Marijuana legalization has taken the country by storm in the last 10 years. But marijuana legislation actually all started back in 1973 when Oregon decriminalized marijuana. These days, laws decriminalizing and legalizing marijuana and medical marijuana have spread far and wide. From Alaska to Nevada to New York, marijuana is getting closer and closer to going up in legalized smoke. 2015 saw marijuana history in the making.
The 2014 midterm elections granted more states the ability to decriminalize and legalize medical and recreational marijuana. Seeing the economic success of Colorado’s and Washington state’s pot legalization, many states are following in their paths and letting voters decide if recreational weed should be legal in their states. Oregon, Alaska and Washington D.C. legalized the recreation use of marijuana in 2014, and their new laws started taking place in 2015.
Recreational weed aside, there were huge steps taken in medical marijuana legislation in 2014 and 2015. Georgia and Texas legalized medical cannabis and Delaware decriminalized marijuana, just to name a few. New York and Minnesota legalized medical cannabis in 2014, and New York City decriminalized marijuana to follow suit. Other states have also allowed residents with certain medical conditions to possess cannabis oil or other forms of CBD.
Just like years before, the medical marijuana legislation that passed in 2014 set the stage for even more state legislative action to occur in 2015. Specifically, this legislation was when Congress ended the federal government’s ban on medical marijuana passed in individual states. Never heard of it? Maybe it’s because the provision was hidden within a 1600-page federal spending measure. Under this new legislation, states with legal medical marijuana won’t have to worry about the feds raiding medical cannabis dispensaries (like Las Vegas ReLeaf).
While this bill did not legalize medical marijuana, it marked a significant shift in the federal government’s attitude towards the war on drugs. One lobbyist even said, “The war on medical marijuana is over.” In October of this year, this legislation was upheld in federal court when a California federal courtroom told the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to stop harassing medical marijuana dispensaries. This decision set the tone for all future medical marijuana court dealings while this bill is still in effect.
The president also declared his support for the decriminalization of marijuana in 2015. This statement comes in light of the fact that a record 58% of Americans now support marijuana legalization. However, this support does not mean it will be an easy battle for legal pot from here on out. Marijuana is still considered a schedule I drug and has no acceptable medical use according to the FDA. Plus, congress is still resisting marijuana change in Washington D.C., which overwhelmingly voted to legalize recreational pot in 2014. None the less, marijuana proponents acknowledge the shifting attitude toward pot in the states and the federal government, and there is plenty of reason to celebrate.
With the marijuana legalization train in full motion, which states will be next? Next year is another election year, and a few states are already lining up to put marijuana legalization on the ballot and leave it to their voters to decide. As The Cheat Sheet states, “we sit on the precipice of more states preparing for coming marijuana legalization” than ever before. Coming up fast in Washington, Colorado and Alaska’s smoke are at least seven other states. And with every election cycle, marijuana legalization is getting closer and closer to seeing the light of day.
The following are five states expected to have marijuana legalization on the ballot in 2016.
– California – California is one of the biggest states in the union, and legalizing recreational weed there could mean big things for the national cannabis scene. Think about it. If California passes legalized pot, the entire west coast will have access to legal recreational weed. Medical marijuana has already been legal here for years and the time is coming fast for legal recreational pot. Once that happens, it is only a matter of time before the rest of the country follows suit.
– Massachusetts – If you thought marijuana legalization was going to stay to the west coast for a while, you might be surprised to hear that liberal New England is preparing for Massachusetts’s end to cannabis prohibition. Advocates of legal marijuana there are preparing for battle and have high hopes that marijuana will be legal by the end of 2016.
– Hawaii – Going back west, the Pacific Ocean west that is, Hawaii has already been fighting for marijuana legalization for a few years. Many legalization efforts fell short thus far but that isn’t stopping them from continuing the green fight. Hawaii is known to be fiercely independent and has been growing some of the best marijuana in the world for a while now. Plus, with the high potential for heavy tax revenues, the time for marijuana legalization is closer than ever before.
– Maine – Massachusetts isn’t the only east coast state looking to be a trailblazer for marijuana legalization. Maine is also gearing up for a green legislation battle. Many are saying that if Maine can kick off east coast legalization, it will create a domino effect for other east coast states.
– Nevada – Marijuana legalization in Nevada makes sense for a lot of Nevada residents and legislature. The signatures have been collected, and residents are now gearing up for a 2016 ballot initiative. With Las Vegas and Reno being high tourism destinations, it only makes sense for the state with Sin City to legalize and tax marijuana. On a bonus note, the tax revenue would go straight to funding Nevada schools, which desperately need the help.
Other states looking to add marijuana legislation to the 2016 November ballot include Arizona, Florida, Missouri, Vermont, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Utah, Nebraska, Arkansas and many others with proponents working hard for legalized pot. Whether legalized medical marijuana or recreational marijuana, states are recognizing their voters support and giving them a chance to decide the level of pot legalization they want.
In congress, the CARERS Act is being pushed forward. This bill will allow for legalized medical marijuana without federal interference and the rescheduling of marijuana as a schedule II drug, which will allow banks to work with marijuana companies and open up research opportunities that are currently blocked. Other pieces of legislation include the “Respect Sate Marijuana Laws” (HR 140) and Bernie Sanders bill “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act.”
2015 was a great year for marijuana proponents and legislation. But this year is merely a stepping stone for what’s expected in 2016. With the next election cycle coming up fast, we will have to see which states vote for and legalize marijuana in one form or another.
This article was brought to you by Las Vegas ReLeaf, a premier medical marijuana dispensary located in Las Vegas, NV, just 500 feet from the Las Vegas Strip.