Releaf Magazine
15Sep/160

Legal Cannabis Market Projects Huge Numbers

13182119-mmmainCannabis Industry Expected to Be Worth $50 Billion by 2026

Bloomberg Markets - Jennifer Kaplan - 09/12/2016

The legal cannabis industry in the U.S. may grow to $50 billion in the next decade, expanding to more than eight times its current size, as lawful pot purveyors gain new customers and win over users from the illicit market, according to a new report.

Legalizing recreational use in California, where the drug is already medically permitted, is on the ballot in November, and approval of that measure alone would triple the size of the nation’s current $6 billion legal industry, according to a report from 10 Cowen & Co. analysts released on Monday. In all, voters in nine states will vote on weed-related initiatives this November -- five to legalize the drug for all adults and four to allow for medical use.

Pot already is legal for recreational use in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia, and is medically permitted in 25 states. Cowen’s forecast assumes federal legalization of the drug, a measure that has more than 50 percent popular support.

“Cannabis prohibition has been in place for 80-plus years, but the tides are clearly turning,” the analysts said.

Expanding Industry

The expanding industry will affect big business even though the current competitive landscape is largely made up of smaller startups. Because the plant is still federally illegal, large companies have shied away from getting involved.

Legal weed would be a major opportunity for Big Tobacco, Cowen said. Vapor technology -- a popular technique for ingesting both tobacco and cannabis -- is an essential part of tobacco’s less combustible-dependent future. Companies like Altria Group Inc. and Reynolds American Inc. already have expertise in vapor and crop-growing technologies, as well as familiarity dealing with complex regulatory frameworks.

Tobacco companies may make up about one-fifth of the cannabis industry by 2036, adding more than 20 percent to their revenue, and nearly doubling tobacco’s underlying growth, the analysts said.

For alcoholic-beverage makers, legal marijuana is more foe than friend. Alcohol consumption has declined over the past five years, especially with men, while cannabis use has risen. The number of drinkers who also used marijuana increased, and the number of cannabis users who drank decreased, Cowen said.

For both the potential winners and losers, the scale of the changes to come are unusual, the analysts said.

“A 24 percent, 10-year revenue compound annual growth rate is hard to find in consumer staples, in particular one with a $50-plus billion end-point,” Cowen said.

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14Sep/160

College Athlete Grows His Own

high-college-atheleteAn athlete becomes a legal marijuana grower and part of an emerging debate

The Coloradoan - By. Matt L. Stephens & Kelly Lyell - 09/12/2016

FORT COLLINS, Colo. — If college athletes want to use marijuana, the NCAA likely won't catch them, and Treyous Jarrells is proof of that. He says he was high in almost every game he played. Now he has given up his dream of a football career for one that’s very different: He has one of 102,620 medical marijuana licenses to legally grow plants in Colorado. And he has a message for organized sports, especially football: It’s time to take marijuana off the banned-substance list.

Jarrells, 23, earned a scholarship to Colorado State University, where he averaged 5.2 yards per carry as a running back as a sophomore in 2014. Then he suddenly quit the team because he was afraid he'd finally get caught and lose his scholarship.

“I practiced under the influence. I played games under the influence. This is my medicine,” Jarrells said. “I’ve seen players at CSU pop five, 10 ibuprofens before practice. Daily. You think that’s good? Over the course of two, three years, that’s eating your liver away.”

Jarrells said he smokes marijuana to relieve chronic pain caused from injuries he suffered from playing football for 13 years, since Pop Warner in Sanford, Fla. Consuming marijuana for medical use is legal in 25 states, including Colorado. Jarrells said the THC in marijuana, which he also consumes through edibles, brings relief without long-term damage.

Jarrells is not alone. A small but growing number of current and former National Football League players are calling for the NFL to consider more research on marijuana. They include former Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon, Tennessee Titans linebacker Derrick Morgan and former Baltimore Ravens offensive tackleEugene Monroe.

