In a resounding mandate for progressive marijuana reform, California and several other states voted Tuesday in favor of initiatives allowing for some form of legalized cannabis.
It was a near clean sweep for cannabis. Of the nine states that had a marijuana measure on the ballot, eight won and one lost.
Voters in Massachusetts, Nevada and Maine also said yes to legalized, regulated cannabis. Medical marijuana initiatives passed in Florida, Arkansas, North Dakota and Montana.
Arizona was the only state that had marijuana on the ballot to vote against.
In California, the Big Enchilada nationally, 56 percent voted in support of full adult recreational legalization.
A Green Corridor along the Pacific Coast
California joins Oregon and Washington on the West Coast with legal weed, creating a new Green Corridor.
“This vote will dramatically accelerate the end of federal marijuana prohibition,” said Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, a drug policy reform organization. “This is the most important moment in the history of the marijuana legalization movement.”
Tuesday’s results signify a tipping point in the marijuana movement as more states now have stood firm against the federal government that still considers cannabis a Schedule I drug.
The American people have spoken and Tuesday’s clear mandate should put increasing pressure for federal agencies to act.
Medical marijuana laws are now on the books in 28 states, giving more than 60 percent of Americans access to medical or adult-use cannabis. Nearly 20 percent of Americans now live in states where adults can enjoy cannabis recreationally without fear of arrest. California, Massachusetts, Nevada and Maine now join Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C. with full adult legalization.
The national marijuana mandate may have been a mere political footnote on night that saw Donald Trump defeat Hillary Clinton in the presidential race, but the roar for federal marijuana reform was loud and clear.
President-elect Trump’s position on marijuana legalization is murky, but he is on record saying this during the campaign:
“I really believe you should leave it up to the states. … In terms of marijuana and legalization, I think that should be a state issue.”
A new economic engine
The voting results will certainly accelerate a nascent industry which has been eagerly awaiting an economy the size of California to legalize.
The Marijuana Policy Group published a report crediting legal cannabis with bringing in nearly $2.5 billion to the Colorado’s economy last year. And that’s just in one state.
California’s currently unregulated medical marijuana program brought in $2.7 billion in sales alone last year. By voting for recreational marijuana, the state is expected to reap an estimated $1 billion a year in new tax revenue from the retail sales. That does not take into account other sources of income such as tourism.
“Proposition 64 will allow California to take its rightful place as the center of cannabis innovation, research and development,” said Nate Bradley, executive director of the California Cannabis Industry Association said.
Nationally, the marijuana market has nearly tripled overnight. The marijuana market is projected to grow to $22 billion by 2020, up from $7 billion this year.
Kevin Sabet, president Smart Approaches to Marijuana one of the nation’s top anti-legalization groups, expressed disappointment with the results.
“This is the beginning of the conversation, not the end,” Sabet said in a statement.
Despite those fears, cannabis enthusiasts across the nation were jubilant about Tuesday night’s results.
“This represents a monumental victory for the marijuana reform movement,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, in a statement. “With California’s leadership now, the end of marijuana prohibition nationally, and even internationally, is fast approaching.”
Here is the state-by-state breakdown as of this writing:
Arkansas: Victory for medical marijuana
Issue 6, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, passed with 53 percent of the vote. The new law will allow for the establishment and regulation of marijuana dispensaries and cultivation facilities.
The law will allow medical marijuana for patients suffering from 17 qualifying conditions, including cancer, Crohn’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and PTSD.
Arizona: Defeat for adult use
Proposition 205, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, would have allow adults to possess and use one ounce or less of marijuana and grow up to six plants in their homes.
The state currently has a medical marijuana program.
California: Victory for adult use
Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, legalizes marijuana for adult use. It passed with 56 percent of the vote.
Two new taxes will be levied, one on cultivation and the other on retail sales. Tax revenue will be spent on drug research, treatment, and enforcement, health and safety grants, youth programs and other social programs.
Florida: Victory for medical marijuana
Amendment 2, the Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative, passed with 71 percent support. This is a constitutional amendment which required a supermajority of 60 percent to pass. Two years ago, a similar initiative was narrowly defeated when 57.6 percent of the voters approved.
The new law legalizes marijuana treatment for patients suffering from cancer; epilepsy; glaucoma; HIV/AIDs; post-traumatic stress disorder; ALS; Crohn’s disease; Parkinson’s disease; multiple sclerosis; “or other debilitating medical conditions of the same kind or class.”
Maine: Victory for adult use
Question 1, the Maine Marijuana Legalization Measure, will legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana.
A medical marijuana program has been in place in Maine since 1999. Controversial Gov. Paul LePage was an ardent opponent of the initiative.
Massachusetts: Victory for adult use
Question 4, the Massachusetts Marijuana Legalization Initiative, passed with 54 percent of the vote. The new law legalizes marijuana and regulate similar to alcohol. Adults 21 years old and older will be able to use, grow and possess cannabis.
The new law would go into effect on December 15.
Montana: Victory for medical marijuana
I-182, Montana Medical Marijuana Initiative, will improve the state’s existing medical program.
Currently, the state has an onerous medical program which restricts marijuana providers to only three patients. I-182 will remove that restriction. The law would also give physicians more latitude to recommend cannabis for patients.
Nevada: Victory for adult use
Question 2, the Nevada Marijuana Legalization Initiative, won with 54 percent of the vote. The law will allow adults aged 21 or older to possess, consume, and grow marijuana for recreational purposes.
Many investors have eyed Las Vegas as a major hub for the industry.
North Dakota: Victory for medical marijuana
Measure 5, the North Dakota Compassionate Care Act, received 63 percent yes votes. The law legalizes medical marijuana to treat some medical conditions, such as cancer, PTSD, AIDS, glaucoma, and epilepsy.
Back to the Golden State
This was not the first time Californians had the chance to vote for full legalization. The Golden State, which was the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1995, had the opportunity to be the first to fully legalize it in 2010. But that initiative went up in smoke. According to economists, California has missed out on collecting about a $5 billion in taxes since that vote.
Two years later, voters in Colorado and Washington blazed the trail for full-on legalization. These states have benefitted from millions of dollars in new taxes, used for schools, drug education and other social programs.
What does this mean nationally?
As President Barack Obama said last week:
“The good news is that after this referenda, to some degree it’s going to call the question, because if in fact it passed in all these states, you now have about a fifth of the country that’s operating under one set of laws, and four-fifths in another,” Obama told Bill Maher in an interview Friday night.
“The Justice Department, DEA, FBI, for them to try to straddle and figure out how they’re supposed to enforce laws in some places and not in others — they’re going to guard against transporting these drugs across state lines, but you’ve got the entire Pacific corridor where this is legal — that is not going to be tenable,” the outgoing president said.