Ohio voters are deciding today whether to pass the state's controversial ballot measure, Issue 3, that would legalize marijuana and grant a de-facto monopoly on production of the plant to the ballot measure's wealthy backers. The issue has split the drug reform community, with some national groups offering tepid last-minute endorsements and others steering clear of the issue completely. Polls show similar ambivalence among the public.
Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, a reform group that hasn't endorsed Ohio's measure, sums up the difficulties in a CNN opinion piece: "Government-approved oligopolies may make sense with respect to public utilities and national security but marijuana? There's something about a constitutionally mandated oligopoly for an agricultural product that just seems un-American."
If the measure ends up passing, it may pave the way for similar donor-backed measures elsewhere. But regardless, drug law reformers in at least 16 other states have already got ballot measures in the works for next year, according to vote-tracking site Ballotpedia. Two other states, Rhode Island and Vermont, may become the first to legalize recreational marijuana via legislative action, rather than popular vote.
Some of the ballot measures may not get enough initial support to go before voters, while a number almost certainly will. Here's a rundown of where things stand.
Arizona actually has two separate measures that may go before voters: a bill to legalize, tax and regulate recreational marijuana, and a separate measure that would allow for industrial hemp farming. Supporters of the legalization measure recently rolled out a Halloween-themed billboard to drive up voter interest.
There are no fewer than 10 sometimes-conflicting marijuana ballot measures that may go before voters next year, according to Ballotpedia. The one to watch is the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, backed by Napster founder Sean Parker and supported by big-name national drug reform groups, like the Marijuana Policy Project and the Drug Policy Alliance. National and local marijuana activists have traditionally had difficulties seeing eye-to-eye on policy specifics in the state, though, which could cause difficulties bringing a measure to the ballot next year.
Two measures are in the works for Florida. The first is a retread of last year's constitutional amendment to allow medical marijuana in the state, which narrowly missed the 60 percent supermajority needed to pass. A presidential election year with a younger voter base could be all it takes to push medical marijuana over the finish line in the Sunshine State. There's also a measure that would create a recreational marijuana market similar to what we've seen in Colorado, Oregon and elsewhere. It would also need 60 percent support to pass.
There's a long-shot effort to put legal marijuana before Georgia voters next year. Introduced by a state legislator, it would need a two-thirds vote by both chambers of the legislature before it could even go to voters. Don't hold your breath on this one.
Another long-shot effort is a medical marijuana bill in the works in Idaho. In prior years, similar measures have overwhelmingly failed to get enough registered signatures to even make it on the ballot. But a new group has taken the reins of this project, and they're feeling optimistic they'll be able to qualify.
Massachusetts voters will probably decide on recreational marijuana in 2016. Supporters are now gathering signatures on a pair of competing measures, one of which has the backing of major national drug policy groups.
Supporters are working to gather enough signatures to put a constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana before Missouri voters next fall. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial board has supported legalization in that state in the past.
A long-shot Montana measure aims to bring Colorado-style legalization to that state. But its chances are slim — Montana is one of the few states that has actively rolled back its medical marijuana provisions in recent years.
State branches of marijuana advocacy group NORML are pushing for a medical marijuana amendment to be put in front of Nebraska voters in 2016. A similar measure failed to get enough signatures to qualify for the ballot in 2014.
Voters in Nevada will vote on legalizing recreational pot in 2016. A measure sponsored by the national Marijuana Policy Project qualified for the ballot late last year. The Nevada campaign has the support of national drug policy groups, as well as Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
Voters here could weigh in on recreational marijuana in 2016 if the legislature votes, by a simple majority, to allow them to do so. This year a Senate committee recommended a legislator-backed measure be put before voters, but the full legislature did not vote on it. They can take it up again in the next legislative session.
North Dakota's attorney general recently accepted a ballot measure that would legalize medical marijuana. The measure now needs to get 13,452 signatures by next July in order to be put before voters next fall.
Rhode Island's legislature didn't vote on a marijuana legalization bill during the last session. But advocates and supporters in the statehouse are optimistic it will get to the floor in the next session, where it has a good chance of passing. Recent polls have found that 57 percent of voters support legalization.
A medical marijuana measure in South Dakota is moving forward without the support of national legalization groups, who have said they're saving their fire for full-scale legalization contests in other states.
Next year, Vermont may become the first state to legalize marijuana via the legislature, rather than via a voter initiative.
Two other measures have already failed to qualify for the ballot
A marijuana legalization initiative in Mississippi failed to gather enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. And a legalization measure in Arkansas was thrown out by the state's attorney general for, among other things, spelling and grammar mistakes.
Update: Added Rhode Island to the list, where advocates hope to see marijuana legalized by the state legislature in the coming year. Also North Dakota, where a medical marijuana ballot measure received provisional approval from the attorney general yesterday.