Legal Marijuana a Big Winner in Elections Across the Country

The biggest single night for the marijuana legalization movement ended with voters across the country approving marijuana for both medicinal and recreational use.

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In one night, the number of states allowing the sale of marijuana for recreational use almost doubled, from four to seven states. About 20 percent of all Americans now live in a state where recreational marijuana is legal, and more than half the states - 28 -- have now approved medical marijuana.

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The election results last night could lead to more than $7 billion in additional cannabis retail sales annually, according to estimates from Marijuana Business Daily.

In two of the nation’s most populated states -- Florida and California -- voters approved measures allowing the sale of medical marijuana and recreational marijuana, respectively, which experts anticipate will gemerate millions of dollars in cannabis sales and influence more legalization across the United States and the globe.

"This represents a monumental victory for the marijuana reform movement," Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a statement. “With California’s leadership now, the end of marijuana prohibition nationally, and even internationally, is fast approaching."

Here’s a look at how the measures fared in all nine states that had marijuana on the ballot.

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Recreational Marijuana

Before Tuesday, the District of Columbia and four states had approved recreational marijuana: Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington. That number jumped to seven states on Tuesday.


This is the biggest story of Election Day for marijuana advocates. The most populous state in the union now will allow the sale of cannabis for recreational use (medical marijuana already is legal in California). The new law allows people to carry 28.5 grams of marijuana and grow up to six plants in their homes. Marijuana will have to be used in private areas, not public areas.

This now means the entire West Coast has approved the use of recreational marijuana. The question now is if this will put more pressure on the federal government to change laws that make marijuana illegal at the federal level.


Voters in Massachusetts made it the first state to legalize marijuana for recreational use on the East Coast. The Massachusetts law would allow residents to keep up to 10 ounces of cannabis at home, as well as grow six plants.


In Maine, counting on the ballot issue went into Wednesday morning. Voters narrowly approved recreational marijuana, according to the Bangor Daily News, with 50.9 percent approving the measure. Maine joined Massachusetts as the only states on the East Coast to approve cannabis for recreational use.

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Support for legalizing recreational marijuana had a narrow margin of support in Nevada going into the election, but marijuana supporters prevailed. The new law will allow people to carry up to one ounce of marijuana and grow six plants at home.

In Arizona, legalization of recreational marijuana failed, with about 52% voting against.

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Medical Marijuana

Before Tuesday night, 25 states allowed the use of medical marijuana, which requires a prescription from a doctor to obtain. In all cases, cannabis remains restricted to those over the age of 21 and can only be purchased from licensed dispensaries.

It’s also heavily taxed and has been a money maker for many states, bringing in millions in tax dollars.

Three states approved the sale of medical marijuana. Montana voters also decided to ease restrictions on existing marijuana laws.


The Sunshine State represents one of the big prizes in the legalization movement. And it wasn’t even close. More than 71 percent of Florida voters approved an amendment allowing people with a variety of medical conditions legal access to marijuana, including those with HIV, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress syndrome, epilepsy and Crohn’s disease.

North Dakota

Voters in North Dakota approved an amendment that will 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.


Voters in Arkansas approved the sale of medical marijuana, making it the first state in the Deep South to do so.  The new law sets up a commission that could allow 40 dispensaries in the state and eight marijuana-growing operations.