Despite those pleas from players, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said before Super Bowl 50 last February that the league always reviews its drug policy, and have had talks in the past about medical marijuana, but “not recently.” Goodell went on to say he did not see any changes to the policy in the near future.

Goodell said the league’s medical experts have studied the issue but continue to believe the ban should remain intact for NFL players.

The use of marijuana conflicts with NCAA bylaws and Colorado State University athletics policy. But there is little risk of an athlete being caught. Colorado State’s parameters for drug testing include exceptional performance, reasonable suspicion and random selection. Jarrells said he was never tested.

The issue is complicated by health-related concerns that come with widespread use of university-prescribed opiates to relieve pain. From 2103 to 2016, Colorado State University ordered a combined 19,000 over-the-counter ibuprofens, acetaminophen and naproxen for its approximately 400 student-athletes, according to records obtained by the Coloradoan. By comparison, the University of Colorado in Boulder ordered 37,000 pills for its roughly 350 student-athletes.

It also prescribed 48 Vicodin tablets, although Colorado State’s head trainer, Terry DeZeeuw, said the majority of prescription medications for athletic injuries are filled at a pharmacy in the same manner as the general public and would not be part of the school’s logs.

'Get my body right'

A tour of Jarrells’ home is a tale of two lives.

In the basement, five pairs of green and white cleats dangle by their laces from the ceiling. His two Colorado State helmets, with receiving gloves on their crowns, rest in opposing corners of the room. The walls are checkered with letters from Utah State,Georgia State and Marshall, reminders of his options coming out of junior college, and newspaper clippings that paint a picture of the athlete he once was.

Then, an unfinished room with ventilation tubing and gardening supplies houses barely recognizable hemp plants in tiny planters scattered across the floor. “Those are the clones,” he says. “Just wait.”

Before unzipping the curtain to the final room, he straps on a pair of white painter’s overalls, throws on his yellow, marijuana-themed sunglasses to block the grow lights and reveals his most prized possessions. There are rows of cannabis plants – Pineapple Express and Blue Haze – waving proudly in a 10-by-10 room set at 83 degrees. The tallest towers more than six feet.

Jarrells' two lives came together when the football injuries mounted. Playing running back took its toll on his knees. A 2015 surgery to repair a torn meniscus helped, but the pain never went away.

Colorado State student-athletes sign a university drug policy consenting to being tested at any time for any number of reasons. A first positive test requires the athlete to undergo counseling. The second is a mandatory suspension for 15% of the season (two games in football). A third positive test results in dismissal from the team.

Jarrells appeared in 10 games as a sophomore and one as a junior before leaving the Rams. Not once was he tested, he said, despite playing under the influence in 10 of the 11 games he saw action in.

With fewer than two semesters until he graduated college – an accomplishment few in his neighborhood back in Florida ever achieved – he didn’t want to take the chance that he would be caught, thrown off the team and lose his scholarship. So he lied.

He walked into first-year coach Mike Bobo’s office and told him their relationship wasn’t working. Jarrells came to the school because of former coach Jim McElwain and Bobo wasn’t what he signed up for.

A coaching change coupled with the gun slaying of his godfather, Ron Moore, over the summer was taking its toll on classwork, Jarrells said, and he needed to step back from the game or he wouldn’t graduate. Jarrells said Bobo understood and let him leave the team while remaining on scholarship through the end of the academic year.

Jarrells felt if Bobo knew what was really happening, there was no way he’d allow him to stay on scholarship.

“In my mind, I’m thinking, ‘I can’t do it anymore with the pain. I can’t take it. I have to get my body right.’ I knew if I stepped back from the game, they wouldn’t drug-test me, but I could still get my degree.”

Athlete use in decline?

Marijuana is on the NCAA’s list of banned substances, but the only time athletes are tested for THC, the primary psychoanalytic ingredient in marijuana, is at championship events. Random drug tests administered throughout the year are only for performance-enhancing substances, said Brian Hainline, the NCAA’s chief medical officer.

“Every institution oversees marijuana as it sees fit,” Hainline said. “Some schools test regularly for marijuana, and others don’t. Just as some schools test for alcohol, and others don’t.”

