The Overton Window has shifted on drug use. More and more states are willing to contemplate legalizing drug use in spite of the obvious damage it will do to society because those state governments are flat broke and desperately need new sources of revenue. Even just to be able to continue pay their current workers and the pensions they owe retired state workers. Thus they imagine that the heavy taxes they intend to levy on legal marijuana will help them pay their bills. However because legal marijuana will so expensive due to the taxes the state will need to place on it, the back market for marijuana will still be active. So the drug abuse problem will likely remain as bad as ever, if not become worse.
In 2013, only 7% of American adults said they were marijuana users. Today, less than, usage rates have nearly doubled, as 13% of U.S. adults say they smoke pot -- according to a recent Gallup poll. Despite what appears to be growing acceptance of the drug, the DEA recently reiterated marijuana’s classification as a Schedule 1 substance, in the same category as heroin, LSD, and ecstasy.
Reflecting the increasing acceptance of the drug, and in direct conflict with the DEA’s conclusion, some states have dialed down their marijuana laws in recent years. Prohibited across the country less than five years ago, marijuana is now legal and regulated in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and the District of Columbia. While it may be too early to gauge the social and economic impact of full scale legalization in these places, more than a dozen other states could foreseeably repeal marijuana prohibition in the coming years.
24/7 Wall St. revisited last year's list of states most likely to legalize recreational marijuana. We again reviewed current marijuana laws as well as legislative processes in each state. The path to legalization is long, complex, and often very different in each state. Changing circumstances led to the addition of several states, including Arizona and Illinois, while Minnesota was the only state on last year’s list that was not included this year.
A state's legislative process is an important factor in the state's path towards legalization of marijuana. In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Morgan Fox, senior communications manager with Marijuana Policy Project, a marijuana legalization advocacy group, explained, “Traditionally, voters have been far ahead of politicians when it comes to supporting marijuana policy reform.” As a result, states that allow ballot initiatives, through which statutes and constitutional amendments can be proposed by voters, are more likely to legalize marijuana sooner than states that do not allow ballot initiatives.
The four states that have legalized recreational marijuana use have done so through ballot initiatives. And this November, voters in Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada will also vote on ballot initiatives that would repeal prohibition of the drug.
However, just over half of states do not allow such ballot initiatives, and many lawmakers perceive marijuana reform as too politically risky. According to Fox, this is beginning to change. In many states, including Vermont and Rhode Island, voters are not likely to punish politicians for being perceived as soft on drugs if they are in favor of marijuana law reforms. In states such as these, possession of a small amount of pot is already decriminalized and marijuana use is legal for those with certain medical conditions.
Click ahead to see the next states to legalize marijuana.