Victories for Eight of Nine Marijuana Initiatives Hasten the Collapse of Prohibition

Yesterday voters made marijuana legal in four more states and approved medical access in four others.


Jacob Sullum

Donald Trump's defeat of Hillary Clinton was not the only big surprise produced by yesterday's elections. Even those of us who were rooting for the nine marijuana initiatives on state ballots this year did not expect so many of them to pass. Yesterday voters made marijuana legal for recreational use in four states (California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada) and approved or expanded medical access in four more (Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota). The only loss was in Arizona, where voters who very narrowly approved medical use in 2010 declined to take the further step of making marijuana legal just for fun.

The margins of victory were also surprising. After falling short just two years ago, a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana got 71 percent of the vote in Florida, 11 points more than the supermajority it needed. In California, where legalization lost by seven points in 2010, the yeas beat the nays by almost 12 points. The difference in Nevada was more than eight points, which was especially delightful in the home state of casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who provided 97 percent of the $3.5 million raised by the opposition campaign and spent another $140 million on the Las Vegas Review-Journal, a longtime opponent of marijuana prohibition that switched sides under its new ownership. In North Dakota, where the last known survey on the question found that 47 percent of likely voters thought marijuana should be legal for medical use, an initiative allowing patients with "debilitating medical conditions" to obtain cannabis from "compassion centers" seemed like a good idea to 64 percent of the electorate.

The consequences of this nearly complete sweep were dramatic. Prior to yesterday, four states with a combined population of 17 million (Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington) were willing to allow cannabis consumption without a doctor's note. Now the number of pot-tolerant states has doubled, while their population has nearly quadrupled and includes one in five Americans. The long overdue conversion of California, which by itself accounts for 12 percent of the country's population and 15 percent of its economic output, carries special political and cultural weight. We now have a continuous weed-friendly zone on the West Coast and the first two oases of tolerance in the East. Yesterday's elections also gave us the first two medical marijuana states in the South and increased the number of states with such laws from 25 to 28, meaning states that refuse to let patients have whatever relief cannabis can give them are now in the minority.

These changes reflect growing popular support for legalizing marijuana, which according to Gallup hit a record level of 60 percent this year. That trend, in turn, reflects wide and growing familiarity with a plant that Americans generally have found to be much less scary than their government portrayed it. The next step is for that government to go beyond the uncertain forbearance the Obama administration has offered by actively accommodating states that have rejected marijuana prohibition. Among other things, that means changing federal law so that it no longer threatens or obstructs state-legal marijuana businesses, as legislators such as Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) have been urging for years.

President-Elect Trump (God help us) has suggested he is open to such accommodation. While personally frowning on legal pot (and disavowing his previous support for legalizing all drugs), Trump says marijuana policy "should be a state issue," which also happens to be what the Constitution requires. "Trump has clearly and repeatedly pledged to respect state marijuana laws," says Marijuana Majority Chairman Tom Angell, "and we fully expect him to follow through on those promises, not only because it is the right thing to do but also because these reforms are broadly supported by a growing majority of voters. Reversing course and going against the tide of history would present huge political problems that the new administration does not need."

NEXT: Maine Becomes the Eighth State to Legalize Marijuana

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  1. Let’s hope Trump doesn’t appoint the fat bastard from NJ to be AG.

    1. He’ll be too busy being Barron’s human space hopper

      1. Put him in charge of the kitchens!

        1. No way. The food budget for the White House would double.

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    2. Fat Bastard is eagerly awaiting his comeback in Hollywood.

  2. Can I just thank Reason for its coverage of the Weedz? I became aware of the legalization trend, the states where what was happening – so I made a little presentation at work, and I have a couple of people impressed.

    I suppose that means I will have to toss a couple of bucks in at fundraising time, hmmm?

    1. Do it to get your name up in lights and annoy Sevo too!

      1. Just how much is annoying Sevo worth?

        A lot or a whole lot?

  3. Good and bad news from Arizona.

    Arpaio’s out – lost his bid for re-election.
    Marijuana legalization failed – 48-52%.
    Janet Reno’s dead.
    Min wage increase and mandatory sick leave passed – bunch more people are going to find out that the real minimum wage is $0/hr.

    1. There is good economic logic to that.

      If you raise the minimum wage, you’ll have to sell dope to survive; keeping dope illegal keeps the price up.

