Legal marijuana may be coming to your town.
Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C., are all likely to legalize marijuana when voters take to the polls this November, and Florida voters could approve medical cannabis, making it one of the most populous states to do so.
That's just the start — more than a dozen other states are fertile ground for legalization efforts in the next few years.
Marijuana has been considered an illicit substance in the United States for a century and was outlawed by the federal government in 1937. Yet, in the past decade, support for legalizing pot has steadily climbed; it now stands at 54 percent, according to the Pew Research Center.
Two states have led the way: Colorado and Washington voted in 2012 to allow the cultivation, possession and sale of cannabis, contravening the federal government and aiming to flip the perception of the drug from a crime to a commodity. Nearly two dozen states allow marijuana for medical use.
So far, those trials have been a success. Crime in Colorado hasn't increased; neither has usage among teenagers. The federal government, despite billions spent to stop the consumption of marijuana, is mostly taking a hands-off approach to the legal pot trade.
Other states might soon follow suit. Aside from the crop that appear ready to legalize this year, drug reform activists hope to score victories in places like Arizona and California in 2016. Both states allow ballot initiatives, which give voters the chance to directly approve laws.
To date, no state has approved legalization of recreational marijuana through the legislative process, but such a move might not be far away.
Several places in New England could be in play, according to Mason Tvert, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). He's hopeful that Vermont, New Hampshire or Rhode Island, which have all passed medical marijuana laws, might permit recreational use.
"If anyone's going to do it through legislature in 2015, it's going to be those three," he said.
Activists are also eying Texas, a Republican stronghold, as a possible long-term investment. MPP has a staffer there organizing support for medical marijuana or decriminalization in coming years. The goal would be full legalization by 2019.
Still, even a victory in Texas might not convince the federal government to drop its broad crackdown on cannabis. "The federal government is pretty defunct," Tvert said. "Regardless of what happens in the states, it doesn't necessarily equate to change on the federal level."
Graphics credit: Pedro Alvarez/Fusion
Ted Hesson was formerly the immigration editor at Fusion, covering the issue from Washington, D.C. He also writes about drug laws and (occasionally) baseball. On the side: guitars, urban biking, and fiction.