Colorado State University tests its student-athletes for marijuana. It does not test for alcohol.

The program is designed to test every athlete an average of once a year, Colorado State head trainer Terry DeZeeuw said. The school tests for all substances banned by the NCAA.

The National Center for Drug Free Sport, which handles testing for the NCAA and more than 300 of its member schools, performed 447 tests for Colorado State during the 2015-16 academic year and 1,903 since 2010-11. Twenty Colorado State student-athletes tested positive for THC last year. The 4.5% rate of unique positive tests was higher than the average over the previous five years of 3.2%, but below the national average for college athletes of 6%, said Drug Free Sport spokesman Gene Willis.

The low rate of positive tests is “a strong indicator that our program is having a positive effect,” Colorado State athletic director Joe Parker said via email.

A study conducted by the NCAA and released in July 2014 found that 22% of athletes at its 1,200-plus member schools had used marijuana in 2013, down 1% from a previous study four years earlier.

Despite its legalization for medical use in 25 states and the District of Columbia, Hainline said there is no science backing the use of marijuana for pain management.

“There are anecdotes of some people who say, 'Marijuana helps my pain,' and there’s other anecdotes of people who say 'I tried marijuana for pain and ended up being hospitalized for a psychiatric, psychotic breakdown,' ” Hainline said.

The only options available to NCAA athletes are over-the-counter remedies with known long-term side effects including gastrointestinal bleeding and liver failure, or opioids such as hydrocodone (including Vicodin), which can lead to organ failure in addition to being addictive. Vicodin is labeled as a Schedule II narcotic by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Adminstration; marijuana is a Schedule I, which is defined by the DEA as having the highest potential for abuse and which has no currently accepted medical use.

As the rules are written now, Hainline said, an athlete in a state such as Colorado where medical and recreational marijuana is legal could not get a doctor’s note to be exempted from NCAA testing.

The International Olympic Committee has asked Hainline to co-chair a panel with other experts to discuss pain management in elite athletes in November. One of the sub-topics the panel will review is the use of marijuana for pain in athletes. The panel’s findings will be used as a springboard for the NCAA to create a college-specific document for how to treat pain in athletes.

Jarrells still struggles with pain. And he still faces charges from a May arrest for suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs. But he’s bottling and selling his own spray to help cannabis and other plants flourish. And he hopes to continue to grow his business.

“These two semesters I wasn’t able to play ball, I was able to make connections for my career,” Jarrells said. “If I would have played ball, I wouldn’t have had those opportunities because I wouldn’t have been in the places to make those connections. Right now, a lot of players who didn’t get into the league, they’re lost right now because they didn’t make connections. … That’s the thing, you’re not a student, you’re an athlete.’’

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11Sep/160

Police in Italy Call for Cannabis Legalization

italian-police-1280x800Italian Law Enforcement Join Push for Cannabis Legalization

Leafly - Enrico Fletzer - 09/7/2016

Italian law enforcement groups are throwing their weight behind a parliamentary bill to legalize cannabis in the country, building momentum for the effort to create Europe’s first fully legal adult-use market. Both the national anti-Mafia agency and the country’s police union have come out in favor of the proposal, which is set for further debate in the Italian parliament later this month.

If it passes, the bill would allow Italians to grow up to five cannabis plants, keep up to 15 grams of dried flower at home, and carry up to five grams with them. Cannabis would be sold in state-licensed stores, while non-commercial cannabis social clubs would allow up to 50 members to swap and share the cannabis they grow. The proposal has sparked an unprecedented public debate on the Italian peninsula, with various experts, politicians, and members of the law enforcement community taking an array of positions.

Italy’s bill has progressed further than any current legalization effort in Europe. A similar bill was introduced into parliament in Germany last year, but it has stagnated as lawmakers there focus instead on a bill to create a robust medical cannabis market.

The most recent endorsement for the Italian bill came last month from the largest and most influential police workers’ union, SIULP. The group’s general secretary, Felice Romano, expressed his support for the proposal in no uncertain terms.

