Which State Legislatures are Most Likely to Legalize Cannabis in 2017?
Momentum for cannabis legalization is at an all-time high. The most recent Gallup poll has national support for legalization at 60%, up from 44% in 2009.
That momentum has translated into a lot of election victories in 2012 (Colorado and Washington), 2014 (Oregon, Alaska, and Washington D.C.), and 2016 (California, Nevada, Maine, Massachusetts).
But those reform victories have all come via a citizen initiative process in which citizens gather enough signatures to put legalization on the ballot.
The only other way to legalize cannabis at the state level is via state legislatures. To date no state has legalized cannabis for adult use via legislative action.
That could very well change this year as states gear up for the 2017 legislative season. One or more states could legalize via legislative action this year.
In states that legalized via citizen initiative legislatures acted caught off guard by the policy change mandated by voters.
That was certainly the case in Oregon after voters approved cannabis legalization. Oregon politicians were given the opportunity to take the lead on reform and instead punted the decision to voters.
Legislatures this year are taking cannabis policy much more seriously in states that have yet to legalize and some want to get out ahead of the issue in order to have the most influence possible over the policy change.
For some states, and the consumers that live in them, legalizing via legislative action is the only way to make cannabis legal for adults. That's a very important fact that many consumers overlook.
Some state legislatures are more cannabis friendly than others. Below are the ones that we here at Green Flower feel have the best chance in 2017.
The first day of Delaware's legislative session is January 10th. Senator Margaret Rose Henry (D-Wilmington) stated back in October 2015 that she would file a bill that would legalize cannabis for adult use in Delaware very early in the upcoming session.
Senator Margaret Rose Henry introduced the bill that legalized medical cannabis in Delaware. Delaware is high on the list of states that the Marijuana Policy Project is targeting for lobbying efforts in 2017.
Rob Kampia, Executive Director of the Marijuana Policy Project, stated back in November at the Marijuana Business Conference in Las Vegas that Maryland is one of his top states to watch for in 2017.
Maryland's legislative session begins on January 11th. Maryland doesn't have as good a shot at seeing a legalization bill pass as some of the other Northeastern states mentioned in this article, but it still has a decent chance nonetheless.
New Hampshire has long been in the sights of activists and national organizations as one of the most likely states to legalize cannabis for adult use.
New Hampshire's legislature starts on January 4. In January 2014 New Hampshire's House of Representatives actually voted to legalize cannabis for adult use. The bill would eventually fail to pass and become law, but it was still significant and shows what level of support exists in New Hampshire for legalization.
A lot has happened since 2014, most notably that Massachusetts and Maine have already brought legalization to the Northeastern part of the United States. It could push New Hampshire over the top this year.
New Mexico doesn't make a lot of 'next to legalize cannabis' news and is the only state on this list that is not in the Northeastern part of the United States.
However, despite getting overlooked New Mexico is going to make a very real push for legalization in 2017. A Representative in New Mexico has already released plans for a legalization bill for the upcoming session which starts on January 17th.
Another state that is at the top of states that the Marijuana Policy Project is targeting for 2017 is Rhode Island. Rhode Island borders Massachusetts, which was the first state to legalize on the East Coast.
Legalization is not inevitable in Rhode Island, as there's a lot of work to do, but Rhode Island is a state that is at the top of virtually everyone's list for the first to legalize via legislative action.
Rhode Island's Governor is not a fan of legalization, but has stated that she thinks the state should take a look at it. Governor Gina Raimondo estimates that a legal cannabis industry would generate $15 million annually for Rhode Island.
Vermont is a state that has been in the discussion for legalization via legislative action for a while now. Unfortunately incoming Vermont Governor Phil Scott has made it very clear he does not support legalization.
Discussions have popped up in New Jersey, and Arizona about bills being introduced that would legalize cannabis for adult use. However, New Jersey's chances are not good as long as Chris Christie is Governor, and Arizona recently rejected a legalization initiative, so a legalization push there may be premature.
The Marijuana Policy Project has also stated that it plans to target Illinois, Texas, and Connecticut for legalization bills, but Illinois and Texas are too strict for such a move in my opinion.
Connecticut's Governor is going to make it very difficult for legalization efforts there, similar to the approach Chris Christie would take if legalization made it to his desk in New Jersey (veto).
Do you think one or more states will legalize cannabis via legislative action in 2017?