Source:  The Huffington Post  | by  Nick Wing, April 18 2014

A version of this story first appeared in January.

For the first 4/20 ever, people will gather in Colorado this weekend to show support for fully legal marijuana. Just months after the state opened its doors to recreational pot, crowds will head to events on Sunday like the sold-out Cannabis Cup, all to celebrate a plant that brought Colorado $14 million in taxed sales in January alone. Colorado’s example has served as a promising sign that legal marijuana can be a strong source of income for other states interested in scaling back harsh anti-pot laws and listening to voters, who have increasingly shown support for legalizing marijuana.

(Scroll down to see if your state is likely to be one of the next to legalize.)

Taxed and regulated marijuana is coming soon to Washington state, which along with Colorado passed a legalization measure at the polls during the 2012 general election. And with Attorney General Eric Holder now willing to admit that he is at least “cautiously optimistic” about the groundbreaking laws, marijuana policy reformers in other states are looking more intently at the best way to proceed.

The momentum is on marijuana’s side. It has the forces of capitalism behind it — one study has predicted that the industry could do as much as $8 billion in annual sales by 2018, and there are some signs that the federal government may be ready to help normalize the marijuana business. Legalization is also becoming widely accepted as a social justice issue. Advocates have become increasingly vocal, arguing that it makes no sense to continue treating pot as a Schedule I substance, considered by federal authorities alongside heroin and LSD. In a drug war-obsessed nation that already incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than any other in the world, around 750,000 people are arrested for marijuana each year, with more than 650,000 of them for possession alone.

For opponents who believe marijuana is damaging to the mind and body, these stats appear to be of less importance. And while supporters of marijuana continually cite the comparative effects of weed and alcohol, or counter anti-pot studies with emerging research that has supported the drug’s therapeutic qualities, one thing remains certain: Objective, conclusive scientific research into the effects of marijuana will continue to remain discouraged until the federal ban on the substance is lifted or relaxed.

While debates on marijuana’s health effects should and will continue even beyond the next wave of legalizations, it’s clear that the floodgates have already been broken. More states will legalize marijuana, and some will do it relatively soon. In states around the nation, pro-pot legislators bolstered by public opinion and the examples set by Colorado and Washington are putting the once-taboo issue before their colleagues, hoping to become the first state to legalize legislatively. Activists are also making the push, working to get the issue before voters in 2014 and beyond.

Here’s the likely road ahead for legal marijuana:

Alaska

Alaskans will have the first chance to make their state the third to legalize pot. A ballot measure to tax, regulate and legalize weed for adult recreational use will appear on the primary election ballot on Aug. 19, the earliest date of any states. Anti-marijuana groups are hoping to keep it from passing.

Pot has already been decriminalized and legalized for medical use in Alaska. A survey of Alaska voters taken earlier this year by Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling found that 55 percent supported legalizing marijuana.

Arizona

While hopes for a successful push on legal weed in 2014 may be dwindling, pro-pot organizers have expressed optimism that they’ll have a strong campaign for the state ready ahead of 2016. Efforts are underway to gather the required 259,213 signatures needed by July in order to get the legalization issue on the 2014 ballot — but without serious financial backing, it’s looking unlikely. Activists with the influential Marijuana Policy Project have said they’re on board with a forthcoming ballot initiative to fully legalize the drug in 2016, when more voters will likely turn out for the general election. The group has also said that by then, they’ll have had enough time to figure out which aspects of previous efforts have been successful in other states.

Cannabis was legalized in the state for medical use in 2010 by ballot initiative. A poll taken earlier this year found that 51 percent of Arizonans supported legalizing recreational marijuana sales.

California

A statewide initiative to legalize recreational marijuana failed in California in 2010, but reformers have expressed hope at finding success in 2014 and beyond. Activists gave up on a major petition effort earlier this year that would have put the issue of legalization to voters in November. There have also been efforts to gather support for the California Cannabis Hemp Initiative, though they lack the financial support other proposals had. While the momentum is certainly in favor of legalization in California, some prominent figures have urged organizers to wait until 2016, when demographics and voter turnout will be even more in their favor.

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Article source:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/18/states-legalize-weed_n_5162737.html