January 15, 2014

Which States Will Legalize Recreational Marijuana in 2014?


This article is the first in a two-part series. Next week, we’ll highlight states with the best chances of passing medical marijuana legislation this year.

The marijuana industry has enjoyed mainstream headlines since Colorado rolled out its recreational marijuana industry on Jan. 1. But advocates for legalization haven’t been resting on their laurels.

Groups like the Marijuana Policy Project and the Drug Policy Alliance have been hard at work on various bills and referendums across the country, hoping to add other states this year to the short list of places where recreational marijuana can be sold.

It won’t be easy, particularly for advocates trying to legalize via the ballot box (as opposed to state legislatures). During non-presidential years, the turnout of important young voters is typically much lower, and those heading to the polls have historically been less sympathetic toward pro-marijuana initiatives in these years.

That said, 2014 could still shape up to be a big year for the recreational cannabis industry.

While efforts are underway in everywhere from California to Arizona to Maine and Maryland, here are four states with the best odds of legalizing marijuana for adult use this year:

Rhode Island
Unlike Colorado and Washington, Rhode Island would proceed with legalization after a legislative vote in the General Assembly, not a general election. The country’s smallest state could legalize marijuana as early as June or July, despite Gov. Lincoln Chafee recently saying Rhode Island should wait a year before voting on such a measure.

moneyshowhorizontal300 Which States Will Legalize Recreational Marijuana in 2014?Advocates have introduced a legalization bill during the last three sessions of Rhode Island’s General Assembly and spent upwards of $20,000 in campaign contributions to lawmakers. They’ve also had permanent lobbyists on retainer there, working to advance pro-legalization sentiment throughout the state’s House and Senate.

Recent estimates put support within Rhode Island’s Senate at above 50%, which is a good sign. Passing legalization would require a simple majority of lawmakers to support the bill, not a two-thirds majority. Chafee could always veto the decision. But Rhode Island has passed medical marijuana and decriminalization laws in succession, and that momentum could dissuade the governor from taking such an action.

Alaska looks to be heading for a general election vote on legalizing marijuana, which would happen in August. Last week, a group called The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana earned great fanfare from the industry when it submitted nearly 46,000 signatures to Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, beating its deadline to turn in the signatures by nearly two weeks. The petition included a proposed draft of legislation, which includes many of the same rules and regulations as Colorado, only with a $50 per-ounce tax.

If the state’s elections division can verify 30,169 of those signatures, the initiative will appear on the ballot. Early polling shows the pro-marijuana side to have a slight advantage. But advocates realize that legalization will not come easy; the group Smart Approach to Marijuana plans to enter the fight in Alaska and fund opposition. And failure in Alaska would be a huge setback to marijuana advocates because it would advance the belief that voters are not yet ready to proceed with legalization.

Voters in Oregon have not been kind to legalization efforts. The state rejected initiatives to legalize marijuana in general election votes in 1986 and 2012, and in 2010 the group Oregonians For Cannabis Reform failed to collect enough signatures to put a legalization initiative on the ballot. But advocates believe that 2014 may be the year that the state moves ahead with legalization.

A poll taken in May 2013 shows that support for legalization is at 57%. And the group New Approach Oregon, which is spearheading the latest push, has financial backing from The Drug Policy Alliance as well as from billionaire Peter Lewis, who donated to the organization shortly before his death in November. New Approach Oregon will push lawmakers to refer their legalization measure to the November 2014 ballot. If that route fails, the group will go on the hunt for signatures: it needs 87,213 signed petitions in order for the measure to appear on the ballot.

We added California to our list, even though many advocates believe that 2014 is simply too early to push forward with a legalization effort. There’s a chance the momentum created by legalization in Colorado and Washington State will spill over into California.

In December, the Drug Policy Alliance submitted the Control, Regulate and Tax Marijuana Act, and two other legalization initiatives have been submitted in California as well.

