This might be the unifying issue of our time
To wring silver lining from an election that has left millions consumed by anxiety, cannabis is a good place to start.
Of the five states considering legalizing recreational marijuana on Tuesday, four passed their proposals. Meanwhile all three states considering medicalization voted to permit medical use of the drug, and Montana voted to expand its existing medical marijuana laws.
Over 64 million Americans—more than one-fifth of the country’s population—now live in states where cannabis is fully legal. An unprecedented portion of the public has firmly rejected the Drug War-era relic that is criminalization. And a majority of states now rebuke the federal government’s long-debunked claim that this plant has no medical value.
These are the states that joined the train.
- California passed Proposition 64 with a 56 percent majority. The law allows adults aged 21 years or older to grow, possess, and use marijuana, while installing a tax on both cultivation and retail sales.
- Maine, where votes are still being counted, is projected to pass Question 1, the Maine Marijuana Legalization Measure. The state first legalized medical marijuana in 1999. Under the new law, cannabis is regulated like an agricultural product rather than a drug.
- Massachusetts passed Question 4, the Massachusetts Marijuana Legalization Initiative, by over 7 percentage points. The measure allows the possession, use, distribution, and cultivation by any person aged 21 and older. It also installs a much smaller retail marijuana sales tax than most recreational states.
- Nevada voted yes on its legalization initiative, Question 2, which allows adults aged 21 or older to possess, consume, and cultivate marijuana for recreational purposes. The initiative installs a 15 percent excise tax.
- Florida voters overwhelmingly supported Amendment 2, the state’s medical marijuana legalization initiative, which carried over 71 percent of the vote. The state previously passed the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014, which allowed limited access to non-smoked, low-THC marijuana. Amendment 2 defines and expands who can receive medication. The laws permits medical marijuana for patients with cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis.
- North Dakota passed its medical marijuana initiative, Measure 5, with over 63 percent of the vote. The measure permits treatment for patients with a wide range of debilitating conditions and allows the Department of Health to expand patient coverage over time.
- Arkansas, in an expectedly tight race, voted to legalize medical marijuana for 17 qualifying conditions. The new law will apply normal state and local sales taxes to medical marijuana sales.
- Montana has been fighting for years in courts to fend off challenges to the medical marijuana legalization measure it passed in 2004. This week Initiative 182 passed with a sizable majority, amending the original legislation to widely expand patient access and provider capacity.
President-elect Trump pledged during his campaign to treat “marijuana and legalization” as a “state issue” and said he’s “100 percent” in favor of medical marijuana. If he holds to his word, there may be no more progress until the mid-term election, but these states can at least count on the federal government to not intervene. For now, this landmark legislation appears to be protected.