With just 23 days until Election Day, Americans are excited to hit the polls to cast their vote. However, besides electing a new president of course, there will be several other important issues on the ballot – gun control, healthcare, minimum wage and marijuana – that will have an impact nationwide.
Although all of the controversial issues are of great importance, marijuana legalization, whether recreational or medicinal, is an ever-growing movement that has only seen increase in support by Americans for the past three years, according to a 2015 Gallup poll. A majority of Americans – 58 percent – support the legalization of marijuana, with younger generations more supportive than older generations, and an overall increase in support since the late 1960s by adults ages 18 to 34; 35 to 49; 50 to 64; and 65-plus years old.
According to BallotPedia, the encyclopedia of American politics, nine states – Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada and North Dakota – will have some form of marijuana amendment, measure or proposition to expand the already existing marijuana laws, the legalization for medicinal purposes or the legalization of recreational use marijuana altogether.
Medical Marijuana, Inc., the first publically traded cannabis company in the United States, has over 200,000 current shareholders and exhibits a growing interest in the cannabis industry, heading the so-called cannabis revolution in the nation. According to the site, Arizona, California, Maine and Nevada have the best chance of legalizing marijuana for recreational use.
As the first state to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes in 1996, this year may be when California embraces the legal, recreational use of marijuana. The Adult Use of Marijuana Act will allow for adults 21 years of age and older to use marijuana and will regulate, treat and tax marijuana like alcohol. According to the Act, the marijuana industry in California generates more than $1 billion annually of which will be distributed to school districts across the state, among other public health and community programs.
Similar to California, the Nevada Marijuana Legalization Initiative, or Question 2, will allow for adults 21 years of age and older to posses up to one ounce of marijuana, and will permit individuals to grow up to six plants. Nevada will regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol, and the public will be able to purchase at any licensed retail facility.
In Maine, residents show strong support for the legalization of marijuana, with a total of 55 percent, according to an October 2015 Critical Insights poll. The Maine Marijuana Legalization Initiative will permit for adults 21 and older to posses up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana – including concentrates – and will allow for the cultivation of up to six plants. According to the initiative, the legalization will generate millions of dollars in tax revenue and will create thousands of jobs for Maine residents.
For residents of Arizona, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, or Proposition 205, will legalize the use of marijuana and will allow the cultivation of up to six plants, similar to several states. In an advertisement paid for by the campaign, supporters of Proposition 205 state that of the approximately $123-plus million generated in taxes and license fees, Arizona school districts will receive more than $55 million each year. In addition, the campaign states that more than $495 million will be taken out of the criminal market.
As of May 2016, 25 states – including D.C. – have some form of medicinal marijuana laws in place that allow for at least some form of possession. Of these 25, four states – Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Alaska – permit the recreational use of marijuana, as well as D.C.
Come this November, a surprising number of states will have its citizens cast their vote and have their voices heard on the legalization of marijuana. The opposition of marijuana has cost taxpayers millions and incarcerated thousands since the initiation of the so-called War on Drugs. There were a total of 574,641 marijuana-related arrests last year, due to the possession of a small quantity, according to Governing, an online media platform covering politics and policy across the country. Although crime in the country has steadily declined over the past two decades, the marijuana-related arrests last year outnumbered the arrest made for violent crime.
More and more states across the country are beginning to buy into the huge profits to be made from the marijuana industry and as support grows among American citizens, the states that have yet to allow it will soon follow.