The 2010 defeat of Prop. 19, the most recent legalization effort, left a bad taste in the mouths of many marijuana advocates. Some therefore believe that the legalization effort should be held until 2016, which would give them three extra years to raise funds for an expensive media push before the election.

Still, some groups have decided that now is the time. And support for legalization appears to be there: A Field Poll released in December found that 55% of Californians back the initiative.


  1. I would venture to guess that the states that adapt a legalization bill for recreational marijuana will be those that already have medical marijuana well in place. With 40% of the states with MMJ provisions, one can see several of them making the turn for recreational in the next 1-4 years.

    Those states that do not have MMJ laws in place as of yet will more than likely have them during this period of time.

    Medical marijuana first, then recreational. I do see it happening for several states. 2014 may see the MMJ laws expand to over half the country.

  2. I tell you what I think is, the United States will make the medical marijuana finally legal for people who are really in medical need of it and I would say that the biggest percentage of Americans will vote to allow it.

  3. The lack of a single initiative for Californians to vote for causes concern. An initiative that clearly states how marijuana is to be taxed, regulated and sold would, I believe, provide undecided voters assurance that marijuana would be administered similarly to alcohol, thus increasing a greater chance of passage. Also, politicians could create a new bureaucracy so they could pass out cushy jobs to their cronies, and collect more taxes. It would be better to let amoral politicians make money on marijuana, rather than amoral narcotraficantes.

  4. I’m praying that Oklahoma will legalize medical and recreational marijuana in 2014. It may seem like a long shot, but I have seen the way Oklahomans are suffering, not only from debilitating diseases, but from being caged for no reason. We are coming around, discussing it, letting go of old notions, and becoming well educated about cannabis, and for this I am grateful and thankful!

  5. Ahh yes but will Florida finally get something started in the South or will it arrest, lock up and seize the assets of people who go to Fla for vacations and invest?

  6. We believe all states will one day or another be legal to own/grow and smoke this beautiful plant.

  7. What the american people that are not in favor of passing the abillity for everyone to buy and smoke need to look at the overall picture. Washington and colardo is projected to see. A 67 million dollar tax rev. For each state. spending less time looking for marijuana drug dealers because for one there out of busness now and for another a large portion goes to schools now for folks who know the schools there going broke the % of the money is not going to help every school in need all at once but the schools that really need will get the help folks need to relize technoligy is growing we need the money to fund our school so are kids can get the ed… They need to go to colege. The war on drugs would decrease 10 fold just wait everyone will see

  8. Quite simply, the reason California will legalize marijuana this year is because Washington and Colorado already have. As a fellow Californian, I can attest that most Californians like to be more radical and like to be seen as a “forefront” of America. They enjoy whatever personal freedoms they can get, regardless of consequences… of course that’s a generalization but I tend to believe it’s of strong base.

  9. Jersey needs to just legalize marijuana already b******* alcohol is way worse marijuana is not killin nobody

  10. The large companies that manufacture alcoholic beverages, beer, whiskey, vodka, rum, etc., will probably do what they can to lobby the politicians in order prevent or at least delay nationwide legalization from becoming a reality. People would spend more money on pot and less on alcohol, and that would reduce nationwide alcohol consumption seriously affect the annual income statement. Undoubtedly the alcohol industry has plenty of money to lobby Washington to get what they need to keep their industry immune from any cannabis competition.

  11. i think the federal government should just declare it legal. why is it individual states make decisions when we have a federal government? How can it be one nation if each little “state” makes different decisions. Politics stink and i think that some states are run by the “good ole boys” and will never come to modernization on a lot of things. this should stop. it isn’t fair when we the people want the majority of something and a few select “good ole boys” say no.

  12. Your federal gov. in the USA can’t legalize it until it repeals it’s federal laws which define marijuana as a controlled substance. That is why this is being done on a state level. The fact that making such a huge shift in some of the most enforced laws in the country (narco-law) would likely have unforeseeable consequences. Think of Washington and Colorado as test states, one with international borders (Wash./Canada), and one with many state borders (Colorado).

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