A Quarter of Americans Will Have Access to Legal Recreational Cannabis

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The sign welcoming you to Weed, California, courtesy of Flickr user m01229

By Joan Eberhardt

Four states approved the creation of medical marijuana programs, while another four approved recreational adult use on Tuesday. After election day medical marijuana exists in a total of 28 states and 8 states will allow it to be used for any purpose at all.  This is a tremendous win for cannabis reform and many speculate that we’re reaching a tipping point on this issue.

California, Massachusetts, Maine, and Nevada approved legalizing cannabis for recreational use by adults. Because California is so sizable, that means one-quarter of the people living in America will now have access to legal, recreational marijuana.

Florida, Arkansas, North Dakota, and Montana all approved medical marijuana in those states.

California first legalized medical marijuana 20 years ago, and in the interim time the program has grown so all-inclusive that it effectively was recreational. Prop 64 passed on Tuesday with 54% of the vote.

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Nevada legalized recreational cannabis with a solid 54% of the vote. Nevada has for a long time embraced the so-called vices of alcohol, gambling and prostitution and legal recreational cannabis can be seen as a natural extension of that.

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Massachusetts will become the first state with legal recreational marijuana on the east coast. Despite opposition from prominent conservatives and the Catholic Archdiocese, the question passed with 51% of the vote. Question 4 passing means marijuana will be prohibited and regulated like alcohol.

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Arkansas approved creating a medical marijuana program after Issue 6 passed with 53% of the vote. While only 17 conditions will qualify, tax revenue from sales will be funneled into  technical institutes, vocational schools, workforce training, and the state’s General Fund.

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Amendment 2, which will create Florida’s new medical program, passed with a whopping 71% of the vote. In 2014, the last time the state had the opportunity to create a medical market, voters failed to turn out in significant enough numbers to pass the amendment. It received 58% support, but needed 60 to pass.

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Montana voters overwhelmingly approved creating a medical marijuana program in the state. Nearly 58% of voters in Montana approved of I-182, which lifted a cap that only allowed medical marijuana providers to have three patients at a given time.

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North Dakota voters came out in droves to support Initiated Statutory Measure 5, which will allow medical cannabis to be used to treat “defined debilitating medical conditions, such as cancer, AIDS, hepatitis C, ALS, glaucoma, and epilepsy, and developing certain procedures for regulating medical marijuana growing, dispensing, and usage.” It passed with nearly 64% of the vote.

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Arizona, which already has a thriving medical market, denied the opportunity to expand to a recreational market as well. About 100,000 patients are already enrolled in this robust program. But the state’s conservative government officials and business interests worked against the reform.

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