“These are substances that today are used for therapeutic purposes, and cannabis is cultivated by the Italian army,” he said. “If cannabis were sold through a legal framework, it would be less dangerous and would not contain chemical pollutants and additives that do more damage than the active ingredients.”

Support from Italian police bolsters the pro-legalization stance ofDirezione Nazionale Antimafia, (DNA) the country’s anti-Mafia agency, which has taken a firm stance against prohibition. In April, Franco Roberti, Italy’s top prosecutor and head of the DNA, said decriminalizing cannabis would strike a blow to Islamic State militants and Italian mobsters alike, as the two entities have teamed up to smuggle hash into Italy. The interview made headlines around the world.

22Aug/160

Gambling & The Marijuana Legalization Movement

marijuana_congress (1)What Gambling Can Tell Us About Legalizing Marijuana

ATTN: - Keith Stroup - 08/19/16

I am old enough to remember when Nevada was the only state where gambling was legal. In 1931, during the Great Depression, the state legislature had legalized casino gambling as a way to stimulate their economy, create new jobs, and entice more people to the state.

For decades Nevada had a monopoly on casino gambling — that, along with legalizing “no fault” divorces, and later legalizing prostitution — when most states did not offer those options. These factors combined to give Nevada a reputation as a maverick state where people could visit to engage in naughty behavior without legal consequences. “What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas.”

The state is expected to legalize the recreational use of marijuana via voter initiative (Question 2) this November, which will further enhance that reputation.

Other states obviously knew that legal gambling was an alternative that might provide an economic boost to their states as well, but the prevailing morality at the time was far too negative towards gambling for elected officials in other states to pursue. It was a time when the religious communities had successfully convinced most Americans that a life of virtue, not vices, was the path to happiness.

But social mores change over time, and as gambling began to be seen as a legitimate form of entertainment, instead of a moral sin, the tax revenue and economic benefits from legal gambling were more attractive. In 1977, by voter initiative, New Jersey legalized casino gambling in Atlantic City, offering an east coast version of Nevada, where gambling hedonists could legally do what they could not yet do in their own states.

And gradually the barriers banning legal gambling began to crumble nationwide, leading to a situation today in which every state has some form of legal gambling, such as state-run lotteries, albeit with strange limitations in some states (e.g., in Missouri it is illegal to gamble on land, but perfectly legal to have casinos on riverboats on the Mississippi and the Missouri rivers, although the boats never leave the shore).

Which leads to the question of why behavior thought by many to be inappropriate (or even morally offensive), can nonetheless sometimes be legalized? Or put another way, when is conduct with the tinge of sinfulness out-weighted by the potential for economic benefits to the states?

I raise that question because of the increasingly profitable side of legal marijuana in the states that have elected to regulate and tax marijuana. As the latest revenue data make clear, legalizing marijuana has been an enormous benefit for the few states that have taken that step, and that fact will be more and more difficult for neighboring states to ignore over the coming years. As we saw with gambling, once the economic benefits of legal marijuana are obvious, the moral opposition will fade and the economic arguments will prevail.

The Latest Data from Colorado and Washington.

In Colorado, the first state to get their legal retail outlets up and running on January 1, 2014, the gross sales of marijuana, and the tax revenue to the state, have continued to rise each year. For 2015, licensed marijuana stores in the state totaled an astounding $996,184,788 – just shy of $1 billion dollars, up from $669 million in sales in 2014.

Colorado collected more than $135 million in taxes and fees last year (including $35 million dedicated to school construction), up from $76 million in 2014 (when $13.3 million was raised for schools).

In Washington state, marijuana retail sales reached $322,823,639 in 2015, up from only $30,783,880 in 2014, when retail outlets were open for only a portion of the year. That 2015 sales figure has already been eclipsed in the first seven months of 2016.

The state retail tax revenue for fiscal year 2016 from recreational marijuana sales totaled $30,017,823, while state retail sales taxes from the sale of medical marijuana totaled $5,236,536. Local retail sales tax totaled $11,228,861 from recreational sales, and local retail tax totaled $2,084,323 for medical sales.

