Nine States To Vote On Expanding Access To Marijuana

| by Robert Fowler
A marijuana plantA marijuana plant

In the upcoming November election, nine states will consider some form of marijuana legalization. If all ballot measures were to pass, nearly a quarter of the U.S. would have legal access to recreational marijuana.

Voters in five states will have the choice to legalize recreational marijuana sales. These include Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada.

Meanwhile, three other states have medical marijuana on the table. These include Arkansas, Florida and North Dakota. Finally, Montana voters will have the choice of easing restrictions on their already-existing medical marijuana industry.

Mason Tvert of pro-legalization group Marijuana Policy Project believes that even if several of the ballot measures fail, marijuana legalization will only continue to spread across the country.

“Even if a measure doesn’t pass, support will grow,” Tvert told The Associated Press. “Most people believe marijuana should be legal. It’s a question of whether opponents do a good job scaring them out of doing it now. We might see people opt to wait a couple more years.”

Polls do indicate that more Americans are comfortable with legalized marijuana than they were during the peak of prohibition. The latest Gallup poll found that 58 percent of Americans support legalization and that marijuana use has nearly doubled among adults since 2013.

In June, a poll conducted by Quinnipiac University found that 54 percent of Americans believe that marijuana should be legalized in all states and provinces while only 41 percent were opposed, according to Politico.

If all ballot measures were passed, over 23 percent of the U.S. population would have access to legalized marijuana for recreational use.

California is the state gaining the most attention from those opposed or in favor of marijuana legalization. It is the most populous state in the U.S. and already has an expansive medical marijuana industry. The Legislative Analyst’s Office has projected that the state could raise $1 billion a year in marijuana tax revenue if recreational sales are approved.

“As California goes, so goes the nation,” said political science professor Alan Ross of the University of California, Berkeley.

Polling indicates that California is shaping up to be the state where recreational legalization could be the safest bet. Meanwhile, propositions in other states are more of a long shot, The Washington Post reports.

Polling indicates that 50 percent of Nevada voters support recreational legalization while 41 percent are opposed. The scales could be tipped if native son Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire who is against legalization, opens up his pocketbook to bankroll the proposition's opponents.

In Arizona, only 39 percent of voters support recreational legalization while 53 percent are opposed.

In Massachusetts, only 41 percent of voters are planning on voting to legalize recreational pot. Republican Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts has been campaigning aggressively against the proposition.

Finally, 55 percent of Maine voters are ready for recreational marijuana. The state’s largest city, Portland, has already had legalized possession of marijuana since 2013.

“I’m not sure if this November will get us to the tipping point,” said economist Jeffrey Miron of Harvard University. “It may be two or four more years. Certain things seem impossible, until all of a sudden they are possible, and they happen fast.”

Sources: The Associated Press, Politico, The Washington Post / Photo credit: Global Panorama/Flickr

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