Julian Rodriguez, of Everson, Wash., holds his two-gram packet of recreational marijuana outside Top Shelf Cannabis, Tuesday, July 8, 2014, in Bellingham, Wash., on the first day of legal sales in the state. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
In its much-discussed editorial published over the weekend, the New York Times called for an end to marijuana prohibition.
"The federal government should follow the growing movement in the states and repeal the ban on marijuana," the Times wrote in its editorial.
According to a national survey released by the Pew Research Center earlier this year, 54 percent of Americans now support legalization, and a whopping 75 percent believe the feds will eventually do just that.
The question, then, is not if, but when?
“Nobody really knows,” Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, told the Denver Post's Cannabist. “It would take an act of Congress, which is a monumental task, getting Congress to act on anything."
Instead, it's been left up to the states to reform marijuana laws. In January, Colorado became the first state to legalize the sale of recreational marijuana. Earlier this month, Washington became the second.
Smith and other pot advocates are hopeful that if they can get a legalization measure on the ballot in California in 2016, it will pass and federal reform will follow.
“At that point the largest state in the country and the largest cannabis market in the country will be regulated," Smith said. "It’s my hope that Congress at least then will overturn the federal ban.”
There are several smaller states that could legalize recreational marijuana before California does. First up? Oregon and Alaska.
Earlier this month in Oregon, a marijuana initiative qualified for the ballot in November. If it passes, the law would allow recreational weed sales beginning in July 2015.
According to a study conducted by ECONorthwest, the first year of recreational marijuana sales would generate $38.5 million in tax revenue in the Beaver State.
Meanwhile, TheStreet.com notes, there are three marijuana initiatives on Alaska's November ballot, including one that would legalize possession of limited amounts of marijuana for those 21 years and older.
"Replacing marijuana prohibition with a system of taxation and sensible regulation will bolster Alaska's economy by creating jobs and generating revenue for the state," said Tim Hinterberger, one of the bill's sponsors, in January.
After Oregon and Alaska, pot advocates are eyeing Arizona, Montana, Massachusetts, and Nevada for 2016 ballot initiatives in their efforts to legalize marijuana. And activists are hopeful New York, which recently passed medical marijuana legislation, will eventually do the same for the recreational version.