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The Next Three States That Will Legalize Recreational Marijuana

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Marijuana legalization activists gained considerable momentum this week. On Tuesday, the city of Portland, Maine, passed Question 1: 67 percent to 33 percent.

The measure legalized possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana by adults over 21 years of age. Likewise, Colorado passed Proposition AA Tuesday, which added a 15 percent wholesale tax and 10 percent sales tax on marijuana transactions.

These two ballot measures follow a national poll by Gallup that found support for outright legalization at an all time high. Fifty-eight percent of Americans now think recreational use of the drug should be legal; a far cry from 1969 when only 12 percent of voters were supportive.

Some states are further along on the legalization trail and even if marijuana was taken off the DEA’s controlled substances list entirely, it would remain illegal in most states.

Still, there remain three states poised to follow Colorado’s lead, they are California, Maine, and Oregon:


For those who live in California, being on this list is nothing new. So what’s different this time? Last month Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom took the state by surprise saying enough was enough when it came to politicking on marijuana reform.

“I’m sick and tired of politicians and politics,” he said at an ACLU press conference. “You know what, frankly, I started falling into that trap a few years back on [legalizing marijuana]. I started doing the ‘civil unions’ version of this.”

What previous ballot initiatives like Proposition 19 lacked, was support inside Sacramento. Lawmakers would say a measure was ‘poorly written’ or went too far in one direction or the other. Further, support has climbed dramatically since issue was voted on last. Sixty-five percent of Californians support legalization according to a Tulchin Research poll, meaning new support from within the CA government may very well be the final straw.


Now that Maine’s largest city, Portland, has planted the seeds for legalization, conflicting local and state-wide policies put legislators in a tough spot. Additionally the latest PPP poll shows a plurality of Mainers, 48 percent, favor legalization. Although on a smaller margin than the other two states, some legislative action will need to follow sooner rather than later. When combined with a legalization foothold in Portland, the chances of a green Maine by 2016 are high.


The last legalization attempt in Oregon, which was Measure 80 in 2012, fell short 55 to 45. Nevertheless, a group called New Approach Oregon has its sights set on 2014.. The initiative has already been drafted and the latest poll by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, suggests 57 percent would vote in favor of the initiative compared to 39 percent opposed. Moreover, 63 percent of voters polled favored legalizing and taxing the recreational use of marijuana.

All three are on the Marijuana Policy Project’s 10-state hit-list. The group has indicated it will dedicate resources to win big in Alaska, Arizona, California, Maine, Nevada, Hawaii, Maryland, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Jeremy Nathan

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