This year’s election could have sweeping impacts on cannabis legislation nationwide, as numerous states gear up to vote on important regulations regarding America’s most beloved plant.
In roughly two months, citizens in five states will vote on whether or not to fully legalize recreational cannabis, while another four states will consider legalizing the drug for medicinal purposes.
Some experts say that the measures could affect the way the federal government views marijuana. Currently, 25 states and the District of Columbia have some sort of law regulating cannabis.
Four states, including Alaska, Oregon, Colorado and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia, have legalized the plant for recreational use, according to Governing.com.
Five U.S. states could fully legalize marijuana
Marijuana is considered legal for medicinal use in several other states, including New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, Montana, Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts.
Virginia reportedly enacted a law 10 years ago allowing the possession of marijuana among individuals who have received a prescription for the plant. However, federal law prevented physicians from doing so, leaving the law null and void.
The Washington Post reports that if the proposed measures are not passed come November, “a string of defeats would signal public unease about condoning the use of an intoxicating substance that isn’t tobacco or alcohol. Defeats would suggest that opponents’ longstanding criticisms of the legal marijuana industry are making inroads among voters.”
California is one of the states that could make recreational marijuana legal, affecting some 40 million people and the already existing $2.7 billion cannabis market. If approved, the sales could mushroom to more than $6 billion in just a few years, the Post reports.
Nevada is another state looking to legalize recreational marijuana, which would be a boon to its tourism industry. Proponents of full marijuana legalization are working with about $1 million in funds, while opponents have zero.
Arizona, which passed medical marijuana legislation in 2010, is the third state looking to fully legalize the plant. Home to a significant number of snow birds and elderly folks, if passed the measure is sure to have many benefits. However, polls show weak support (only 39 percent) for the full legalization of marijuana.
Some states considering legal pot have weak support, polls show
Massachusetts is also considering full legalization of marijuana; however, like Arizona, the measure has little support, with just 41 percent of voters in favor of it.
Maine is the fifth state considering full marijuana legalization. Polls from earlier this year show that upwards of 50 percent intend to vote for the measure.
“That initiative was nearly derailed when Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap invalidated tens of thousands of petition signatures necessary to put the measure on the ballot. But a judge reversed Dunlap’s decision on an appeal from the pro-legalization campaign, clearing the measure’s way forward,” the Post reports.
Finally, states considering legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes include Arkansas, North Dakota and Montana, the latter of which approved medical pot in 2004, but had the measure essentially reversed in 2011, following legislation preventing dispensaries “from charging for their services beyond the cost of recouping a licensing fee.”
Federal government refuses to declassify marijuana
In early August, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) rejected attempts made by two Democratic governors to ease restrictions on marijuana. The agency stood firm on its current classification for the plant, keeping it as a schedule I drug.
Schedule I drugs include substances or chemicals considered to have no “currently accepted medical use,” and “a high potential for abuse,” according to the DEA. Other drugs in this category include heroin, LSD, ecstasy, meth and peyote. Even cocaine and meth, Schedule II drugs, have a lower classification than marijuana.