Medical marijuana raids in California, Colorado, Washington and other states make newspaper headlines seemingly every morning. Pot dispensary bans, moratoriums on weed dispensaries and community protests lead the nightly newscast. Speculation about what the federal government might do next fills online MMJ chat rooms.
Given all the negative news, one would think that medical marijuana is on its way out in the United States, and in a hurry.
Only that’s not the case at all.
Roughly 18 states across the country – form the Midwest to the Northeast to the Deep South – are weighing some form of medical marijuana legislation.
The heavy interest in medical cannabis flies in the face of the federal government’s moves to rein in – and in some cases even destroy – the industry. The recent raids and threatening letters from the government have done little to dissuade other states from exploring medical pot laws, which is a very good sign for the MMJ movement at large.
Currently, 16 states plus the District of Columbia have medical pot laws on the books, though only about half actually allow medical marijuana to be sold via dispensaries and/or cooperatives.
If several more states come on board this year, it will push the country closer to the tipping point. Some medical marijuana observers say that once half of all U.S. states have approved the use of medical pot, the federal government will have to strongly reconsider its position on the drug (which it now deems illegal).
The list of states that are considering marijuana legislation – or could put it to voters in the fall – covers conservative and liberal regions alike. It includes big, influential states on the East Coast as well as some unusual suspects.
Lawmakers have introduced bills calling for the legalization of medical marijuana (though not necessarily dispensaries) in 16 states: Alabama, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Efforts are underway in two other states – Florida and Missouri – to put the issue to voters on the fall ballot.
To be sure, the chances of passage are slim in some of these states. But if even a handful adopt medical marijuana laws, it will be harder for the government and the Drug Enforcement Agency to justify shutting down pot businesses and cracking down on the industry.
For a rundown of what’s going on in each of these states, check out this excellent document compiled by the Marijuana Policy Project. As an FYI, the list doesn’t include Idaho – where a medical pot bill was introduced this month – or Missouri, where cannabis advocates are gathering signatures for a proposed medical marijuana ballot measure.