Legal cannabis has been a national headline since the November 8 election. The number of states with legal recreational weed doubled, going from 4 to 8.
This raises a natural question: where will marijuana be legal next? When it comes to legalization, some states have more momentum going than others.
Thus, it’s possible to make some educated guesses about which states could legalize marijuana next.
Sure, Arizona’s recent ballot initiate to legalize cannabis failed. But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen next time. Because if history shows us anything about voting for legal marijuana, it’s that states will pass initiatives eventually.
California just passed Prop 64, but similar measures in 2010, 2012, and 2014 failed. Oregon voted “No” on legal cannabis in 2012, then “Yes” in 2014.
Even medical cannabis makes gains after losing votes. In Arkansas, it took four failing medical cannabis ballot initiatives before Arkansans approved Issue 6 this year.
In Arizona, the defeat of Prop 205 was extremely narrow at just 2%. Close defeats like that make it easy for cannabis advocacy groups to focus their attention on remaining hesitant voters. Expect a victory for legal recreational cannabis in Arizona soon.
Vermont and Rhode Island
One of the biggest victories for cannabis legalization this year went to Massachusetts. One of the reasons is because the state has the most expansive possession laws in the country.
When recreational cannabis officially becomes legal on December 15, 2016, adults in Massachusetts will basically be able to possess as much cannabis as they can grow. Otherwise, individuals can have up to 1 ounce, including 5 grams of concentrate. With laws like that, it’s common sense that New Englanders would just pop across the border to purchase legal marijuana.
The geography of the region makes it much different than legal weed in much larger states on the West Coast. And that’s the incentive for neighboring states like Vermont and Rhode Island to legalize recreational cannabis.
Those states will want to cash in on the tax revenue that the legal cannabis industry generates. Furthermore, Rhode Island is the state with the highest percentage of people 12 and up who have consumed cannabis. And it has been that way for two consecutive years.
Legalizing marijuana can help to reduce the likelihood cannabis will end up being sold to minors, because it can cut down on illicit sales.
Having an established medical cannabis infrastructure doesn’t always lead to legal recreational pot. But it doesn’t hurt. And Hawaii has one of the oldest medical marijuana industries in the U.S.
The state legalized medical back in 2000. Furthermore, polls show state residents very strongly support taxing and regulating legal marijuana.
With that kind of widespread support and a Democratic majority in the state legislature, Hawaii stands a good chance at being one of the next states to legalize recreational cannabis.
States Most Likely To Decriminalize Marijuana: Texas and Tennessee
So far, legal cannabis has been winning in areas that tend to be politically progressive. But GOP-led states are working on decriminalization measures to avoid being left behind by the majority of the country.
One of the largest states in the Union, Texas, is making decriminalization a priority on its 2017 lawmaking agenda. State officials will consider reducing charges for possession by switching to a civil infraction model that fines people $250 and doesn’t give them a criminal record.
In Tennessee, a state suffering from an opioid epidemic, state lawmakers are preparing to follow the lead of the state’s major cities. Memphis has already decriminalized cannabis possession.
An Unmatched Investment Opportunity
Avenues for expansion are popping up, well, like weeds for the legal cannabis industry. As more states pass laws that make marijuana legal, industry investments will flood in.
The investment firm Cowen % Co. is estimating 24 percent per year growth over the next decade. The cannabis industry is already raking in over $6 billion and could bloom to $50 billion by 2026. If those projections pan out, legal marijuana could represent nearly one-quarter of the size of the alcohol industry.