CANNABIS CULTURE – The United States has yet to federally legalize the consumption of cannabis for medicinal or recreational use. However, there is a growing list of states that have legalized to some extent.
Medical Only or Full Legalization — What’s What in the States
In states with full legalization, all you need is a valid ID showing you are over 21, and you can purchase up to an ounce.
For states with only medicinal usage, the rules are much stricter and usually differ by state. Some states with medical legalization have not passed decriminalizing laws and still deal out heavy punishments for non-registered offenders. Which states have full legalization, and which have medical only? Here’s a list of each.
States with full legalization — medical and recreational:
States with medical legalization only:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- Washington, D.C.
Who’s Going to Be Next?
Of those states that have legalized medical cannabis, which will be the most likely to legalize recreational use next? This is a tough question, given that any changes in policy come down to politics, but there are a few clues we can look at — namely, current inner-state movements for legalization, along with political trends and recent legislation.
Based on these factors, and some other great lists, here are our guesses for the next five states to legalize recreationally:
- New York
States with strong left-leaning politics have shown a greater willingness to legalize. Heading the list of states that have already legalized is the Pacific Northwest and California — arguably the most left-leaning region in the U.S. New York is also a notoriously liberal state, especially in the downstate/New York City region.
New York has already decriminalized cannabis statewide for any amounts less than 25 grams. They are now leaning on a policy of fines and seizure instead. With each repeat offense, the fine does get heavier, which isn’t necessarily strange, given that New York is notorious for high taxes as well. The ability to heavily tax recreational cannabis may also push New York in the direction of legalization in the coming years.
The Live Free or Die state has a strong history of left-leaning political freedom. Bernie Sanders himself admitted during the 2016 Democratic Primary that he thought legalization should not be a problem if implemented correctly. Vermont may be the closest state to passing legalization policy, and it certainly goes on the list as the most active in this area.
Several bills have already been passed by the state legislature, but they were vetoed by the governor’s office. The most recent bill is in the process of getting reworked to prevent underage usage and driving under the influence. Whether this next version will pass is still unclear, but it seems like only a matter of time.
Like New York, Illinois loves taxing their products and services. Also like New York, Illinois has trended toward decriminalization, especially in the Chicagoland area. As of 2016, Chicago law has basically decriminalized personal possession up to 15 grams. There is, however, a hefty fine between $250 and $500 for anybody caught in possession outside of that stipulation. Also, don’t smoke in public — that can still land you in jail.
While not as far along in the legalization process as New York, shifts in the current Illinois political administration seem likely. However, Illinois is still a question mark, especially since decriminalization happened so recently. A lot will ride on the 2018 midterm elections.
- New Jersey
Another state that hangs in the balance of future elections, New Jersey could very well legalize in the coming months. Like New York, Jersey is a predominately metropolitan, extremely left-leaning area, resulting in significant political pressure for legalization.
The election for New Jersey governor is right around the corner — November 2017 — and Democratic candidate Phil Murphy has already voiced his support for legalization. Assuming Murphy wins the coming election, New Jersey may actually be the next state to legalize. Like Illinois, though, the path can go either way.
Like Vermont, Arizona has been making political moves toward legalization, including a measure this past November. Though it was narrowly defeated this time around, a second measure is already in the works and has made some political concessions, which may be just enough for legalization.
Public support seems to be in favor of full legalization, but a governor veto is always on the table, as we have seen in Vermont. Only time will tell.
Honorable Mention: Delaware
It’s unclear where Delaware is at. One thing, however, is clear: A debate is raging in Delaware, with strong advocates and opponents to legalization both making their voices heard. Opponents in Delaware are apparently mainly held up on the potential unknown health effects of cannabis, as well as the risks of underage usage, be it intentional or accidental.
Some movement has been made in Delaware, with widespread lobbying eventually netting them a task force to study the risks and benefits of full legalization. Proponents aren’t thrilled with the red tape and stalling, and we’ll see if more rallies and lobbying can finally swing the votes needed for full legalization.
Here’s the takeaway: A lot is still uncertain when it comes to future legalization. Some states seem to be creeping toward the edge, while others could legalize quickly following the next election cycle. It’s all tea leaves, but these five states — and maybe Delaware, too — could see legalization very soon.
And, who knows. Maybe the federal government will legalize cannabis across the board — we won’t hold our breath on that one, though.