Even though marijuana legalization is becoming more and more popular in the U.S., several states and the federal government still consider the plant dangerous and continue to keep it illegal. Yet, as of 2017, 29 states and Washington D.C. have legalized cannabis for either medicinal or recreational purposes.
With more than half the U.S. having access to legal weed, other states are slowly following suit and proposing new laws to make it legal in some form, according to International Business Times. In particular, five states may have legal cannabis by the end of this year.
Rhode Island is among a handful of states seriously considering legalizing marijuana in 2017. In October, Governor Gina Raimondo starting looking into options that would permit marijuana to be sold, taxed, and consumed in much the same way alcohol is regulated.
"We're looking at it," the governor said, as cited by the Providence Journal. "But I do think we have to get it right because we're not just talking about rolling a joint.… If that was what this was all about, I think that would be pretty easy: Legalize."
Lawmakers in Delaware are likely to meet in early 2017 to discuss the possibility of legalizing recreational marijuana. The state already has medical marijuana laws on the books and many, including Governor-elect John Carney, support the idea of recreational marijuana and loosening distribution rules.
"It's time to certainly look at it," said Senator Margaret Rose Henry at a Medical Marijuana Act Oversight Committee meeting late last year, as reported by Weed News.
Delaware decriminalized cannabis in 2016, meaning someone can possess a small amount without going to jail. Anyone caught with an ounce or less of marijuana will be hit with a civil fine instead of a criminal offense, much like getting a traffic ticket.
In 2016, several New Jersey lawmakers visited Colorado to appraise the state's marijuana legalization program and evaluate any potential consequences, good or bad. After returning, several legislative bills were introduced in the New Jersey Assembly that would allow for the taxation and regulation of pot.
"I am absolutely sold that this industry can be regulated. It's safe, it's well managed," said Senate President Stephen Sweeney.
However, any new marijuana legalization laws in New Jersey have one big hurdle to overcome before being passed. Current Governor Chris Christie is adamantly opposed to legal cannabis in the state, and he has vowed to veto any such legislation while in office. Despite the governor's intention of blocking marijuana legalization, Senator Nicolas Scutari still expects new weed legislation to be voted on in 2017.
Texas already allows low-THC marijuana for the treatment of epilepsy through the Compassionate Use Act passed in 2016. Yet, lawmakers are eager to ease cannabis restrictions even more.
State Senator Jose Menendez recently introduced SB 269, a bill slated to expand the number of qualifying health conditions that could be treated with medical marijuana. The proposed legislation also removes the low-THC requirement.
Several other senators are sponsoring a marijuana bill that would reduce the penalty associated with the possession of cannabis. If passed, the new law would set a maximum $250 fine to someone caught with cannabis, instead of charging them with a crime.
In recent polls, over 60 percent of voters in New Mexico want recreational marijuana legalized. With such strong support, many predict several new bills to be introduced on the floor of the legislature in early 2017.
Not only are people clamoring for marijuana legalization, New Mexico lawmakers see it as a solution to the state's huge $600 million deficit. Albuquerque Democrat Jerry Ortiz y Pino thinks legalizing weed will not only mean more revenue to the state, but will help discourage people from making illegal purchases from drug cartels in Mexico.
Last year was big for marijuana legalization with eight states, including California and Massachusetts, passing legislation that legalized the plant for either recreational or medicinal use. As previously reported by the Inquisitr, the legalization of cannabis continues to gain momentum in the U.S., and most cannabis legalization advocates expect the trend to continue in 2017.
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