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Dear Pot Lawyer,

Which states are up next to legalize weed?

This question is more interesting and nuanced than it was before Attorney General Jeff Sessions formally resuscitated the failing war on drugs. You may recall that he did this a few weeks back by giving any federal prosecutor who also hates weed (but loves wasting money) the “all clear” to sue your locally licensed farm and dispensary. Still, the consensus is that at least five states have a good shot to move forward in 2018. These states would add to the eight with recreational use programs, and the 28 with medical cannabis programs.

Before we dive in, I should explain that only 26 states allow their residents to choose the initiatives that go to statewide ballot. So your friends in some other states can only hope their respective legislatures move ahead on weed without much nudging. Because state legislators are mostly non-forward-thinking when it comes to cannabis, people in those states are less likely to see any action.


Vermont is my favorite on this list. A few hours after Sessions announced his guidance to disrupt state cannabis programs, Vermont passed an adult-use cannabis bill legislatively that the governor has promised to sign into law. It may even be law by the time you read this.

Vermont will be the first non-initiative state to legalize cannabis. The Green Mountain State should be commended, and it should receive style points for taking such action within hours of Sessions’ lousy announcement. Contrast this leadership with states like Oregon and California, where legislatures stuck their heads in the sand and have been forced to write reactive and sometimes controversial laws to deal with Swiss cheese initiatives.


New Jersey is my second favorite inclusion, because it is Chris Christie-land and he may be the one public official more ridiculous about cannabis than Jeff Sessions. But with Christie now gone, the new governor has promised to sign any reasonable legalization bill that makes it to his desk—including for recreational weed. They are drafting that one now.


I rank Oklahoma number three, because this socially conservative state is coming full circle on cannabis. Not long ago, Oklahoma teamed up with Nebraska to sue Colorado in an effort to shut down its neighbor state’s program. Now Oklahoma is set to vote on a referendum to legalize medical cannabis use in June. Not bad.


Michigan is an initiative state, and it appears to have enough signatures for an adult-use program for inclusion on the 2018 ballot. Michigan does already have a medical program in place, but it’s pretty shabby. This would be a big improvement for the Wolverine State.


I’m not impressed with Virginia’s efforts, which focus on decriminalization and nothing more. Also, the two pending decriminalization bills are not great: one still includes fines for simple possession, and the other contains criminal penalties for second-time offenders. This is better than nothing, but barely.


Got a question? Email us at potlawyer@portlandmercury.com. And remember that if you have a legal problem, contact a lawyer! Our educational musings cannot be relied upon as specific legal advice.