Which States Will Legalize Pot Next?

By Victoria Kim 11/21/17

The top 15 states with the highest likelihood of marijuana legalization were revealed in a recent analysis. 

protestor waving a marijuana flag in front of the White House

Each election year, more U.S. states have chosen to chip away at cannabis prohibition. Last November alone, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada legalized cannabis for recreational use—bringing the total number of “full legalization” states to eight: Alaska, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Maine, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, plus Washington, D.C.

Many more—29 states and D.C.—allow cannabis for medical use. 

The use of ballot initiatives has made the slow death of cannabis prohibition possible—and according to a new analysis by 24/7 Wall Street, this process will shape future legalization efforts as well. 

24/7 Wall Street, a partner of USA Today, compiled a list of 15 states that appear to have the best chance at being the next to legalize it. 

Many of them will rely on ballot initiatives to get it done: citizens collect a certain number of signatures (depending on the state) to qualify their proposal for the ballot. Come election day, the public is given the opportunity to vote on the ballot initiative. 

According to Ballotpedia, 21 U.S. states allow citizens to put up their own ballot initiatives for a public vote. 

To make its list, 24/7 Wall Street considered each state’s rate of adult cannabis use, their legislative process, and existing cannabis laws. 

Number one on the list is Arizona, a ballot initiative state where cannabis for medical use is already legal. In the November 2016 election, Arizona was the only state whose ballot initiative to legalize cannabis failed to get enough votes, though by a narrow margin; Proposition 205, which would have allowed adults there to possess up to one ounce of cannabis and grow up to six plants, was defeated 51.3% to 48.7%. 

Delaware and Rhode Island may be the first states to legalize cannabis through their state legislatures, instead of ballot initiatives. 

Delaware’s House Bill 110 proposes to regulate cannabis like alcohol. It seems to have a good chance, since recent polls have shown that the majority of Delaware residents support legalization, while the perceived risk of cannabis has gone down—placing Delaware at number 4 on the list.

Meanwhile, Rhode Island lawmakers plan to introduce legislation in 2018 to legalize cannabis for personal use. Given the state’s high rate of adult cannabis use and significant support from state lawmakers, Rhode Island is number 14 on the list.

Illinois, number 6, is considering two pieces of legislation, Senate Bill 316 and House Bill 2353, which would allow adults old enough to drink to possess, grow, and purchase limited amounts of cannabis.

Vermont is placed last, at number 15, though it has the highest rate of adult cannabis use (20.6%) of all the states listed. The state legislature previously failed to pass a bill to allow cannabis for adult recreational use, when it was vetoed by Governor Phil Scott. However, the governor has said he’d be open to signing a similar, more refined version of the bill, after a review of the potential effects on public safety and state tax revenue.

Other states listed include those that have removed criminal penalties for cannabis possession in some capacity, like Connecticut,  Maryland, and New Hampshire.

See the full list at USA Today.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr