Marijuana in 2K18: Who’s Set to Legalize Next?

(TFC) – Trump recently announced his intentions to prosecute marijuana possession in states that have previously legalized recreational use. While no one can say what will come of that, we all have our fingers crossed. Setting aside this most recent stupidity coming from the White House and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, states across the U.S. still seem on the verge of legalizing recreational marijuana use.

Laws governing marijuana use can be confusing, because it often seems the federal government and state governments contradict each other. Although federal law prohibits marijuana use, 29 states allow medical consumption, eight of which have also legalized recreational use.

1.      New York

Politics has a strong correlation with weed-friendly policies. After all, the West Coast includes the trifecta of recreational states — California, Oregon and Washington — which are all left-leaning havens as well. Of course, a second thing these states all have in common is their comparatively high taxes to the rest of the U.S., particularly in California. Marijuana taxes are especially steep and provide another valuable source of state income.

If leftist politics and high taxes is a predictor for future legalization, then New York will probably be the next state to turn. Decriminalization took effect a number of years ago, and activist groups in the city and upstate regularly push for full legalization. 2018 may be the year.

2.      Illinois

Illinois is in the same boat as New York. Both states have widely decriminalized, with Illinois reaching its goal as recently as 2016, making the state a bit late to the party. Whereas legalization is assured for the Empire State sometime shortly, Illinois is a bit harder to predict.  After all, though the state has mostly decriminalized, significant fines for possession remain in place, along with criminal charges for public smoking.

2018 will be a big year for Illinois, particularly regarding the political administration of the state. Assuming a large democratic win for the state midterms, Illinois may careen into full legalization much faster than anyone anticipated. Even before the elections, politicians may seek to hedge their bets by passing popular legislation — which definitely includes recreational legalization.

3.      New Jersey

New Jersey is sometimes seen as an extension of New York City, an area driving its own state’s legalization campaign. Many of the correct factors are present: left-leaning, high-taxed and dominated by a metropolitan area.

Following the successful campaign by Phil Murphy, legalization seems to be looming. During the race, Murphy voiced his approval of legalization, and will officially take office from Chris Christie early this year. While we won’t know for sure until then, we can all hope he keeps his promises. Since his ascension, Murphy has doubled down on his promises of a greener future, promising comprehensive weed legislation within the first 100 days of his governorship.

4.      Arizona

Arizona is a tough state to predict: It has a high percentage of adult smokers — ranked 19th in the states — but also a widely unfavorable political atmosphere. Smoking and possession remain criminal, and being caught can still mess up one’s life. However, medical usage is allowed with the use of a dispensary card.

All this said, public support is in the court, and Arizona barely missed a public vote for legalization in 2016. If public support grows, another vote will inevitably arise, and it will likely pass this time. In the meantime, state legislatures scramble to draft smart weed legislation.

Legalization

2018 will set the stage for many future legalization efforts. If the Republicans manage to hold most of their seats, or even gain some new ones, many of the states on this list could face opposition in the future. However, assuming a significant shift in the state and national legislature seats, 2018 could be the greenest year to date. At this point, there’s nothing to do but cross our fingers and watch what happens.