Now that Colorado and Washington have legalized marijuana, more than half the states, including some in the conservative South, may decriminalize the drug or legalize it for medical or recreational use, reports the New York Times. This could be a watershed year on the issue of whether marijuana should be as available as alcohol. The two states considered likeliest to legalize the drug outright are Oregon, dominated by liberal Democrats, and Alaska, where libertarian Republicans hold sway. Advocates of more lenient marijuana laws want to maintain momentum from their successes, heartened by polls showing greater public acceptance, President Obama's comments on the discriminatory effect of marijuana prosecutions and new federal guidelines intended to make it easier for banks to do business with legal marijuana businesses.
Opponents also see this as a crucial year, aided by a wait-and-see attitude among many governors and legislators, who seem wary of pushing ahead too quickly without seeing how the rollout of legal marijuana works in Colorado and Washington. “We feel that if Oregon or Alaska could be stopped, it would disrupt the whole narrative these groups have that legalization is inevitable,” said Kevin Sabet of Smart Approaches to Marijuana. “We could stop that momentum.” Despite the drug still being illegal under federal law, the Obama administration has said it will not interfere with the rollout of legal marijuana in the states for several reasons, including whether the state is successful in keeping it out of the hands of minors.