rejected legal cannabis last year). Michigan already allows medical marijuana, and that program is very popular, but current politics suggest legalization faces an uphill battle there.
The state’s legislature is dominated by Republicans, and embattled Gov. Rick Snyder also belongs to the GOP. Snyder’s administration is on the verge of collapse because of its response to the widespread poisoning of tap water in Flint, Mich.
Strong support in Florida
Medical cannabis could also reach voters in at least two states, Missouri and Florida. The ballot campaign in Florida faces tough odds, as proponents must win at least 60 percent of the statewide vote in November. The proposal is expected at least to make the ballot.
The idea is very popular in Florida, so it’s possible it will pass. If not, talk of legalization will likely rise again in coming years. The same is true in Missouri, where conservative opposition is strong but reformers need only one vote more than 50 percent.
It’s impossible to know just how this year will shape up for marijuana policy in America. But it’s a pretty safe bet reform will continue to roll. There isn’t much that can stop it now.