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There seems to be a growing awareness in America that marijuana legalization is gaining steam. Although marijuana remains criminalized on the federal level, two states have already legalized the drug and more states remain poised to take similar action.
Colorado’s legal marijuana program has been in full effect for months, and initial reports are exceedingly positive. According to Forbes, the state drew in $2 million in tax revenue in January 2014, a number that many believe will reach $40 million in all of 2014. Meanwhile, Washington is still scrambling to get its program off the ground.
Many now believe that federal and local marijuana criminalization policies are ineffective and illogical, as the drug is often prosecuted in the same way as cocaine and much harder drugs. According to an FBI report, one American is arrested every 42 seconds for marijuana. The report also establishes that marijuana arrests account for more than half the drug arrests in the United States, most of whom are minorities.
Thus, the public is starting to recognize the discrepancy between marijuana’s effects on the body and its status in the legal system. Studies show that marijuana may have positive benefits and poses fewer health risks than alcohol and tobacco. Colorado has also established that the drug can be successfully regulated and taxed. Thus, the trend in America points toward legalization, but it remains up to the state voters to decide for themselves. These states could be next to legalize the drug.
After receiving more than 45,000 sponsors, Alaskans will vote to legalize marijuana in the general election on November 4, 2014. If passed, the law would legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana like alcohol, much like Colorado and Washington. The law would establish a $50/ounce excise tax and fines for public consumption would remain in effect.
Given Arkansas’ conservative roots, many would be surprised to hear that the “The Natural State” could become the third to legalize marijuana. The state’s current marijuana laws are among the harshest in the nation, punishing offenders just like cocaine and heroin users. However, Arkansas could be poised to legalize the drug as early as this year. A pro-marijuana act is currently gathering signatures in all 75 of its counties. The bill could wind up on the ballot either this year or next.
California voted against legalized marijuana in 2010 despite having one of the country’s largest medical marijuana programs. Yet, this time around could be different. Voters often fear the unknown, but now that Colorado has proven that legal marijuana can succeed both financially and administratively, voters may change their mind. Although 2014 has not been ruled out, pro-weed activists may wait to put a measure on the ballot until the 2016 presidential election when the bill will garner more statewide attention.
Initiative Petition 53 will be on the ballot in Oregon this November and many are confident the measure will pass. The law would legalize the production, sale, and use of marijuana plants and paraphernalia. It will also implement a $35/ounce excise on marijuana flowers, $10/ounce of marijuana leaves, and $5 per immature marijuana plant. Initiative 53’s official website projects $88 million in tax revenue the first two years.
Lawmakers in Rhode Island discussed Senate Bill 2379 this week. The bill is quite similar to the other marijuana bills on the table, and its proponents believe legal marijuana could generate $82 million in annual tax revenue. With a pro-weed governor and a late push to legalize the bill this year, legal pot could be in the cards for America’s smallest state.
Honorable Mention: Washington D.C.
Despite the federal government’s unwillingness to decriminalize marijuana, the District of Columbia is extremely close to doing so. Initiative 71 received enough signatures to earn a spot on the November ballot, and polls indicate the district’s residents favor the bill.