Home Culture A Closer Look at States Trying to Legalize Marijuana in 2016

A Closer Look at States Trying to Legalize Marijuana in 2016


By the end of this year, several more states in the U.S. could be among those who have legalized cannabis for medical and recreational purposes. Of course, their success is up to the activists and voters in each state. If you’re in one of these states, here is what you need to know.

States where recreational legalization is on the ballot: Nevada

States where medical legalization is on the ballot: Florida

States where activists are going through the legislature or attempting to make the ballot for recreational or medical legalization: California, Vermont, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Ohio, Michigan, Rhode Island, Maine, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Utah, Arkansas

Long Shots

As anyone who pays attention to things in the United States knows, the opinions, values and culture of people can vary wildly from state to state. For various reasons, which we will get into, some states have much better shots at legalization than others.

For example, the state of Kentucky has seen several attempts to pass medical marijuana legislation the last several years, and this year in no different. State Senator Perry Clark and his allies face a very tough battle.

Activists in Missouri are making attempts at both medical and recreational legalization, though many feel the medical proposal is much more practical than the recreational one, with its lack of any sort of limits. “Missouri activists are pressing for medical marijuana,” said Russ Belville, cannabis columnist and host of The Russ Belville Show. “Its vote will be close, but I’m betting it will win.”

A recreational legalization bill was recently introduced in the Michigan state Senate; it is hard to tell and a bit too early in the game to know if it has any chance at all. A watered-down medical cannabis bill seems to be gaining momentum in Utah while an effort at medical marijuana in Arkansas is getting a conversation started in that state.

Ohio Tries Again

Legalization proponents in Ohio are still reeling from the debacle that was Issue 3 last year, and some outside forces have come in to help. The national advocacy group Marijuana Policy Project is backing an initiative from Ohioans for Medical Marijuana.

The initiative itself recently hit a snag, but MPP says it still has time to make the ballot, and Russ Belville tells us that if the measure does make the ballot, he is “confident it will pass.” The attempt has a lot of advantages over Issue 3, not the least of which are MPP’s expertise in this area and that fact that Ohio is a crucial swing state in a Presidential election year, which should drive up turnout, especially among young people.

Viable Legislature Attempts

In Vermont a recreational bill is making its way through the legislature, and it has the backing of the state’s governor. A couple of other states are also in the process of going through the legislature for legalization.

Pennsylvania has already passed medical marijuana through their legislature, awaiting a signature from the governor,” Russ told us. “Vermont has already made progress on a legislative legalization proposal that’s likely to become law. And the governor and legislature of Rhode Island are also likely to take up a successful legislative legalization bid.”

Recreational legalization has yet to be effected through a state legislature, but due to the different rules from state to state regarding how laws are passed, it’s bound to happen sometime; that sometime looks more and more like it will be this year.

The Big Hitters

What makes 2016 such an exciting year in the cannabis law reform community is the multiple chances to get recreational legalization passed in several more states, covering a large portion of the population.

“2016 could be the watershed year for marijuana reform that pushes America beyond the tipping point,” Russ Belville said. “It’s a near sure thing that Massachusetts will legalize. California is almost as guaranteed. Arizona and Nevada will probably be close, but I’d bet they win. Maine is still appealing a rejection of signatures they turned it. If they make the ballot, it will be too close to call.”

Massachusetts, a traditionally liberal/progressive state politically, is a prime candidate for legalization. The powers that be in the state, however, are dead set against legalization; these powers include the state’s Governor and Attorney General, along with the Mayor of its largest city, Boston. They recently approved an op-ed to run in their names that lists all the supposed drawbacks to recreational legalization.

In Nevada a recreational legalization measure is already slated for the fall ballot; the state recently started opening medical marijuana dispensaries to serve patients, so people there are getting used to the idea of going somewhere legal and purchasing cannabis. The same can be said for Arizona; voters there passed medical marijuana by a slim margin in 2010.

The Green Rush in the Golden State

Of course the big prize when it comes to recreational legalization is California. After the defeat of Prop 19 in 2010, activists in the state have had trouble coming together and getting enough signatures for and money behind any one initiative; the result has been that none have made the ballot.

The Adult Use of Marijuana Act has everything needed – in theory – to pass as a legalization measure. It has the financial backing from the likes of WeedMaps and Tech billionaire Sean Parker; it has the support of many big groups inside California and several marijuana law reform advocacy groups (along with an endorsement from the California Medical Association); and it’s tame enough to draw votes from all parts of the political spectrum.

