The 2016 Election is not that far away, especially for campaigns. Signature deadlines vary across the country, but they will be up sooner than later. Campaigns are working very hard to get marijuana legalization on the ballot in many states, some having better chances than others of making it on the ballot. I was hopeful that over a dozen states would make the ballot in 2016, and maybe there will be some significant changes that help some states catch up. But for now, below are the states that I feel will make the ballot, and in the case of Nevada, already have made the ballot:
As is always the case in California, there are multiple initiatives. I have seen a lot of people on social media promoting each one of them, but I haven't seen any text for some of the initiatives, and haven't seen polling for any of the initiatives. I do believe that ultimately most people will band together with ReformCA as time goes by, which seems to have the most resources for its initiative. WeedMaps has put up two million dollars for a legalization effort, and Justin Hartfield recently did an interview in which he said that there are multiple billionaires in California that are willing to fund an effort that shows promise. For the sake of California, and for the sake of the greater movement, I hope legalization can be achieved in California in 2016. California used to lead the way on marijuana policy, and has since fallen behind. California is an enormous state, and if it legalized, it would open the flood gates for legalization in other states in future elections, and would create a recreational state industry that would dwarf all other recreational marijuana states combined I'd imagine. I would estimate that a successful campaign in California would run upwards of 20 million dollars, which obviously is a huge pile of money, but is not that much for a handful of California billionaires.
I think that Arizona will ultimately make the ballot. I know that MPP is pushing for it very hard right now, and the signature gathering effort seems to be going well. Polling is strong for the initiative and I think that Arizona joins the other states that have legalized marijuana. I don't like the Arizona provisions as much as Oregon's, but it's certainly better than prohibition.
As I previously stated, Nevada has already made the ballot. And barring some crazy unforeseen circumstance, I think this initiative passes by a decent margin. Because of how many tourists visit parts of Nevada, this could lead to an enormous market. I know that many of my friends think that Vegas could become the marijuana capital of America because of the culture that's already in place there, the amount of people that travel there, and the fact that people are willing to spend more money when they go to Vegas compared to other places.
There are multiple efforts in Michigan, but the one I am rooting for the most is MiLegalize. I have worked with their campaign to help spread awareness, and their signature gathering effort is right on schedule. The Michigan Cannabis Coalition has already gathered over 170,000 signatures according to media reports I've read, and I think it's quite possible that Michigan could see two versions of legalization on the ballot.
Maine is so overdue on marijuana legalization. I thought for a long time that Maine would be the first to legalize via its legislature, and that could very well still happen, but if not, I expect to see a legalization initiative on the ballot, and that it will pass. The initiative has great funding, polled well, and has been generating a lot of buzz. Maine has multiple efforts underway, but unlike Michigan, I think we will likely only see one of those efforts make the ballot.
Massachusetts' initiative also has great funding and polled well. I think it makes the ballot and passes by a decent margin.
Ohio of course is voting on marijuana legalization in 2015, not 2016, but I felt it was worth mentioning. The 'grow for profit' provisions are not good, and the use of Buddie the marijuana mascot is absolutely a terrible idea, but despite those things, Ohio has a great shot of becoming the fifth state to legalize marijuana for better or worse. The initiative is going to be joined by another item on the ballot that would prevent the initiative from becoming law. A legal battle would almost certainly ensue if both were to pass, with both sides having valid legal arguments to make. In a perfect world, the Ohio Supreme Court would uphold the legalization initiative, allow it to become law, but strip away the 10-entity grow-for-profit provision. Then everyone would win, well, other than the financial backers of ResponsibleOhio. They would still be able to grow for profit, but just not exclusively.
I think that between now and Election Day 2016 we will see a state legislature legalize recreational marijuana. Many states have tried and failed, but every year that goes by states get a little closer. I'm not sure that we will see it in 2015, but I definitely think at least one state will do it in 2016, if for any reason because the state's politicians finally realize that legalization is inevitable, and they want to get out ahead of it so that they can craft the laws. I just hope that the laws they craft are fair, and if not, that everyone will band together to push an initiative the next election cycle to fix whatever was passed.
2016 will see at least two states voting on medical marijuana in my opinion. The first is Florida, which voted on medical marijuana in 2014 and it almost won. 2016 will be a more favorable year, the campaign will be better after learning a lot during the 2014 effort and I think the initiative gets pushed over the top this time, which would be absolutely huge on many levels. Florida is a very significant state in the overall cannabis reform battle, and it would be a huge domino. But an even bigger domino in my opinion would be Missouri. I know a lot of national organization leaders want to boo-hoo the effort, but I have worked with the Show-Me Cannabis campaign since 2012, and I know that they have solid funding, some of the best polling results I've ever seen for an effort, and they have more momentum than ever before. A victory in Missouri, which is a very conservative state, would send a message to all other states in America that reform is coming, and that every state is in play.
What do TWB readers think? Did I miss a state? If so, list it below and state why you think that state has a legit shot of making the ballot. In a perfect world every state would legalize marijuana and regulate it like tomatoes, and successful campaigns would run off of volunteers and many small donations. But the fact of the matter is politics don't work that way, which is why we have never seen an initiative make it on the ballot given those parameters, let alone win on Election Day. Initiatives need language that polls well so that it brings in the large donors. Politics is expensive, which sucks, but that's the reality of the situation. 2016 will be a watershed election year, and will largely be the point from which marijuana reform's momentum is measured. If six states legalize marijuana in 2016, and a state legalizes between now and then via a legislative action, and Florida and Missouri legalize medical marijuana in 2016, it's game over for prohibition. Someone should let Kevin Sabet know that Walmart is hiring now so that he can prepare for the future.