The 2016 Election was historic on many levels from a marijuana reform standpoint. Obviously the election was big because more states voted to legalize marijuana. Adding California, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts to the list of legal states is a big deal. Not just because adding them to the list doubled the list, but also because the successful votes there significantly add to the momentum for legalization elsewhere.
California was the biggest domino to fall on Election Day 2016. Victory in America’s largest state has been described as a watershed moment for national marijuana legalization. But I don’t think that enough attention is being paid to the significance of the victories in Maine and Massachusetts. Most of the Western United states has voted to legalize. Not all of them, but most of them. As such, legalization in California and Nevada is not likely to have a dramatic effect on states like Idaho and Utah.
The successful votes in Maine and Massachusetts could have a big impact on surrounding states. Rhode Island, Delaware, New Jersey, and Connecticut have already ramped up talks about marijuana legalization via their legislatures. Vermont is another state that has started the conversation, despite opposition from Vermont’s incoming Governor. Per Vermont Public Radio:
Two key lawmakers say they plan to resume the push to legalize cannabis in Vermont, but Governor-elect Phil Scott is urging them not to waste their time on the measure.
In the 2016 legislative session, Vermont had a governor who wanted to legalize cannabis, and a Legislature that wasn’t ready to come along.
Now, it looks like lawmakers might be ready to move ahead with a legalization bill in 2017. This time, though, it’s the state’s incoming Republican governor that might hold them back.
The entire Northeastern part of the United States is ‘in play’ right now from a marijuana legalization perspective. It’s debatable as to which states have a greater chance than others, but lawmakers in those states have to be seeing the writing on the wall. Legalization is coming, it’s just a matter of time. Do the legislatures want to get out in front of it, and help craft the laws themselves, or do they want the citizens to do it? Marijuana laws written by citizens are much better than those that are written by lawmakers, but initiatives are only drafted, circulated, signatures gathered for, and campaigns ran at a great expense and after a lot of effort. It would nice to see legislatures (Vermont included) step up and get their states on the right side of history, and save a lot of the hassle for activists. I truly feel that at least one state legislature will legalize in 2017. Which one? Only time will tell.