On Tuesday, Ohio voters overwhelmingly rejected an unusual ballot measure that would have legalized marijuana — but given all the state's pot farms to a group of wealthy campaign contributors.
The loss might seem like a big one for the legalization movement, but the reality is the movement was always divided on whether Ohio's measure was a good idea — since it set up what was essentially an oligopoly of marijuana growers. The legalization movement also has many more ballot measures and opportunities to legalize over the next few years, as this map shows:
The states noted above are those most likely to take up legalization in the next few years. Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada are all slated to have ballot initiatives in 2016. Meanwhile, the Marijuana Policy Project and its allies are working to get legalization through the legislatures in Delaware, Hawaii, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
California is a particularly big target. Since it's the most populous state in the country, legal pot advocates expect that legalization there could get the federal government to seriously rethink restrictions on pot. As it stands, marijuana is illegal at the federal level. And while the Obama administration has taken a hands-off approach to states' pot laws, remaining legal restrictions curtail research, pot shops' ability to file for tax deductions available to other businesses, and many marijuana businesses' ability to use banking services.
Despite the loss in Ohio, pot legalization has a lot of momentum going for it. A recent Gallup survey found 58 percent of Americans support legalization, and support is likely much higher in the more progressive states listed above.
The reality is Ohio was always a bit of a long shot for marijuana legalization advocates. The initiative was written in a way that turned off voters — according to a survey from the University of Akron, most Ohio voters backed the general idea of legalization, but most did not like the idea of giving all the pot production rights to an oligopoly of wealthy campaign contributors. The measure also went to a vote on a very odd year, with no other major state or national elections on the ballot. And of the major marijuana legalization groups, only NORML came out in favor of the measure; the Marijuana Policy Project and Drug Policy Alliance remained notably neutral.
So Ohio's loss may be a blow to some legalization advocates. But the reality is that there are going to be many more opportunities to legalize pot across the country in the next few years — and the polling suggests these efforts stand a very good chance of victory.