November 8: The Biggest Day for Marijuana Legalization Since 2012

November 8: The Biggest Day for Marijuana Legalization Since 2012

Voters approved recreational marijuana in 4 states on November 8 – California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada. Further, an additional 4 other states passed medical marijuana provisions: Florida, Arkansas, North Dakota, and Montana, with Montana loosening restrictions on an existing law. In fact, election day was the biggest day for marijuana reform since 2012, when voters approved it for recreational use in Colorado and Washington. [1] [2]

Marijuana is now legal in one form or another in 29 states; and 68 million Americans, or about 21% of the population, now live somewhere where they can use pot for fun without going to jail. [3]

The only state that voted down a marijuana measure was Arizona.

In states where voters approved weed for recreational use, adults 21 and over will be permitted to use and possess marijuana, but it will take quite some time for the states to license marijuana growers and retailers.

Rob Kampia, executive director of Marijuana Policy Project, said of the outcome:

“This is the most momentous Election Day in history for the movement to end marijuana prohibition. These votes send a clear message to federal officials that it’s time to stop arresting and incarcerating marijuana users. Congress must take action to ease the tension between state and federal marijuana laws.” [1]

Sadly, over the summer, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) decided to keep marijuana a Schedule I drug, which means that it is still considered by the government to have no accepted medical use.

The agency had teased that it would reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II substance, which would have made it easier for researchers and drug companies to study it. Other schedule II drugs include morphine, methamphetamine, and oxycodone – all potent and potentially dangerous opioid drugs. Yes, the federal government considers marijuana more dangerous than opioids.

President Obama has hinted that the federal government might change its stance on marijuana use. In an interview last week with “Real Time” host Bill Maher, President Obama said that successes in the pro-marijuana movement should lead to “a more serious conversation about how we are treating marijuana and our drug laws generally.

He went on to say:

“If, in fact, [marijuana legalization] passed in all these states [on Tuesday], you now have about a fifth of the country that’s operating under one set of laws, and four-fifths in another.

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 gonna guard against transporting these drugs across state lines, but you’ve got the entire Pacific corridor where this is legal – that is not gonna be tenable.” [1]

President-elect Trump has said that he respects the states’ rights, but some marijuana advocates worry that Trump might appoint people to senior law enforcement positions who are not friendly to marijuana, such as former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said:

“The progress we’ve made, and the values that underlie our struggle – freedom, compassion, reason and justice – will be very much at risk when Donald Trump enters the White House.”

Giuliani has called legalizing marijuana “a mistake,” while Chris Christie had promised to “crack down” on legalization if he were elected president.

Nadelmann added:

“The prospect of Rudy Giuliani or Chris Christie as attorney general does not bode well. There are various ways in which a hostile White House could trip things up.” [2]

Americans are growing more comfortable with marijuana legalization. A Gallup poll from October showed that 60% of Americans now favor legalization, the highest level of support since Gallup first asked the question in 1969. At the time, just 12% of Americans supported legalization.

Legal weed is expected usher in a new gold rush for California in the form of $1 billion in additional taxes per year. However, that number is expected to be considerably lower in the first few years.


[1] The Huffington Post

[2] The Washington Post

[3] ThinkProgress

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