The Future Of Marijuana Policy: The South

Historically, the conservative south has strongly resisted marijuana legalization. Nonetheless support for marijuana legalization has begun germinating across the south.

The southern populace (and the rest of the nation) favors legalization. The legislatures, however, remain relatively stiff in their opposition.

Policy changes in the south would be a huge signal for the future of legalization nationwide. The pieces are in place for significant change in 2014 and beyond, but nothing is certain yet.

Florida (Medicinal): Florida is potentially the most interesting fight for medicinal marijuana. A split Florida Supreme Court decided that a ballot initiative proposing a medical marijuana constitutional amendment can be voted on in November.

Though the Initiative faces stiff resistance from conservative lawmakers (including republican Governor Rick Scott), a Quinnipiac University poll shows 82% of Floridians in favor of the amendment.

420 Investor Alan Brochstein called Florida the “most important state” regarding marijuana legalization. “People will move there. Medical marijuana would spawn a huge industry in Florida.”

Brochstein stressed the importance of last month’s Legal in Florida Marijuana Business Conference, noting that it shows businesses are planning for the initiative's success. The 420 Investor also hinted at a rumor of a potential upcoming conference in West Palm Beach.

Kentucky (Medical): In January, Kentucky State Senator Perry Clark (D-Louisville) proposed a bill that would legalize medical marijuana. According to, 52% of Kentucky’s citizens are in favor of legalization. The bill is under review, and no vote date is set.

Maryland (Medical Expansion & Recreational):The gears are moving in the direction of recreational legalization in Maryland, but it remains out of reach for now. A leading Gubernatorial Candidate, Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery), has marijuana legalization as part of her campaign platform.

In addition, a decriminalization bill passed in the state Senate, but was killed in the House of Delegates Thursday. Still, the legislature has formed a task force to further study the potential impacts of marijuana decriminalization/legalization.

Medical marijuana has been legal in Maryland for over a year, but it has remained unavailable to patients due to state restrictions. Last month, the state senate overwhelmingly approved (127 to 9) a bill that makes the drug accessible through the prescription of a doctor. The measure is predicted to pass quickly in the state house, and become law.

Though nothing is set in stone, things look positive for “The Free State.”

Oklahoma (Recreational): State Senator Constance “Connie” Johnson (D-Oklahoma City) recently introduced SB 2116, which would fully legalize the recreational use of marijuana. The bill covers all facets of legalization, including taxation and regulation. Though there are a majority in support of marijuana decriminalization, the bill faces stiff opposition in the Oklahoma State Senate Public Safety Committee.

Tennessee (Medical):Rep. Sherry Jones (D-Nashville) and other Tennessee lawmakers hoped to re-legalize medical marijuana this year, but on March 25th, the bill failed in senate. Opponents to the bill called for more testing.

Medical marijuana, which was legal in Tennessee for a short time in the 1980’s, is a wildly popular policy for Tennessee’s residents. An MTSU poll shows a strong majority in favor in medical marijuana.

Honorable Mention:

Arkansas (Medical): Arkansas has two medicinal marijuana ballot initiative hopefuls, but both have yet to meet the minimum signature requirement.

*This is part four of a five-part series that covers every region of the United States. Check back soon to see pending legislation/ballot initiatives in the East.*

Part One: The Future of Marijuana Policy: Northwest

Part Two: The Future Of Marijuana Policy - Southwest

Part Three: The Future Of Marijuana Policy - Midwest

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