The Next State to Legalize Marijuana Will Be...
The momentum behind legalizing marijuana is enormous.
According to a national survey by Pew Research Center, 75% of Americans believe the sale and use of marijuana will eventually be legal nationwide.
In 2014, pot legalization initiatives passed in three of the four elections where they appeared on the ballot. That group includes Alaska, Oregon, and Washington D.C. Florida, the lone holdout, missed by just 2% of the vote.
Five more states will address the issue in 2016: California, Nevada, Arizona, Massachusetts, and Maine.
Among them California and Nevada are most likely to legalize marijuana. Maine and Massachusetts are something of a toss-up. And Arizona is least likely.
Still, it's a legitimate possibility that all five of these states will vote yes. And it'd be hard to blame them.
The legal weed industry has brought 10,000 new jobs to Colorado, as well as $76 million in tax revenue last year.
Furthermore, the state saved $145 million it had previously been spending each year to combat the drug.
Washington state, which legalized marijuana last summer, levies a 25% excise tax that's expected to bring in more than $694 million in revenue through the middle of 2019.
Alaska stands to gain $23 million in annual tax revenue from the marijuana market.
And Oregon could see nearly $40 million in marijuana taxes the first year alone.
Also, as in Colorado, hundreds of millions of dollars would be saved from enforcement.
Each of these statess also stand to get a healthy bump in tourism, which is why I think Nevada is likely to pass a similar measure.
Nevada has already taken a small step by allowing tourists with a medical marijuana card from their home state to buy pot while visiting Las Vegas and other cities. It might as well just go on and get it over with.
The Golden State has allowed medical marijuana for almost two decades now. Legalization legislation failed to pass in 2010, with a 54% of Californians voting against it, but a lot has changed since then.
As it stands now, 55% of likely California voters favor legalization, while 43% do not. That mirrors the divide in Nevada, whose voters rejected legalization twice in the past – in 2002 and 2006.
It's going to be tougher in the other three states – Maine, Massachusetts, and Arizona.
In Maine, two separate marijuana advocacy groups are pushing for legalization – the local Legalize Maine and the D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project. And state Rep. Mark Dion of Portland is working on a bill to establish its regulation and taxation.
A recent poll indicated 48% of Maine voters believe marijuana use should be legal, with just 39% saying otherwise.
So there is some support. But it may not be enough.
Massachusetts faces a slightly more daunting situation. There, 48% of voters say they support legalization, with 47% opposed.
Still, both Maine and Mass are more likely to legalize pot than Arizona.
Polls show marijuana legalization support in Arizona runs 50-50 in Arizona, at best. The 2010 medical-marijuana initiative passed by a just over 4,000 votes out of nearly 1.7 million cast.
By comparison, medical marijuana was legalized with overwhelming support in places like California, Main, and Massachusetts with more than 60% support.
So California and Nevada are likely. Maine and Mass are maybes. And I'd call Arizona unlikely.
Jason Simpkins is Assistant Managing Editor of the Outsider Club and Investment Director of Wall Street's Proving Ground, a financial advisory focused on security companies and defense contractors. For more on Jason, check out his editor's page.
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