These, as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump might say, are “yugee” numbers, and they are continuing to increase each year, making them more and more difficult to ignore by other states.

Which brings me to my main point. At a time when several national polls confirm that between 55 and 61 percent of the entire country now favor full legalization, it is difficult to argue that marijuana smoking is, any longer, considered immoral behavior. Sure, there are pockets of fundamental moralists to whom anything pleasurable will always be suspect behavior, including sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll. But this puritanical perspective is finding less and less support each year, and when balanced with the economic windfall that results when a state legalizes marijuana, it simply cannot prevail.

Today a majority of Americans under 65 support marijuana legalization, particularly younger adults: 71 percent of adults under 35 think marijuana use should be legal, a jump of 10 points since last year. The demographics are clear and unstoppable, as younger voters replace those over 65.

Just as all states now have some form of legal gambling, within a few short years, all states will offer some form of legal marijuana. It’s the smart thing to do; it’s the right thing to do; and it’s inevitable in a democracy, when most people want it.

Keith Stroup is a Washington, D.C. public-interest attorney who founded NORML in 1970.

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20Jan/140

Releaf Issue #37 Available Now!

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23Dec/130

Marijuana Businesses May Get Good Banking News In Early 2014

by Matt Ferner
marijuana banking
Marijuana businesses may not yet get a full green light on the banking rights that non-marijuana businesses already enjoy, but they are likely to get a "yellow light" as soon as the new year, Jack Finlaw, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper's (D) chief legal counsel, said on a joint call Thursday.

"What we're being told," Finlaw said on the call hosted by Drug Policy Alliance, "is probably in the first quarter of 2014 there will be some guidance issued that's comparable to the Cole memo from the Department of Justice that will give, maybe not a green light, but a yellow light to banks to allow them to do business [with marijuana businesses] -- to take deposits, to set up checking accounts, to set up small business loans, to allow these businesses to accept purchases through debit cards or credit cards, to allow what normal businesses are allowed to do."

Last week, the Bank Secrecy Advisory Group had a closed-door meeting in Washington, D.C., to begin talks about reforming banking regulations so that banks can legally engage in services with marijuana businesses.

Currently marijuana businesses aren't allowed to set up legal bank accounts because the federal government still considers marijuana to be illegal. Worried banks fear that they could be implicated as money launderers if they offered traditional banking services to the pot businesses.

"It's my understanding that the ball is in the court of the Department of Treasury," Finlaw added. "The Department of Justice having issued the Cole memo and having signaled to Treasury that they would be willing to see some accommodation in the banking regulations, is working with FinCEN in Treasury."

FinCEN is a bureau of the U.S. Department of Treasury that analyzes financial data to mitigate against illicit use and money laundering.

Even if the DOJ and Treasury give the "yellow light" to banks, there would also continue to be some oversight by the banks to ensure that the marijuana businesses they work with are not a front for illegal activity, Finlaw said.

Thursday's news follows a DOJ announcement in August that it is "actively considering" how to regulate interactions between banks and marijuana shops that operate within state laws and don't violate other federal law enforcement priorities.

Although official regulations have not been set, for now, financial institutions and other enterprises that do business with marijuana shops that are in compliance with state laws are unlikely to be prosecuted for money laundering or other federal crimes that could be brought under existing federal drug laws, as long as those pot businesses don't otherwise violate the DOJ's enforcement priorities, a senior Department of Justice official said.

"My understanding is there is a discussion in Washington about how much of this can be accomplished administratively through FinCEN, Treasury and Justice, and how much Congress needs to do something," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of Drug Policy Alliance, on Thursday's joint call. "It may be the reason for putting out a yellow light instead of a green light, [it] may have to do with some constraints in federal law and the administrative agencies trying to figure out how far they can accommodate these legitimate needs for access to legal banking while staying within the constraints of federal law."

