The highly-influential Marijuana Policy Project, a not-for-profit cannabis reform advocacy group, has shared its US legalization roadmap today, revealing plans to tackle legalization reform bills in the state legislatures of Oregon, Rhode Island and Maine in 2013, while putting off a major California campaign until 2016.
Oregon, which narrowly failed to pass an ambitious tax and regulate initiative in November, looks like promising ground for a state legislature push to MPP, which plans to focus significant resources in lobbying state representatives there in 2013. Their success may largely hinge on the effectiveness of implementing reform in Washington state just to the north; if initial regulations help the transition to go relatively smoothly, then there’s little reason to believe that representatives in Salem wouldn’t ride the tide of rising approval for reform and enact a bill (perhaps one a little less radical than the failed Initiative 9) which implements the most effective of Washington’s regulations. If that doesn’t work, MPP plans to fall back on a ballot initiative for 2016.
Rhode Island is another logical choice to focus immediate attention. The littlest state in the nation has had an outsized influence on cannabis policy in New England, especially after the approval in Massachusetts this November of a medical marijuana law largely inspired by the successful regime out of Providence. With a few years of experience regulating collectives under their belts, lawmakers in Rhode Island may want to seize the lead again and become the first state in their region to tax and regulate. If the experiment goes well, the Ocean State may continue to serve as a model to its neighbors.
The choice of Maine seems odd but may be somewhat symbolic, as the Pine Tree State was, with California, one of the first two states to criminalize cannabis in 1913. In the coming year, MPP will offer Mainers a choice to end a disastrous prohibition on the centennial of its founding. Meanwhile, according to the project, California needs to wait a little while longer. While such a decision may disappoint many an activist in the Golden State, one must remember the fizzle of 2010 and how it fractured the movement to the point that 2012 reform failed to qualify for ballot access. Waiting until the presidential election in 2016 is at least a rational choice, if a disappointing one.
Best advice for Californians is to copy the MPP strategy for Oregon, Maine, and Rhode Island: contact your state representative and demand legalization now.