2012 and 2014 were both incredibly important years for marijuana legalization. Colorado and Washington both jumped the gun and passed initiatives to decriminalize and legalize cannabis by popular vote in 2012, and since then, have both opened the first legal marijuana markets in the U.S. Legal retail sales began this year, and so far things have settled into place, albeit slowly.
The 2014 midterms saw legalization sweep over more areas of the country, including Oregon, Alaska and Washington D.C. For now, it looks as if the west coast is epicenter of the movement, but that may change in 2016.
Many states are following Washington and Colorado’s path, getting closer and closer to legalization every election cycle. So far, legalization advocates have had to rely on voter-backed initiatives to get legislation passed, as the federal government seems as though it still won’t budge on reclassifying cannabis out of its current Schedule 1 status. Local governments across the country have taken baby steps towards ending prohibition, with many cities passing ordinances that either have decriminalized small amounts of marijuana or marked them as a lowest priority for law enforcement officials.
Many people are still struggling with the concept of legalized marijuana. For decades and generations, Americans grew accustomed to knowing marijuana as a powerful and dangerous drug — one that could lead to deaths and criminal behavior if it was allowed in their community. The past decade has really opened up a lot of people’s eyes to the facts, which almost wholly dismiss those worries. The medical marijuana communities in several states have also shown the immense benefits cannabis can have for the sick, which is one of many factors that have led to a seismic shift in public opinion regarding marijuana legalization.
Presently, we sit on the precipice of more states preparing for coming marijuana legalization initiatives, either derived from state legislators or from citizens themselves through the ballots. Colorado and Washington kicked-off the whole thing, and have since been joined by a few others. That doesn’t mean that a slew of other states aren’t on the cusp, however.
Here are seven states that are preparing for legalization pushes of their own, hot on the heels of Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Alaska and Washington D.C. Several of these states of ballot initiatives set for 2016, so we could less than two short years away from seeing their aspirations for marijuana legalization become a reality.