Voters in five states will consider legalizing the recreational use of marijuana
Federal law will remain unchanged, however
On this election day, voters in five states will get to decide whether marijuana should be legal to use recreationally.
It’s on the ballot in California, Massachusetts, Maine, Arizona and Nevada. Voters will also decide whether it should be used for medical reasons in four other states.
Four other states voted on whether marijuana should be used for medical reasons. Residents in Florida, Arkansas and North Dakota voted yes, according to their election results websites. Residents in Montana voted to lift provider restrictions. Medical marijuana is now legal in more than half of US states.
It is the No. 1 illicit drug of choice for Americans, according to the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use, although only one-third of users reported an addiction to the substance, unlike most all the other illicit drugs used.
Prior to the vote, it was legal to use recreational marijuana in only four states and in the District of Columbia. Colorado and Washington state voted to OK it in 2012. Alaska and Oregon voters approved it in 2014.
For the states where recreational use is legal, it seems to have been a boost to the economy. The marijuana industry created more than 18,000 full-time jobs last year and generated $2.39 billion in economic activity in Colorado, according to an analysis from the Marijuana Policy Group.
The number of calls to poison control centers involving Colorado children has gone up, as has the number of children who’ve been taken to the hospital for treatment due to unintentional marijuana exposure, studies show. There have also been more school suspensions, marijuana-related traffic deaths, pet poisonings and lab explosions.
Here’s what was chosen at the polls.
The people of California voted to make the recreational use of marijuana legal.
In 1996, the state was the first to make medical marijuana legal.
The “yes” on Proposition 64 will now make it legal for people 21 or older to use it recreationally. There would be a 15% sales tax, and its cultivation will be taxed. The money will be used in part to study drug research, to study treatment and to help with enforcement of the law.
The state’s two largest newspapers backed the measure, as did the California Democratic Party, while Republicans were against it.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told the Los Angeles Times on Friday that she planned to vote in favor of it. That makes Pelosi the highest-ranking, sitting elected official in either political party to support legalizing a drug the federal government currently considers a Schedule 1 narcotic. A Schedule 1 narcotic is a drug with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. The category also includes heroin.
Massachusetts also voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.
Question 4, as the recreational use measure is called, will legalize it and allow the commonwealth to tax and regulate its use and sale, much like the way alcohol is handled. That means people 21 and older could use it, possess it or grow it. They can have under 10 ounces in their home and under 1 ounce in public and be allowed to grow six plants.
A number of politicians there support it, as does the American Civil Liberties Union.
Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, opposed legalization, as did Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, a Democrat. Baker argued that passage would exacerbate the state’s opioid epidemic.
Roman Catholic bishops in Massachusetts also argued against legalization, saying it is “not a path civil society should chose to take.”
The Boston Globe wrote in support of the ballot measure, arguing, “legal marijuana is coming. Let’s get on with it.”
In Maine, a “yes” on Question 1 would make it legal for a person 21 or older to use marijuana.
The state would put a 10% sales tax on the drug and allow social clubs and retail groups to sell it.
Maine legalized medical use of marijuana in 1999, but previous attempts to legalize it for recreational purposes were unsuccessful.
The new law will allow people to use it in a nonpublic space or in a private residence and institute a sales tax, with 98% of revenue from sales taxes going to a general fund.
Maine’s governor is against the legislation, saying it’s “not just bad for Maine, it can be deadly.” But supporters have raised more than $3.2 million to fight for it.
The battle for legalization in Arizona was very close, according to polls, but the proposition was ultimately rejected, with 52% of voters saying no.
Medical marijuana has been legal in the state since 1996.
The passing of Proposition 205, would have meant people 21 or older could possess up to one ounce and grow up to six plants in their homes – similar to the other state laws that were up for consideration.
The law would have created a Department of Marijuana Licenses and Control that would have regulated, tested and overseen sales.
People caught smoking it in public places would have been fined, as would have people who possessed more than the legal limit.
A 15% sales tax was also planned to be deposited in a Marijuana Fund and distributed to the Department of Marijuana Licenses and Control and to the Department of Revenue. School districts and the state health department would have also received part of the money.
In Nevada, it was a yes.