Finlaw also noted that no one in Washington had given timing on the release of a marijuana business banking memo, but that the first quarter was the hope and expectation based on how the process has been working thus far and how long it took for the DOJ's Cole memo to be released.

"The hope is that we can get this resolved in early 2014," Finlaw said.

Dan Riffle, director of federal policies at Marijuana Policy Project, told The Huffington Post that the hope is that the banking issue is resolved before recreational marijuana retail shops open in Washington in Colorado in 2014.

"This raises obvious safety concerns and tax compliance issues, and one of the primary reasons Colorado and Washington voters approved initiatives to regulate marijuana was to reduce the risk of violence and ensure sales of marijuana are taxed appropriately," Riffle said. "It's imperative that Treasury, FinCEN, and the DOJ work together to resolve this issue as soon as possible in order to honor the will of voters in those states."

Messages to DOT and DOJ regarding the possibility of a first-quarter announcement were not immediately returned.

Colorado's first recreational marijuana shops are expected to open on Jan. 1, 2014, with Washington state's opening later in the new year.

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Via www.huffingtonpost.com

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1Sep/131

These States Are Most Likely To Legalize Pot Next

By Nick Wing

marijuana legalization states

Attorney General Eric Holder gave a green light on Thursday to two states whose efforts to legalize marijuana had been locked in by legal uncertainty for more than nine months. With that announcement, Colorado and Washington -- both of which passed pro-pot initiatives at the polls last November -- can now proceed with establishing a framework for the taxation and regulation of legal weed for adults.

The administration's decision holds clear and immediate implications for the two states, both of which had been hesitant to act too quickly over concerns that the government might decide to enforce federal law, which still considers marijuana an illegal substance.

But the move also, and perhaps more importantly, throws open the gates for other states to pursue similar pot legalization efforts, so long as they include "strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems." Experts on both sides of the issue have already said they expect to see movement come quickly.

A similar pattern held for medical marijuana. The movement made steady progress up until 2009, when the Obama administration announced it would allow states to implement medical pot laws without federal interference. That promise turned out to be heavily footnoted, but the pledge itself ushered in a flood of ballot and legislative activity that burst the medical marijuana dam over the next four years. Thursday's announcement can be expected to do the same.

Public support for legal pot has surged in recent years at both state and nationallevels, with a majority of U.S. voters now in favor. This suggests that legalization would be most viable in states that allow citizen ballot initiatives. State lawmakers could also potentially take the reins on legalizing cannabis as the issue becomes more mainstream, however, like they did in New Jersey in 2010 with the passage of a bill approving medical marijuana.

Political dynamics are at play, too. Democratic strategists hoping to goose youth- and liberal-voter turnout in 2014 are incentivized to put pot on the ballot, though weed advocates themselves are better off running campaigns during presidential years, when the electorate doesn't skew as elderly as it does during midterms.

Below, the states that are most likely to take the next steps toward legalizing marijuana:

Alaska

Marijuana reformers in Alaska have been hard at work trying to make their state the next to legalize pot. In June, a ballot measure to tax and regulate pot and legalize it for adult recreational use was certified. Organizers must now collect at least 30,169 valid signatures of registered Alaska voters by December 2013, which would ensure that the initiative receives a vote in the primary election on Aug. 19, 2014.

Pot has already been decriminalized and legalized for medical use in Alaska. A survey of Alaska voters taken earlier this year by Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling found that 54 percent supported legalizing marijuana.

Arizona

In June, marijuana legalization proponents began a campaign to gather the 259,213 signatures they'll need in order to get the issue on the 2014 ballot. The language of the proposed measure is rather expansive, and also includes a system of state taxation and regulation.

Marijuana was legalized in the state for medical use in 2010 by ballot initiative. A poll taken earlier this year found that 56 percent of Arizonans supported legalizing some amount of cannabis.

California

A statewide initiative to legalize marijuana failed in California in 2010, but reformers are hoping to find success in 2014 and beyond. Earlier this month, organizers filed the California Hemp Act 2014, a measure that would legalize cannabis both in its standard and non-psychoactive forms. Beginning Oct. 1, the campaign will have 150 days to gather 750,000 valid signatures from California voters in order to get the issue on the 2014 ballot.

