The 2016 U.S. election shocked everyone. But while the results did not look like anything pundits and pollsters predicted, American voters stayed mostly consistent on at least one subject: marijuana.
Prohibitive anti-marijuana laws across the country suffered a major setback on November 8, when voters in California, Massachusetts, Maine, and Nevada approved the legalization of recreational cannabis. Arizona, however, wasn’t as pro-freedom, as just over 52 percent of Grand Canyon state voters said no to Proposition 205. A powerful lobby backed the opposition in that state.
In Florida, Arkansas, Montana, and North Dakota, voters passed medical marijuana laws, allowing patients suffering from certain medical conditions to have access to cannabis.
According to the executive director of Marijuana Policy Project, Rob Kampia, the overall positive outcome shows “[m]ost voters do not think otherwise law-abiding citizens should be criminalized for using a product that is much safer than alcohol.” Instead of going after individuals for their marijuana use, Kampia added, there “is a general consensus that law enforcement” should be using taxpayer-backed resources to “[fight] serious crimes” instead.
Erik Altieri, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), wrote in a blog post that the 2016 election day “dealt another body blow to our nation’s costly, failed, and discriminatory policy of marijuana prohibition.”
With regard to those who thought 2012 and 2014 efforts to legalize marijuana were a “passing fad,” Altieri continued, “it is now clear that they were mistaken.”
While many might claim this wave of victory means Americans are finally realizing individuals should be free to access marijuana if they desire, others believe it could also help patients taking prescription drugs.
In states where medical marijuana laws have been on the books for some years, the number of patients on prescription painkillers has dropped considerably when compared to states with marijuana prohibition laws still in place.
As scientific evidence shows marijuana has beneficial medical effects, the country is becoming warmer to the idea of effectively nullifying the federal rules on the plant. And if 2016 is, indeed, “a tipping point for marijuana reform,” as a spokesperson for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) said in an interview, 2017 could see residents in at least three more states passing similar rules.
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