2016 is set to be a landmark year for marijuana legalization. As many as 11 states could allow recreational use. Here's an update on the states most likely to legalize, ranked according to their prospects for success.
Bernie Sanders' home state stands a strong chance of becoming the first to legalize cannabis through its legislature. The other states - Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska - have all legalized through ballot initiatives. Since January, when Governor Peter Shumlin (D) called on the General Assembly to legalize recreational use, the senate has approved a legalization bill. Now its fate rests with the House of Representatives, where it will meet opposition from Republicans and uncertain support from Democrats.
Every vote will count as Vermont is posed to make marijuana history.
Nevada is the safest bet to legalize through the ballot in 2016, according to Leafly. Campaigners for the Initiative to Regulate and Tax Marijuana were the first group in the nation to gather enough signatures to put legalization on the 2016 ballot. And they did it with gusto, handing in a total of 170,000 signatures - nearly 60,000 more than the 101,667 required to get onto the ballot.
According to the polling website isidewith.com, 63 percent of Nevadans favor legalization. And even though he can't vote on the issue, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders unofficially endorsed the measure.
According to a February poll released by Probolsky Research, 59.9 percent of Californians support legalization. So why isn't the Golden State higher on our list? Because those voters are divided by the same cause.
Ballotpedia says that eight competing ballot proposals have been approved to gather signatures. The frontrunner is the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), which is backed by billionaire and early Facebook investor Sean Parker. It has won over many activists, and certainly has the money to mount a strong campaign. But those strengths are the reasons why grassroots activists to fear "Big Marijuana" setting up shop in California.
So the biggest hurdle for activists in the Golden State isn't getting people interested in legalization. It's uniting activists around one initiative.
The Grand Canyon State looks almost set to vote on marijuana this November. "We are very close to being on the ballot," Carlos Alfaro - the Arizona Political Director for the Marijuana Policy Project - told Civilized in February. "We should be on the ballot by the end of this spring."
Alfaro says that the MPP-backed Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol already has enough signatures to submit their proposal. But like Nevada, they want to gather more than the minimum in case state officials deem some ineligible. That happened recently in Maine, where one rejected signature disqualified a legalization campaign. So CRMLA is wise to gather more autographs than needed.
Once the issue makes the ballot, CRMLA will face the challenge of convincing voters to approve it. According to the latest polls, support for legalization ranges from 49-53 percent among Arizonans. So activists have a lot of work ahead to make sure the measure passes.
Getting marijuana on the ballot in the Bay State is all but a done deal. In December 2015, the MPP-backed Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol submitted the required signatures for their proposal to state officials. Now they have to wait and see whether the Statehouse votes for or against the measure. But if lawmakers reject it, activists can still get it on the ballot if they raise an additional 10,792 signatures, which they've already done.
So the real issue is whether Massachusettsians (yes, they're called that) will support the measure. The latest polls (conducted in 2014) pegged support 48-49 percent and opposition at 41-42 percent. So how well the activists court voters who are sitting on the fence will likely decide the fate of marijuana in Massachusetts.
Luckily they'll have travel writer Rick Steves on-hand to help.