Its official, four more states have decided to legalize marijuana in the United States for recreational purposes, and two more have been approved for medical reasons.
According to the unofficial results in Tuesday’s general election, recreational marijuana will soon be legal in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota after the majority of voters favored it in all states where it was on the ballot.
It is already legal in California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Colorado, Michigan, Oregon, Nevada, Maine, Vermont, Alaska, and Washington state.
South Dakota became the first state to legalize recreational and medicinal marijuana in the same election, and Mississippi this week became the 36th state to allow medical marijuana.
As the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws organization put it: Marijuana went “undefeated” on Election Day.
In a statement, NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said, “The public has spoken loudly and clearly.” He added, “They favor ending the failed policies of marijuana prohibition and replacing it with a policy of legalization, regulation, taxation and public education.”
The seemingly widespread support for legal marijuana in the United States now is a sharp turn from where the country stood on the issue a decade ago.
In 2010, California was the first state to consider legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes. The measure failed, with 53.5 percent of voters in one of the nation’s largest and most liberal states voting against the proposition.
Ten years later, and voters in conservative South Dakota are in favor of it. 52.4 percent of voters this week decided to legalize it in The Mount Rushmore State.
Over the years, Chase Terwilliger, CEO of the Denver-based Balanced Health Botanicals CBD company, said that they noticed the “acceptance” that has come to the cannabis industry.
“People who have been against the plant, and stigmatized the plant, are now able to see it as not as bad as they once thought it was,” Terwilliger told Patch. “As it has gone more mainstream, the consumers are better off because of the ability to perform more clinical and safety studies.”
Some states that have legalized marijuana have focused more on its financial benefits.
At the start of 2020, Illinois spent more than $530 million on recreational marijuana in the first nine months after it became legal. The additional revenue makes up a part of the $6.7 billion of unpaid bills and $137 billion of pension debt the state faces.
According to CNBC, in Arizona, legalization is expected to bring in about $166 million in revenue. Montana will enact a 20 percent tax and South Dakota a 15 percent excise tax on recreational marijuana sales.
Terwilliger predicts that marijuana will become legal across the United States at the federal level within four years. Pot shops, he said, could be “as mainstream as liquor stores” by 2028.
However, that won’t come without a fight from those who oppose legalization.
Kevin Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, said the pro-pot vote results in New Jersey, in particular, are “disappointing but not surprising.” Unofficial election results show 1.9 million Garden State voters favored legal marijuana, while just more than 951,000 voted against it.
Sabet said, “After spending at least $4 million lobbying lawmakers, Big Pot spent another $2 million to hoodwink voters into allowing its expansion.” He added, “This investment may pay dividends for the industry, but it will not pay off for those who will suffer as a result of increased substance use disorders, drugged driving, poorer educational outcomes, and economic opportunities.”
Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have now legalized pot for recreational purposes. Oregon has since gone farther in the legalization and decriminalization of drugs. Voters there also approved the controversial measure that decriminalizes psychedelic mushrooms and small amounts of harder drugs, including cocaine and heroin.
Backers of the measure that passed on Election Day have said that the reason for the decriminalization of hard drugs in Oregon was a way to favor rehabilitation over-incarceration.
Kassandra Frederique, executive director of Drug Policy Alliance, told the Washington Post, “We have been criminalizing people for at least 50 years, and what we know is that it hasn’t gotten us any closer to having our loved ones get the care that they need at the scale that it requires.”
She added, “Criminalization is not a deterrent to use, and it’s not a humane approach. This is about recognizing that we need to support people.”