The New Year is almost here, so naturally, it’s time for all kinds of predictions, including marijuana legalization predictions.
Full-scale legalization (meaning marijuana is legalized for both medical and recreational use) has only come to four states (Washington, Colorado, Oregon, and Alaska) and the District of Columbia at this point, but several others are on their way if the predictions comes true.
Once a state legalizes medical marijuana (and 23 states have done so already), it’s often the case that the next step closer to full legalization (which includes recreational legalization) is decriminalization of marijuana.
While still illegal, marijuana possession in small amounts is punishable with reduced penalties in states that have decriminalized it. As a result, fines are lower and there isn’t jail time. In many states, the penalty is more in line with a traffic ticket. In total, 20 states have decriminalized marijuana.
Nearly half of the states in the country have legalized medical marijuana and decriminalized marijuana, so it seems inevitable that the trend will continue. Of course, 2016 is a big election year, so it’s also inevitable that marijuana will be a hot topic in political campaigns and debates for the next 11 months.
Marijuana Legalization Predictions for 2016
Which states are the closest to legalizing marijuana for recreational use in 2016? Leafly.com predicts that Nevada is most likely to join Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, and the District of Columbia in legalizing recreational marijuana in the coming year. While it certainly wasn’t the first state to legalize medical marijuana, Nevada does appear to be on a fast track to legalize recreational marijuana with the issue already on the 2016 ballot. Following Nevada, Leafly.com ranks, California, Maine, and Arizona as the next biggest contenders for recreational marijuana legalization.
Debra Borchardt of Forbes believes that 2016 will be marijuana’s big year. She expects that Vermont and Rhode Island could be two of the next states to pass legalized marijuana for recreational use. She also predicts that Pennsylvania, Nebraska, and Utah will be the next states to legalize medical marijuana, and Illinois and New Hampshire will be the next to decriminalize it.
Predictions from Kristen Gwynne of Rolling Stone are more similar to Leafly’s expectations. She believes the next five states to see legal marijuana will be California, Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Nevada.
The team at 24/7 Wall Street published its own predictions for the next 11 states to legalize marijuana in USA Today. 24/7 Wall Street analyzed legalization and decriminalization of marijuana in all states as well as arrests, and marijuana usage by residents. The data used was from 2012-3013 and public opinion polls as well as from information from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). Based on that data (clearly, some more current than others), 24/7 Wall Street predicts that the following states are most likely to legalize marijuana next (whether it happens in 2016 or not remains to be seen): Massachusetts, Nevada, California, New York, Vermont, Minnesota, Connecticut, Maryland, Rhode Island, Maine, and Delaware.
The Road Ahead
Based on data in the Cannabiz Database, it seems unlikely that Connecticut will lead the way in legalizing marijuana in 2016 despite the 24/7 Wall Street analysis (check out our free report for more information, Tracking the Connecticut Licensed Marijuana Economy 2015). Furthermore, given the recent delays in medical marijuana sales in Maryland, it seems like a stretch to predict that the state will legalize marijuana within the next 12 months.
One thing that does seem certain is the fact that there’s no going back now. We’re on a path of marijuana legalization on both the state and federal levels, and the upcoming election year will be very interesting.
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Susan Gunelius, Lead Analyst for Cannabiz Media and author of Marijuana Licensing Reference Guide: 2017 Edition, is also President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company offering, copywriting, content marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, and strategic branding services. She spent the first half of her 25-year career directing marketing programs for AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more as well as small businesses around the world. Susan has written 11 marketing-related books, including the highly popular Content Marketing for Dummies, 30-Minute Social Media Marketing, Kick-ass Copywriting in 10 Easy Steps, The Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing, and she is a popular marketing and branding keynote speaker. She is also a Certified Career Coach and Founder and Editor in Chief of Women on Business, an award-winning blog for business women. Susan holds a B.S. in marketing and an M.B.A in management and strategy.