Do new 2017 state laws hint at momentum for federal changes as well?

On Saturday, when the clock struck midnight and 2016 officially ended, many Americans were eager to see the close of a year that brought about a great deal of change throughout the political and social landscape.

But in many states, Jan. 1, 2017, meant even more change as new state laws voted in during 2016 finally kicked into action.

A wide array of new state laws is now in effect, including new regulations involving marijuana, minimum wage, and gun control. The sweeping nature of the changes has some observers wondering whether these new state regulations could signal momentum for eventual changes to federal law as well.

State marijuana laws changed significantly as a result of 2016 elections. Last year, California, Massachusetts, and Nevada joined Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington State, and Washington, D.C., in legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, while medical use referenda passed in Florida, North Dakota, and Arkansas. There has been no bigger change in marijuana laws since 2012 when Colorado and Washington State voted to legalize the drug.

Colorado also passed a law allowing licensed medical marijuana growers to directly sell their product.

For proponents of marijuana legalization, the wave of new laws is a sign that the time has come to change the federal laws as well. “I think of this victory in California as a major victory,” Lauren Mendelsohn, the chairwoman of the board of directors of Students for Sensible Drug Policy told The New York Times. “It shows the whole country that prohibition is not the answer to the marijuana question.”

Those opposed to the drug’s legalization, however, point out that voters in Arizona rejected a legalization initiative and predict that any change in federal laws would be resisted in more conservative states.

Despite its conservative climate, however, Arizona did not stand alone on the question of lifting the minimum wage. In 2016, it became one of 19 states voting to raise the state minimum wage on Jan. 1. 

States that will see 2017 minimum wage boosts include Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, South Dakota, Vermont, and Washington State; with Oregon, Washington D.C., and Maryland adding wage increases later in the year…

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