As more states legalize marijuana, the pressure builds on Congress to do likewise on the federal level.
So say cannabis advocates, who expect referenda on the ballot in New Jersey and Arizona to pass in November.
“The more jurisdictions that implement a legal marijuana marketplace will naturally build more political pressure in the halls of Congress,” said Justin Strekal, political director for NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
Michael Bronstein, president of the American Trade Association for Cannabis & Hemp, said the impact of the New Jersey referendum will be felt beyond the Garden State.
“New Jersey is a key prize of the federal legalization movement because once a ballot measure is passed in New Jersey, state level adult marijuana legalization in the Northeast will no longer be able to be contained,” Bronstein said.
“The implication and pressure for surrounding states such as Pennsylvania and New York to legalize will be immense and not to be underestimated.”
In addition, for every state that legalizes cannabis, there are two additional senators and at least one more House member feeling the pressure from constituents to end the federal ban on marijuana.
“The more states that change their cannabis laws, the more obvious it is that federal prohibition is ridiculous,” said Morgan Fox, a spokesman for the National Cannabis Industry Association. “They can show Congress how important an issue this is for their constituents.”
It’s no accident, for example, that Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado has taken up the cause of legalizing marijuana, representing a state that does just that.
“State-level legalization has long been the North Star of the national legalization movement, mounting mass and pressure to change the federal law,” Bronstein said. “With every state that passes a ballot measure or legislation, the end of prohibition nears.”