While the election brought some very shocking results, it did bring a win for marijuana. 5 states voted on recreational marijuana legalization and 4 states have come through having legalized the plant for adult use. California, Nevada, Massachusetts and Maine have legalized the recreational use of marijuana for adults over the age of 21. Arizona, the 5th state to vote on the issue, rejected the proposition. 4 more states, North Dakota, Florida, Arkansas and Montana, also voted for medical marijuana. All 4 states voted in favor of legalizing cannabis for medical use, bringing the total number of states with legal marijuana up to 29, plus the District of Columbia. Arizona already legalized medical marijuana in 1996 but, of the 9 states voting this year, they were the only to reject a marijuana proposal in this election.
The Surge in Recreational Marijuana Legalization
Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project said, “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.” Unfortunately the win comes alongside a Donald Trump presidency. While Trump himself has declared that he would allow states to enforce their own laws when it comes to marijuana, many advocates are worried that the people he appoints may pose a problem.
Potential Threats Going Forward
Trump’s Vice President, Mike Pence, is against marijuana reform and if he appoints prohibitionists such as former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to senior law enforcement positions, they could pose a threat to all the progress made over the years. Marijuana still remains illegal under federal law, classified as a Schedule I drug, alongside heroin and LSD. Schedule I drugs are considered to have the highest risk with no medicinal benefit. The classification is severely inaccurate and many have been working to have it removed but as new appointees enter the field, progress on the issue may halt or even regress.
Growing Trends in Legalization
Until or unless such interference occurs, it is safe to celebrate the victory. California is the 6th largest economy in the world and recreational marijuana legalization in the state is likely to impact the national perspective and trends regarding marijuana. Almost 1/4 of the country has elected to legalize recreational marijuana and over 1/2 of the country has legalized marijuana for medical use. The most recent Gallup poll indicates that 60 percent of Americans are in favor of ending prohibition and these new results point to that number continuously growing.
While recreational marijuana is now legal to possess in these states, officials will have to begin issuing sales licenses for recreational retailers before it can be legally bought from stores. California has until Jan. 1, 2018 to distribute these licenses. Massachusetts marijuana becomes legal on Dec. 15, with stores opening in 2018. Legislature in Nevada, will address taxation and regulation in 2017 with Maine following suit. Recreational marijuana legalization in these 4 states brings the total up to 8 states plus D.C. who have ended prohibition and legalized adult marijuana use.