Special Report

The Next 15 States to Legalize Marijuana

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6. Illinois
> Possession decriminalized: Yes
> Amount decriminalized: 10 g. or less
> Max. fine for 10 g. or less: $200
> Annual adult usage: 12.3% (24th highest)

Few states seem as poised to legalize recreational marijuana use as Illinois. State lawmakers are currently considering legislation in Senate Bill 316 and House Bill 2353 that would allow adults of legal drinking age in the state to possess, cultivate, and purchase limited amounts of pot. If these bills pass, marijuana sales could add to state coffers an estimated $566 million in excise tax revenue per year and as much as $133 million in sales tax revenue annually.

Currently, possession of certain amounts of marijuana for nonmedical purposes is decriminalized in Illinois. Those caught with 10 grams or less will not face more than a $200 fine. State residents with a range of conditions, including cancer, glaucoma, and Parkinson’s disease, can qualify for a medical cannabis card.

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7. Maryland
> Possession decriminalized: Yes
> Amount decriminalized: Less than 10 g.
> Max. fine for less than 10 g.: $100
> Annual adult usage: 14.8% (15th highest)

Support for legalizing marijuana for recreational use appears to be on the rise in Maryland, from 54% of residents in 2014 to 61% in 2016, according to a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll. More importantly, 64% of likely voters support legalizing pot.

The state has already taken a more relaxed attitude toward marijuana. Maryland allows medical marijuana use, it decriminalized possession of under 10 grams, and capped the fine for having a small amount at $100. But state legislators are still hesitant to institute full legalization. A recent legalization bill fell short of passing. The state legislature will not meet again until 2018.

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8. Michigan
> Possession decriminalized: No
> Amount decriminalized: N/A
> Max. fine for any amount: $2,000
> Annual adult usage: 15.0% (13th highest)

Some proponents of pot legalization in Michigan are working to gather the 252,523 petition signatures necessary to include a proposal — to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol — on the November 2018 ballot. If enough signatures are gathered, and if voters approve the measure, adults in Michigan will be able to possess up to 2.5 ounces and cultivate as many as 12 marijuana plants. If passed, Michigan would also join the ranks of a growing number of states to have legalized recreational marijuana through ballot initiatives. Voters in Michigan legalized medical marijuana for a range of conditions in 2008, also through a ballot initiative.

Currently, Michigan residents without a medical card can face a $2,000 fine and jail time for possessing small amounts of marijuana.

Source: Thinkstock

9. Minnesota
> Possession decriminalized: Yes
> Amount decriminalized: 42.5 g. or less
> Max. fine for 42.5 g. or less: $200
> Annual adult usage: 12.6% (21st highest)

Since Minnesota does not have ballot initiatives, marijuana legalization may face more of an uphill battle there than in many other states on this list. So some pro-pot lawmakers in the state introduced bills that would have allowed Minnesota voters to decide whether to amend the constitution to include marijuana as a right. That measure failed, but attitudes towards pot are shifting in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

Current Gov. Mark Dayton opposes legalization, even though he is part of the often pot-friendly Democratic party. However, Dayton is not seeking reelection in 2018, and most Democratic gubernatorial candidates announced they support marijuana legalization.

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10. Montana
> Possession decriminalized: No
> Amount decriminalized: N/A
> Max. fine for 60 g, or less: $500
> Annual adult usage: 15.1% (11th highest)

Montana has had a long and checkered history with marijuana laws. First approved for medical use in a 2004 ballot initiative, state lawmakers voted to repeal the measure seven years later, only to be blocked by a veto from the governor. Throughout 2011, lawmakers in Montana fought to impose stricter regulations on the state’s marijuana medical program. The following year, Constitutional Initiative 110, which proposed an all out legalization, failed to garner enough signatures to make it to the ballot. A similar initiative failed to make it to the ballot box as recently as 2016. Still, that same year, Montana voters passed the Medical Marijuana Initiative which loosened some restrictions in existing medical marijuana laws.

As is the case nationwide, Montana residents seem to become more accepting of marijuana use. An estimated 36.2% of adults 26 and older in the state perceived great risk from monthly marijuana use in 2002. As of 2014, only 26.6% of the same age group saw monthly marijuana use as inherently harmful.

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