Oregon, Alaska and Washington D.C. joined Colorado and Washington state in legalizing recreational marijuana and will soon start seeing the tax benefit from the estimated $41 billion that U.S. consumers spend annually on marijuana. That these states voted for legalization during a Republican romp in November elections underscores the conviction among drug policy analysts that legalization has entered the mainstream culture. It’s a matter of time, they say, before more states — and countries — follow suit.
Proof of that allure lies in the South, where conservative states had kept their distance from the marijuana legalization until recently. Legalization activists have spearheaded decriminalization and medical marijuana campaigns in Texas, Alabama and Georgia, with initial bi-partisan support in some state legislatures, and 2015 promises further momentum. California, though, remains the state to watch. If the most populous state, and the world’s 8th largest economy, legalizes cannabis use via ballot initiative during the 2016 presidential elections, as it’s expected to do, it may lead to a dramatic chain reaction across the country — following the path of the gay marriage movement — and ultimately force the federal government to revisit its policy on the drug.