Alaska -- John Davis, founder of the Northwest Patient Center says the polling is there to support it, with 54% in favor. Alaska removed the penalties for possessing pot in 1975, so they were ahead of the game. But then in the 1990s an anti-cannabis law was passed, but it wasn't enforced. The Marijuana Policy Project is gathering signatures in Alaska to qualify an initiative for the August 2014 primary election that would make possession legal and regulate it in a similar fashion to alcohol. "A lot of people just realize the writing's on the wall," said Davis.
Arizona -- This conservative state only has 37% of the population opposing decriminalization, with 56% in favor. It was the 15th state to approve marijuana for medicinal purposes. Initially Gov. Jan Brewer opposed it, but then relented. Arizona politician and former marine Ruben Gallego announced he will introduce legislation to legalize marijuana for those 21 and older next year. Davis said most supporters prefer the legislation to land in a presidential election year, because they believe this brings out the youth vote. However, in states where the polling more heavily favors legalizing recreational use, they are pushing to get into the 2014 elections.
California -- A new poll by San Francisco-based Tulchin Research shows a majority want to relax laws against marijuana use and tax it, with 65% in favor of legalization and regulation. This state shows how quickly the public is accepting the idea because in 2010 only 53% felt that way. California has already benefited financially from medicinal marijuana which has potentially raised more than $100 million a year in tax revenue for the state, according to th California Board of equalization. The ACLU announced a new panel headed by California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom to draft a possible 2016 ballot measure, preferring to wait for the presidential election year.
Oregon -- In November, Oregon's Senate Judiciary Chairman Floyd Prozanski presented legislation that would ask voters if they wanted to legalize marijuana for adults 21 and over. There was already an initiative filed with the elections division that would skip the step of having to gain signatures to qualify the issue for a voting ballot. If the state goes the legislative route, it would cover rules and regulations, like oversight and taxation. Either way, it looks like Oregon is moving full steam ahead.
There are a few states bucking the trend. Montana, for instance, remains a question mark. Davis believes Montana will follow its western brothers, but the state is actually passing very strict driver impairment laws. Davis said that a majority of voters support decriminalization; however the legislators are actively working against easing its strict medicinal laws.
Illinois passed a medical marijuana bill that is one of the strictest in the country, issuing cards only to those who are longstanding patients of the prescribing doctor. Reversing course entirely, Ohio introduced House Bill 153 that actually repeals the medical use of marijuana.
Once more states go recreational, the next big hurdle for the green revolution will banking. Most marijuana growers and dispensaries can't currently take standard business deductions for a cannabis company according to tax provision 280e. Then, there's the simple issue of daily banking. Marijuana is still considered a controlled substance by the Federal government.
Banks aren't morally opposed to dealing with these customers says Davis, but its small potatoes to them and they don't want to anger their regulators for a miniscule piece of business. That may begin to change since Bank of America (BAC) said it would take pot revenue in Washington. They just said "yes."
The first country to join in the legal pot business looks to be Uruguay. This country is set to vote on a measure establishing a national regulatory body and official controls for the legal use and sale of marijuana on Tuesday, Dec. 10. Uruguay President Jose Mujica believes that if the government regulates the business of marijuana it will reduce the crime associated with the illegal aspects of the drug. If the bill passes, it will take another 120 days for the government to write regulations ahead of implementation.
Other countries have decriminalized the use of marijuana but Uruguay is the first to create a regulated national industry.
Of course the country stands to reap tourism dollars for those traveling to the country, even though the government insists only Uruguay citizens will have access to the drug. However, if Amsterdam is any indication of what Uruguay can expect, then the tourists will come. Ninety percent of the people that smoke marijuana in cafes in Amsterdam are foreign tourists. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
-- Written by Debra Borchardt in New York.