For many, California’s lack of recreational legalization is a symbol of how much work is still to be done when it comes to reforming cannabis laws nationwide. Of course California’s medical marijuana program is the most wide-open in the country, but new regulations are making it much less so. The more medical cannabis is regulated and restricted, the more important recreational legalization becomes to millions of consumers in the state.

Relief Under the Sunshine?

“Florida is retrying its amendment to legalize medical marijuana. They garnered 58% of the vote in 2014, but need 60% under the Florida constitution, and I’m betting they clear that mark this year,” Russ told The Marijuana Times. While 2014 was a banner year for recreational legalization with Oregon, Alaska and Washington D.C. joining the ranks of jurisdictions that have legalized, medical cannabis patients in Florida suffered an agonizing defeat by a lousy 2%.

United for Care – backed financially by Orlando lawyer John Morgan – has gotten medical marijuana legalization back on the statewide ballot for this fall. Wiser after learning from their mistakes two years ago, when initial polls showed support for medical cannabis in the state approaching 90%, United for Care is confident that they will hit the mark this time.

Much remains to be seen on that front, including what casino magnate Sheldon Adelson plans on doing; it was Adelson who flooded the state with cash late in the campaign in 2014 in an effort to squash medical marijuana legalization, an effort he was obviously successful in.

What Will 2016 Bring?

2016 could be the biggest year in marijuana law reform history or an epic failure that cripples the movement for years to come; or something in between those extremes. Much work remains to be done, but there is reason to be optimistic.

A final thought from Russ Belville: “All in all, by the end of 2016, we are likely to have seven new legalization states and four new medical marijuana states. Stopping the progress of marijuana reform after that will be near impossible for prohibitionists to achieve.”

If those numbers prove accurate, it will truly be a historic year for cannabis law reform in the U.S. It will become a standard that activists in other states will measure themselves against in future election cycles. But most importantly it will mean tens of millions of adults have regained a freedom that was taken from them so long ago: the freedom to choose their own medicine and form of recreation as long as they are not infringing on the rights of anyone else.


  1. Cannabis is the most useful plant on the planet; food, clothing, shelter, energy, medicine, insight, re-creation. It has been mankinds companion and helpmate since the beginning. Any law against it is a crime against humanity, creation and the Creator.

    • Marijuana negatively affects the developing brain. Typically, brains aren’t fully developed until the age of 25. What most people don’t realize is that marijuana is not a depressant or a stimulant; it’s a psychoactive drug. What it does to the brain is much more drastic than alcohol and cigarettes. Marijuana affects learning, memory, coordination, concentration, mood, and more. Imagine if a child was chronically using marijuana to alter these parts of the brain… They’re much more likely to have mood disorders, impaired coordination, and learning disabilities.

      Are there many uses? Yes. But it needs to stay the hell out of the hands of developing minds. It needs to be regulated just like any other psychoactive drug.

  2. Let it come to Indiana I could use it for medicinal purposes for real I would like that for recreational to but really for medicinal because I have a lot of back pains anxiety attacks and I have bipolar and deep depression it w?ould be very useful and I know a lot of people feel the same way here in Indiana cuz Indiana depressing?

    • Indiana could care less if were in pain, homeless or hungry. I’m sorry to say I don’t see them letting it be legal. All I need is the kind that doesn’t even get ya high. Just not to be in pain.

  3. My girlfriend has suffered from migraines since she was fourteen years old. Cannabis is the only thing so far that can completely get rid of it. Unfortunately we live in North Carolina where it is still illegal but it has at least been decriminalized. Until it does she has no recourse but to take the narcotics that her doctors have her hooked on.

  4. I came across Cannabis after being diagnosed with glaucoma. I wanted to find alternatives to drops and all the side effects. Having all my life rejected smoking in any form I was concerned about this product. After further exploration I could not reject the many benefits beyond glaucoma, so I gave the concentrates a try. My first concentrate was a Blue Dream JuJu joint, within a few minutes I could feel the pressure in my eyes change. I was amazed as none of the drops had felt different in that way, but what was even more amazing was the full body relaxation I felt. Now I did not know I was in pain until it was gone. Needless to say I am still researching this natural product and now believe its benefits go way beyond any synthetic drug the medical industry are invested in and wants to give us.

    • Just something to look into especially if your just using cannabis for medical use only not recreational. There is tincture as well that’s a liquid for of the thc and I’m not sure if it’ll help with your glocoma but like I said it would be something to look into as well as editables. If I were you I would find a strain that works for you as far as what helps your glocoma as well as the other side effects because each strain is different. Then I would go ahead and make the tincture if that works for you or make some editables if you prefer not smoke or you could buy or make your own hash oil and vape it which is supposed to be healthier than smoking it. But if you don’t want to get to technical about not smoking it the easiest thing is to get the hash oil that works for you. No matter what you do with my advice eather you use it or not is your business but I would suggest doing your homework on them to make sure you get the best experience and get as many bennifets that you can get.

