Voters in at least seven states approved recreational and medical marijuana ballot initiatives to cap off a historic year for cannabis legislation.
In another astounding representation of the country’s shifting attitude toward cannabis, voters in at least seven states passed marijuana-related initiatives on Tuesday.
California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada legalized recreational marijuana, while Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota approved medical cannabis measures. The only misstep was Arizona’s recreational use measure Proposition 205, which failed to pass with 52 percent of voters rejecting it.
The eight new legal markets are estimated to eventually lead to $7 billion to $8 billion in annual retail cannabis sales, according to Marijuana Business Daily, although California’s marijuana market alone has been estimated to be worth $6.46 billion by the year 2020. The new marijuana states will also help create tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in revenue by marijuana and ancillary businesses.
As the sixth largest economy in the world and the top marijuana market, California’s adoption of legal marijuana is expected to put pressure on the federal government to reschedule marijuana and end the decades-long prohibition.
“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.”
California’s Proposition 64, which permits adults ages 21 and over to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana and cultivate up to six plants for recreational use, passed with 56 percent support. Massachusetts Question 4, allowing for similar cannabis possession and cultivation as California, gathered the support of 54 percent of voters. Fifty-four percent of voters also supported Nevada’s Question 2 to legalize the possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana for personal use. Maine’s Question 1 resulted in the closest vote for the marijuana measures, being called in favor with less than a 3,000 vote difference.
“Marijuana legalization has arrived on the East Coast,” Tom Angell of marijuana reform group Marijuana Majority told the Washington Post. “What Colorado and other states have already done is generating revenue, creating jobs and reducing crime, so it’s not surprising that voters in more places are eager to end prohibition.”
Votes on medical marijuana measures were overall even more decisive. Florida’s Amendment 2 garnered 71 percent support, while 64 percent of voters in North Dakota approved of the North Dakota Compassionate Care Act. Fifty-seven percent of Montana voters opted to expand the state’s previously restrictive medical program by supporting Initiative-182. After at one point faced with two medicinal cannabis measures, Arkansas voters approved Issue 6 with 53 percent support.
“This is a major tipping point,” Angell said, regarding the developments in Florida. “With Florida’s decision, a majority of states in the U.S. now have laws allowing patients to find relief with medical marijuana, and these protections and programs are no longer concentrated in certain regions of the country like the West and Northeast.”
We had projected that 2016 was going to be a historic year for cannabis. Earlier in the year, legislatures in two states (Pennsylvania and Ohio) adopted medical marijuana legislation. Today, a majority of American adults are in favor of legalizing marijuana federally and support for medical marijuana by American voters is at an all-time high. Acceptance for marijuana is even growing among notoriously anti-cannabis Republicans.
You can learn more about the cannabis laws in the United States by visiting our education page.