Marijuana has already been decriminalized and legalized for medical use in California. A poll taken earlier this year found that 54 percent of Californians support legalizing pot.

Nevada

Marijuana advocates in Nevada have yet to mount a large-scale effort to get legalization on the ballot in an upcoming election, as most organizers in the statesee 2016 as their best chance for a push. The liberal bent of the state makes it a popular target for reformers, however, and it's not yet clear whether Thursday's DOJ decision could increase desire for more immediate action.

Nevada has legalized medical marijuana, and earlier this year the state passed a measure establishing a dispensary system to help increase access for sick citizens. According to a recent poll, 56 percent of Nevadans would favor legalizing cannabis for recreational use if the money raised went to fund education.

Oregon

Medical marijuana legalization advocates in Oregon have already announced plansto campaign for an initiative to be placed on the ballot in 2014. An earlier legalization effort, which was poorly coordinated and widely mocked inside the state, failed in 2012. Organizers believe there is plenty of room for improvement.

Oregon has already decriminalized marijuana and legalized it for medical use. According to a poll taken in May, 57 percent of likely voters in Oregon support a proposal to tax, regulate and legalize marijuana for recreational use.

Maine

The Marijuana Policy Project, a pro-pot advocacy group, has announced Maine as one of its top targets for legalization in upcoming election cycles. An initiative circulating through the state Legislature fell painfully short in a state House vote earlier this year, but MPP has announced plans to help coordinate a grassroots campaign to get a legalization measure on the ballot in 2016.

Marijuana has been decriminalized and approved for medical use in Maine. According to a PPP poll released this week, 48 percent of registered voters in Maine believe pot should be legal for recreational use.

Massachusetts

The deep-blue New England state is being eyed as a prime opportunity for legalization, with marijuana reform advocates pointing to high margins of support for previous pro-pot initiatives. No official campaign for a ballot initiative has been launched yet, though many predict it is only a matter of time.

Massachusetts has decriminalized marijuana and just last November passed a ballot measure legalizing it for medical use. A February PPP poll found that 58 percent of the state's residents would be in favor of legalizing, taxing and regulating cannabis.

Montana

Montana has had a checkered history with marijuana laws. Voters passed an initiative legalizing cannabis for medical use in 2004, but opponents have since taken various steps to amend the measure or repeal it all together. Reform advocates remain hopeful that voters will support full legalization. They wasted no time following the 2012 election, filing a ballot question in hopes of putting the issue before voters in 2014.

There are no recent statewide surveys to gauge current support for pot legalization, though previous polls have showed a majority of Montana voters supporting the decriminalizing of marijuana.

Rhode Island

Marijuana advocates have high hopes that Rhode Island will be one of the first in the next round of states to legalize. This could come through a ballot initiative, but Rob Kampia, the executive director of MPP, recently said the issue could be ripe for state lawmakers to take on. While there's not yet a high-profile campaign to get legalization on an upcoming ballot, the state Legislature did consider a bill on the matter last session. While lawmakers debated the legislation and invited witnesses to testify on its merits, they never held a vote.

Rhode Island recently decriminalized marijuana and passed legalized medical marijuana around 2007. A PPP poll taken in January found that 52 percent of voters in the state support legalizing pot for recreational use.

Vermont

Vermont has made strides to scale back marijuana prohibition over the past year, with a successful measure to decriminalize and a separate bill to establish a system of dispensaries for the state's medical cannabis patients. Observers see the state's strong support for the recent reelection of Gov. Peter Shumlin (D), an advocate for marijuana reform, as a sign that voters could get behind a ballot initiative to legalize. There is no large-scale effort toward this end yet, but a legalization bill was introduced in the state Legislature last session. It didn't receive a vote.

Polls have consistently shown Vermonters to be supportive of efforts to scale back prohibition on marijuana.

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Via www.huffingtonpost.com

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