Despite Flurry of Bills, Only a Few States Expected to Pass Cannabis Legislation in 2013

Just Released! Get realistic market forecasts, state-by-state insights and benchmarks with the new 2024 MJBiz Factbook member program, now with quarterly updates. Make informed decisions.

Optimism about the marijuana industry’s future is extraordinarily high these days. One of the main reasons for the exuberance: Lawmakers in roughly two dozen states have either already submitted or plan to introduce bills that would legalize marijuana for medical or recreational use. And the list keeps growing, with new legislation making headlines almost daily.

Impressive, for sure. But what are the chances these states will actually pass cannabis bills? Very slim in most cases. Only a handful of these proposals have a realistic shot of becoming law, let alone advancing past the first stage of debate.

It often takes several years and numerous legislative attempts to win enough support among lawmakers to get medical marijuana legislation passed. And legalizing marijuana for adult use is even more difficult, as only two states in the entire nation have ever done it.

Many of these bills will die a quick death, like the recently introduced MMJ proposal in Iowa that has already been shot down.

In a best-case scenario, a half-dozen states will legalize either medical cannabis or marijuana in general this year. But, more likely, two or three states will, with Illinois and New Hampshire among the front-runners to legalize MMJ next. And then of course there’s the very real possibility that no states will join the MMJ/cannabis club.

So marijuana professionals might want to temper their expectations a bit. The industry will certainly still grow, just not as fast as some predict.

Still, there are still plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the future of the marijuana business. Just the fact that so many bills have been introduced is a positive sign that highlights how marijuana has entered the discussion on a national scale.

“I’m excited because there are more bills than we’ve ever seen at any one time,” said Morgan Fox, communications manager at the Washington DC-based Marijuana Policy Project, which lobbies for the reform of cannabis laws. “This shows that marijuana can be discussed in the open and that reform is a possibility. Any bill introduced gets us one step closer to realistic reform.”

The real progress could come in a few years, once the nation has seen the effects of marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington. If those states handle it effectively and limit the negative consequences, we could see many more states pass similar laws. And the introduction of so many medical marijuana bills this year will lay the groundwork for legalization in the future.