I remember years ago when it seemed like marijuana legalization was quite a ways out. 2010 saw the first statewide vote on marijuana legalization, which blew my mind at the time. After the 2010 election my perception changed and legalization seemed like it was right around the corner, but prior to that it seemed like it was going to take forever to get an initiative approved for the ballot and passed on election day.
2012 of course saw not one, but two states legalize marijuana (Colorado and Washington in case you have been living under a rock). Both of those victories came via the citizen initiative process. I think everyone knew that the first state(s) to legalize would happen via an initiative. But I always hoped that after marijuana reform was achieved via the initiative process, that it would speed up the process of seeing a state legislature legalize marijuana. I was always confident that the citizens would do it, but I often wondered how long it would take for politicians to do it after they saw that the sky didn't fall, and that there are numerous benefits to legalization.
Marijuana legalization bills are popping up all over the nation right now, which is not new. Bills have been introduced for years, they just have never gone very far. They were seen by many non-marijuana supporters as a radical politician's attempt at getting attention. My how things have changed. The bills that are being introduced now all have better chances of advancing than they ever have before. Which leads to the question, 'which state legislature will be the first to legalize marijuana?'
I think the obvious choice right now has to be New Hampshire, which recently passed a marijuana legalization bill in the House chamber. There are many marijuana reformers who are quick to point out that the odds don't look favorable in the Senate, and there is a looming veto threat out there by the Governor. But they were the first state to pass a legalization bill in any chamber of a state legislature, so I consider them the front runner as long as efforts are alive in their legislature.
Other states that are popular in this discussion are New England states like Maine, Rhode Island, and Maryland. Maine looked like it had a great chance until greedy business interests killed the legalization bill there. There have been veto threats in Rhode Island, which I think has hampered success in their legislature. Maryland I think has a great chance of passing, despite opposition expressed by their Governor. Why do Governor's try to squash democracy before it even starts? I will never understand that.
I have always rooted for Oregon to be first, and I think there is a strong argument why my home state could be the first to legalize marijuana via the legislature, although, I'd imagine we will see a legislative referral for the 2014 election, not an outright approval. A bill was introduced yesterday in Oregon (Senate Bill 1556) that would allow up to four plants at home, eight ounces at home, and one ounce in transport. People close to the situation tell me that it has a better chance of passing than a similar bill that was introduced last year.
I think in Oregon the Legislature is aware that marijuana legalization is inevitable here, and that the window of opportunity for them to have any input at all is closing more and more with every week that goes by. The people behind Oregon's 2012 initiative are currently collecting signatures, and a very strong coalition called 'New Approach Oregon' is also collecting signatures. The pressure is mounting in Salem to do something, or politicians in Oregon will have to accept whatever version of legalization is passed via the initiative process. It's an interesting situation that I am very excited to see unfold.
What state legislature do you think will be the first to pass marijuana legalization? Do you think it's going to be a New England state? Do you think it will be Oregon? Do you think it will be somewhere else?