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Next States to Legalize: Oregon, Alaska, California, Massachusetts and Maine

Patients in line at the Breckenridge Cannabis Club in Colorado, a line many other states hope to have soon.
Photo by Kathryn Scott Osler/Denver Post


Next States to Legalize: Oregon, Alaska, California, Massachusetts and Maine

Recreational cannabis in Colorado stands to gross $359 million this year, while weed shops in Washington expect to rake in $271 million. Nationwide, revenue estimates of wholesale and retail sales of legal cannabis are $1.4 billion this year, with projections to grow 64 percent to hit $2.34 billion next year and surge to $10 billion by 2018. That’s a field of blooming cash, and it’s ripe for the picking.

This year alone, Colorado stands to collect nearly $70 million in tax revenue from weed.

And that could be just the tip of the resin jeweled bud at the top of the tree.

According to a 2010 study from the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, legalization would generate $8.7 billion in federal and state tax revenue per year.

The party has begun. Who’s going to pass the legal joint next?

The state that brought us Sarah Palin may likely be the next in line for a toke. The Alaska Campaign to Regulate Marijuana has collected 46,000 signatures, 16,000 more than necessary to qualify it for the 2014 ballot, the state holds its midterm elections in August and will likely become the third state to legalize recreational sales of cannabis.

“We’ll be taking our message to the voters in lots of different ways,” says Tim Hinterberger, a sponsor of the movement and University of Alaska Anchorage’s School of Medical Education professor, told the Washington Post. “It’s clear to everyone that prohibition is a failed policy.”

Oregon voters may be the next to light up following their failed push last November, with hopes to get a law passed if not this year then at least by 2016.

NORML has placed money on the next five states to legalize cannabis: In addition to Oregon and Alaska, California, Massachusetts and Maine “are all states that are primed for the initial process to legalize,” said Allen St. Pierre, the executive director of the NORML.

Like knowledge in the Garden of Eden, St. Pierre explained, legalization typically takes “four bites at the apple—it usually takes between four and seven years in the legislation process.”

Other contenders are also stepping up to the bong. A bill to regulate and tax marijuana has been introduced to the Rhode Island legislature each of the last three years, and is expected to make another appearance this month. “We have gained momentum every year. Each year more of my colleagues have told me they’re eager to sign on as a co-sponsor,” said Rep. Edith Ajello, House sponsor of the Marijuana Regulation, Control and Taxation Act.

All it takes is a spark. From conservative Christian talk show host Pat Robertson to your local Ladies Auxiliary, 55 percent of Americans now support the legalization of marijuana, according to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

As NORML’s St. Pierre told, “(Politicians are) clearly responding to public sentiment. Eighty-five percent of the public want medical marijuana. If you are a politician not listening to 85 percent of the public, you are a schmuck.”

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