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Cannabis Legalization Cleans House at Polls

2016 Presidential Election Cannabis Now
Photo Gracie Malley for Cannabis Now


Cannabis Legalization Cleans House at Polls

Florida appears to have helped to bring the nation President Donald J. Trump. And in return, Florida gets to enjoy medical cannabis.

A Trump presidency confirmed for the White House Tuesday also came with a near-clean sweep of for marijuana reform across the country.

In three red states, medical marijuana is now legal, meaning some form of medical cannabis is now legal in 28 states. And out of the five states where voters had the chance to legalize medical marijuana, legalization won big victories in the three biggest states.

In California, the nation’s most populous state and home of the biggest and most well-established cannabis industry — and source of up to 70 percent of the marijuana smoked in the rest of the country, according to some estimates — Prop. 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, passed comfortably. Initial returns showed the measure up by nine percentage points, leading the Associated Press to call the race with less than 10 percent of results in.

At the stroke of midnight Wednesday morning, it became legal for adults 21 and over to possess an ounce of marijuana in California, and to grow six plants in their homes.

Nearly every marijuana-related felony on the state’s books is now a misdemeanor, with most of even the toughest penalties a $500 fine and six months in county jail, when before, they could be punished with time in state prison.

“Finally,” said Dale Sky Jones, the chairwoman of 2010’s Prop. 19 campaign in California, the first modern-day legalization effort, which was bankrolled almost entirely by Richard Lee, the founder of Oakland grow college Oaksterdam University.

Despite poor funding and near-total opposition from establishment politicians —  including Lieutenant Governor  Gavin Newsom — Prop. 19 lost by only 5 percentage points and showed what Colorado and Washington needed to do differently in order to win two years later: Namely, raise more money, win in areas like Los Angeles and Orange County, and do it in a presidential election year.

“This is not just about legalizing pot, this is a civil rights issue,” she said. “And Prop. 64 was the first to put it in writing. This is about decriminalization just as much about legalization.”

Legal recreational cannabis also arrived for the first time on the East Coast, as voters in Massachusetts — where medical marijuana was legalized just a few years ago — approved Question 4, despite huge spending to defeat it from out-of-state forces like Las Vegas casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, and opposition even from the Catholic Church.

Adelson also spent huge to stop legalization in Nevada, where his casino group owns the Venetian on the Las Vegas Strip — where he also lost. ABC News called the election in legalization’s favor in the Silver State shortly before 10 p.m. Pacific.

An effort to restore Montana’s medical marijuana program, gutted by the state Legislature in 2011, also passed.

“It is a huge day for cannabis across the country,” said Steve DeAngelo, founder and president of Oakland, Calif.-based Harborside, by reputation the biggest cannabis dispensary in the country. “Voters have spoken with a clear conscience that they want to end cannabis prohibition — not yesterday, but today.”

As of midnight on the East Coast, the race to legalize in Maine was still too close to call, but the legalization campaign enjoyed a tiny lead, 51 percent yes to 49 percent no.

Legalization of adult-use marijuana did not pass in Arizona.

Marijuana reform won in states where Hillary Clinton could not and could possibly never win. Along with Florida, voters in North Dakota and in Arkansas also voted to launch limited medical marijuana programs. Home cultivation will not be allowed under Arkansas’s Issue 6, but North Dakotans a far drive from state-licensed dispensaries, when they open, will.

Now, “the federal government will feel greatly increased pressure to reschedule cannabis and finally acknowledge the plant has medical value,” said Tom Angell, chairman of advocacy group The Marijuana Majority. “From here, it will be much easier to get other states on board, particularly Missouri and Oklahoma, both of which are expected to vote on medical marijuana in upcoming election cycles.”

But what about the federal government? While the federal Controlled Substances Act has never been less tenable, what will a Trump Administration’s attorney general do? A likely front-runner for the job is New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a former U.S. Attorney who has made it extremely difficult in his home state for a voter-approved medical cannabis program to get going.

“It would be the height of folly for any politician to continue to oppose cannabis reform,” DeAngelo said. “It is very clear that embracing cannabis reform is a much more effective policy than opposing it.”

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