The latest report from ArcView Market Research predicts 18 states will operate legalized recreational marijuana markets within the next five years—a forecast that would make pot fully legal in 36 percent of the nation. And while the report was devised to assist investors and members of the cannabis industry in charting a course for the future, a thoughtful dissection of the data indicates that the end of American pot prohibition may be well within reach—that is, if an overconfident nation doesn’t stop it dead in its tracks.
In the report, the firm’s analysts call to attention that while America has continued to put small dents in the prohibitionary climate, the illusion of federal legalization being a “sure thing” has created a veritable donation desert across the country, which is sandbagging the movement at nearly every level.
“The continued success of the state markets has created the public perception that nationwide legalization is inevitable. This trend—compounded with the loss of big-name political donors, such as Peter Lewis and John Sperling—has created a political funding crisis,” wrote the study authors.
It is for this reason that Keith Stroup, founder of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), believes it is crucial for cannabis to be made legal through the legislature in at least one state in 2015. Because voter initiatives are expensive to pass, and with the arrogance of the nation sitting back and waiting for Uncle Sam to announce the end of prohibition during the morning news, there is less money feeding coalitions in states where these types of measures can amend constitutions.
“Winning full legalization the old-fashioned way—by getting it approved by a majority of the legislature and signed by the governor—would be an enormous political achievement that would open up the possibility of legalization in the balance of those states that do not offer a voter initiative,” said Stroup, adding that Rhode Island is poised to make this happen.
Nevertheless, ArcView analysts predict retail marijuana will be legalized within the next two years in eight states, including Arizona, California, Nevada, and Maine. While this forecast is a bit more optimistic than those presented by the folks at the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), both agree that California is destined to join the ranks of Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska by passing initiatives to legalize weed in the 2016 presidential election. If this happens, it would be a major victory in the realm of national pot reform, due to California having so much influence on the rest of the country.
Unfortunately, there is always a possibility that the federal government could decide to intervene in legal markets, as well as the potential for legal states to encounter unforeseen issues that could deter the future of legalized marijuana in America. Mason Tvert, Director of Communications with MPP, recently told Time magazine that the foundation of legal weed is volatile because an “unexpected event,” like a major anti-pot endorsement or a highly publicized scandal, could serve as a wrecking ball for the progress made thus far.