A record high 64% of Americans support legalizing marijuana for recreational use, according to a 2017 Gallup Poll. Support for legalization is rooted in changing perceptions of the drug’s potential harm, as well as the prospect of hundreds of millions of dollars in marijuana sales and excise tax revenue for state governments.
The growing acceptance of marijuana among Americans has also been reflected in the ballot box. Currently, eight states and Washington D.C. have legalized recreational marijuana. Pro-pot initiatives passed in eight of the nine states in which they made it to the ballot in November 2016. Voters in Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota approved or expanded medical marijuana laws in their states. In Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada and California, voters approved recreational pot. Only Arizona’s push for full legalization failed.
> Possession decriminalized: Yes
> Amount decriminalized: Less than 1/2 oz
> Max. fine for less than 1/2 oz: $150
> Annual adult usage: 15.4% (10th highest)
As is the case in much of the country, Connecticut residents’ attitudes towards pot have shifted considerably in recent years. Some 39.1% of state adults 26 and older perceived great risk in monthly marijuana use in 2002. The share has since fallen to 28.8% of adults. Additionally, Connecticut’s medical marijuana program, which has been in effect since June 2012, was strengthened in 2016. That year, legislators added several new conditions to the list of those approved for medical marijuana, and the state’s Department of Consumer Protection greenlighted three new dispensaries. Even more recently, Democratic lawmakers in the state included a plan to tax and regulate marijuana in their 2017 budget proposal.
Connecticut is one several states to have decriminalized marijuana possession. First time offenders caught with less half an ounce face no more than a $150 fine. For repeat offenders, fines can be as high as $500, but still, possession of a small amount carries no criminal charges.
All four states that legalized recreational marijuana in 2016 made 24/7 Wall St.’s list of the next states to legalize pot that same year.
Despite widespread acceptance of the drug, only about 21% of the U.S. population live in states or districts that have legalized recreational pot. In all likelihood, the share will only grow in the coming years.
Though every state to legalize pot so far has done so through ballot initiatives, going forward, states have a variety of options for making pot legal. Predicting which states will be next to legalize requires weighing a range of legal circumstances and cultural conditions. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed marijuana usage rates, existing marijuana laws, and legislative processes in each state to identify the states most likely to legalize pot next.