Washington has led the pack with legalization of recreational marijuana — and it looks like the trend will continue.

cannabis legalization in the U.S.

Image via USA Today

moving towards legalization

The road to the present growing cultural acceptance has been bumpy, but straight. Currently, 23 states have enacted a medical marijuana law, allowing a variety of consumption methods for those needing cannabis to overcome physical ills. After decades of stark illegality, California kicked things off in 1996 by passing the Compassionate Use Act, which allowed patients with a doctor’s recommendation to possess and cultivate marijuana for their own personal use. Since then, the legalization movement has gained speed adding state after state to promote use in medical patients and beyond. Washington voters joined the like-minded residents of Colorado in 2012 to legalize recreational use for the first time in our nation’s history.

who’s up next?

But of course, it has not stopped there. With less than three weeks to go before the November elections, three states, Washington D.C. and an American territory will vote on the future of legalization in their region. Guam and Florida will vote on whether to allow medical patients access to cannabis. While, Alaska, D.C. and Oregon will vote on recreational legalization. Since each state initiative is drafted separately under its specific constitution, a wide variation exists between the bill even though the common theme remains. For example, if D.C.’s measure passes, adults could cultivate up to six plants, which is not legal in Washington for those without medical marijuana cards. However, the District of Columbia vote would not approve retail stores because initiatives cannot have that power there. Oregon voted in 2012 along with Washington and Colorado, but failed to convince enough residents towards legalization. This year, with a newly worded initiative and support from the Drug Policy Alliance, the measure’s sponsors hope to convince voters of the case for legalization. Considering Oregon residents smoke more marijuana than most in the country things might turn out differently this year. Further down the future, a number of groups are already making moves towards establishing initiatives in Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada in 2016 and beyond.

polling parallels

The legalization trend has kept in line with America’s attitudes towards marijuana. Polling company CivicService released a large new data set in August, which asked 450,000 adult citizens whether they would support or oppose a law which would legalize and regulate marijuana. A full 58 percent of respondents said they would support it, with 29 percent answering they would “strongly support” it. Though Washington’s experience has been a bumpy road all its own, the process will surely inform the newcomers to the party and possibly ensure a smoother ride towards national legalization.

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