  5. “2016 could be the biggest year in marijuana law reform history or an epic failure that cripples the movement for years to come; or something in between those extremes.”

    Gee dude, way to go out on a limb with your predictions there…

  6. We in ND are currently running two Initiatives and going strong on gathering signatures! The Compassionate Care Act 2016 for Medical Cannabis and Legalize ND for full recreational! Please come and check us out! We are 2 separate groups with separate agendas WORKING TOGETHER SO WE ALL CAN BE HEARD! #FREEMYMEDICINE

    • MONEY MONEY MONEY MONEY. That’s why marijuana is demonized. Think about it. Big Pharm. Big Tobacco. Companies that can be replaced by hemp. Big Beer. All of these industries are under threat of the Great Green Tide of Marijuana Legalization. It will happen, but not before a big, greedy fight from those industries. They’re all like Mr. Crabs from Sponge Bob: “Oh, me money!!!”

  7. Oklahoma is trying to expand the inept medical marijuana laws with a petition as we speak. Also two Justice Reform efforts to remove felony for possession of marijuana will be voted on in November 2016. Oklahoma has the highest incarceration of adults in the world. 90% drug crimes. If voters can get on board to oppose the putting in prison of our brothers and sisters for profit I think Oklahoma can be turned around. Here hoping of turning a purple red state to green.

  8. I think it’s unfair that each state has to go through this unlawful process considering it it already legal in other states.If it’s already legalized in others places why such the long timeframe? Everyone knows pot for improve and in most cases heal people. I’m tired of having to take drugs that are treating only symptoms but causing more serious effects to my body.

  9. I suppose that you also believe JEmlay, that the ingestion of cannabis also makes Black and Latin men rape white women? Please, keep your brainwashed thoughts to yourself. If at the very least, research where that propaganda bullshit came from. For example…

    Rafael Mechoulam is the Israeli scientist who not only identified the chemical THC in cannabis, but his research is what has pioneered the Medical Cannabis field world-wide that has – to be but bluntly 😉 – created awareness, not just for patients who are suffering from wide range of ailments, but also to those who were lied to and deceived by their authority figures, which is nothing new in human history.

    Everything that you said about cannabis effecting “…learning, memory, concentration, mood, and more.” is not a negative statement in and of itself.

    Let’s start with Mood: Professor Allyn Howlett discovered that the human brain contains cannabinoid receptors; when the THC from cannabis makes contact with the local cannabinoid receptors in your brain you were born with, a similar reaction takes place like when ingesting opiates and it makes contact with the local opioid receptors in the brain: euphoria. Euphoria takes away the aches and pains the individual has – whether they be physically, biologically, or psychologically traumatic – masking the pain to the point where patients can get up and move around, eat, sleep, and live. That being said, I’d be in a pretty good mood, too.

    Concentration: Sober or not; if I don’t give a fuck about what you’re saying, I won’t pay you no mind or I’ll tell you you’re an idiot and why. I imagine everyone feels the same way whether intoxicated or not.

    Learning and Memory: when Professor Rafael Mechoulam discovered TetraHydroCannabidinol (THC) and identified it to the world, he stated that THC makes you “Sleep, eat, relieve pain, ” best part, “remember AND forget”. Funny, right? Why would you want to forget, you ask? People who suffer from PTSD can tell you why.

    As far as children are concerned: you should do research into a girl named Charlotte who’s suffered from epileptic seizures since she was 3 months old. Were it not for the courageous acts of her parents and the Stanley brothers, they would not have been able to get that Cannabidinol (CBD) to her and she would be dead. Imagine for a moment if you will, your child is losing her life in your arms, would you do nothing let your own child die like a heartless human being that Can’t Understand Normal Thinking? If you say yes, then you are a cunt and don’t deserve children. If you do what Charlotte’s parents did, you’ll not only save a life that hadn’t even gotten the chance to live yet, but you’ll also be saving the lives of others through that same method. Like Charlotte has with her own popular cannabis plant that is high in CBD and low in THC: Charlottes Web.

    JEmlay, your claim that cannabis use has more detrimental effects than modern cigarettes and alcohol is not only outlandish, but also proves you’ve done little to no research on the topic and for that you no longer deserve to be in this debate since you, like everyone else who challenges legalization and decriminalization, have no idea what the fuck you’re talking about.

    Until then, be a good American drone and find another innocent family to bomb in a different country, over-seas.

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