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Decision Time: Legal Marijuana Faces Big Moment On Election Night

While all eyes are on the presidential balloting, voters across the nation are poised to change the legal status of cannabis.

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While most people focus on the Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton presidential election, Nov. 8 also promises to have broad and long-ranging implications for the legal marijuana movement.

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Voters in nine states will consider proposals to allow legal medical and recreational marijuana to be sold in their states. They include two of the nation’s biggest states, California and Florida. For those who want to pay attention to these important ballot measures, here is a rundown of where voters will decide on legal marijuana on Election Day.

Recreational Use

The outcome of these votes could mean a sea change in the marijuana industry. Voters in five states will consider allowing the sale of marijuana for recreational use. If all are approved, the number of states allowing recreational use of marijuana would more than double, from four to nine. States where voters already legalized recreational marijuana are Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington. Voters in the District of Columbia also have approved a similar measure.

California: If there is one state everyone is focusing on, it’s California. Voters there already have approved the medicinal use of marijuana. Passing Proposition 64 – The Adult Use of Marijuana Act – would mean every state on the West Coast has approved recreational use of marijuana. Passage here -- coupled with passage in heavily-populated Massachusetts -- could represent a step toward eventual changes in federal law.

“If we’re successful, it’s the beginning of the end of the war on marijuana,” Gavin Newsom, the lieutenant governor of California and a former mayor of San Francisco, told The New York Times.

Arizona: Voters will consider a new law allowing Arizona residents to carry an ounce of marijuana and grow up to six marijuana plants. The initiative faced legal action to keep it off the ballot, but the Arizona Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s ruling to allow voters to consider the measure Nov. 8.

Massachusetts: Massachusetts looks to become the first state east of the Mississippi River to approve recreational marijuana (along with Maine). The ballot initiative also faced a legal challenge, but courts eventually ruled against opponents. The Massachusetts law would allow residents to keep up to 10 ounces of cannabis at home, as well as grow six plants.

Maine: Another court battle, another win for marijuana supporters. The issue on the ballot is similar to the one in Massachusetts, including a provision giving the right to local municipalities to limit the number of retail marijuana stores within their area or even ban them altogether.

Nevada: There have been no legal battles over this ballot proposal as in other states, although ironically polls show the Nevada measure has just a narrow margin of support. Similar to Arizona, the Nevada law would allow a person to carry one ounce of marijuana and grow six plants. It also would limit retail marijuana outlets based on population.

Medical Marijuana

The use of marijuana for medicinal purposes already has been approved by voters in 23 states. However, four more look to join the trend. Florida, with its large population, could have the biggest impact in terms of sales and industry growth. The four states:

Florida: In the Sunshine State, 60 percent of voters must approve an amendment. This measure fell short by two percent in 2014. If approved, it would allow a number of people access to marijuana, including those suffering from HIV, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress syndrome, epilepsy and Crohn’s disease.

Arkansas: The proposed amendment would set up a commission that could allow 40 dispensaries in the state and eight marijuana-growing operations.

Montana: This measure would expand access to legal medical marijuana to include those with chronic pain and Crohn’s disease, among other conditions.  It also would eliminate unannounced inspections of marijuana operations and some aspects of the current reviews doctors must undergo to prescribe marijuana.

North Dakota: This law change would allow those with certain conditions to possess up to three ounces of medical marijuana and also allow qualified patients the right to grow up to eight plants at their home if they live more than 40 miles from a dispensary.

Clearly, the 2016 November ballot will prove a big moment in the marijuana industry. Not only would passage of these ballot measures expand the use of legal marijuana significantly, but also could prove the next step in a trend that could result in changes in federal law.