  4. Breaking News: According to CNN, Trump has just announced he’s digging up the corpse of Roger B. Taney as his first SCOTUS appointee. He’s doing it now so that the Senate can move on the nomination before Thanksgiving and – as he tweetered – “#MakeBlackFridaySalesGreatAgain”.

  5. Blacks are melting down all over the place right now, but tonight ushered in some freedom, specifically the kind of freedom that will put fewer of them behind bars. BLM scored several victories tonight and they don’t even recognize it. Cops being deprived of a major excuse to stop people and harass them is good for everyone. We need to do more, but we’ve got a start.

  6. Nevada legalized weed and outlawed private gun sales in the same election. Yay “centrism”.

    This is also now officially a blue state for federal electoral purposes.

    1. Nevada caught the venereal disease known as ‘Californication’.


    2. Similar in California. Now I need to get a permit to buy ammo.

      But at least I get to smoke weed now…and pay for a craptastic bureaucracy to go along with it.
      Even when California gets it right….it still somehow ends up getting it wrong.

      1. I would buy ammo on the black market on principle. It’s hard to understand how the courts can say that people have an individual right to bear arms and, at the same time, claim that the government can place restrictions upon that right even though the second amendment mentions no such thing. Some people will likely try claiming that ammo doesn’t qualify as an “arm”, because we all know the second amendment was only intended to allow you to bear non-functional arms.

  7. I guess this is Sullum’s “Good Morning! Wake n’ Bake!” post?

    1. A lot of that going on in California this morning, I imagine. If I lived there I would call off work to… umm… treat my illness.

  8. If the Giant Thug of Change fucks with pot I will fucking start a new party in goddamn Ohio. Otherwise, may the course of this fragility of collective thought lead into the very valleys of bright trees and longest meadows glittering under the smoothest suns.

    1. I did not know you were that passionate on the pot issue, AC. (I know a lot of people here seem to think you’re a big fan of drugs but those people just don’t know about the mind-altering effects of drinking Maumee River water.)

      1. Yes, dear. And your skids are fucking sweet and jerry. Peace out, brother.

        1. AC, I’ll join your pot party.

          The political one, too.

          – No sparks from your river, but ours is on fire.

  9. Onward to reclaim our natural rights to own, control, and defend our own body.

    A stunning rebuke to the prissy authoritarians and do-gooder progs!

    1. And also make sure that Uncle Sam gets its cut of commercial revenue.

      1. Don’t think that the scope of BATF’s reach isn’t going to come to that, because it’s inevitable.

        1. BATFEM?

    2. “Prissy authoritarians and do-gooder progs”

      Not all of the former are the latter, but all of the latter are the former.

  10. CNN and its myriad noxious hackster brothers and sisters have finally become useful for entertainment purposes.

  11. Weed and Trucker Hats For Everybody!

    I ignored the results until this morning when I got in the truck. Color me surprised.

    1. I did the same – went dark yesterday, got to work, saw something on the computer screen and said “Huh, Silvio Berlusconi rather than Madame Defarge.” And then got coffee, went to the gym.

  12. Arpaio losing was the highlight of the night. I guess too many old people and Mormons in this state to stomach legal marijuana.

    1. It’s just a matter of time before the old people’s influence/ lives end.

      1. They keep appearing for some reason!

      2. some places, when they die they somehow seem to vote more often.. in each election. Go figure THAT one out….

  13. Would it be too much to hope for the congress to actually completely legalize marijuana at the federal level?

    Full legalization, no federal pot board, no excise or import tax, no restrictions on growing or selling, etc.

    Leave prohibition to the states if that’s what they really want.

    1. If congress was smart (they’re not) they’d remove it from the CSA right now before the trumpkins get into office and fuck everything up

    2. How the President Can End Pot Prohibition Without Congress

      Contrary to Obama’s claims, he has the power to end the madness. Will he?…..rohibition

      Who knows, maybe the clown will do something decent before he leaves his imperial crown behind.

  14. RE: Victories for Eight of Nine Marijuana Initiatives Hasten the Collapse of Prohibition
    Yesterday voters made marijuana legal in four more states and approved medical access in four others.

    People are waking up to the war on drugs.
    This news make me a little more optimistic toward my fellow Americans.
    Hopefully, we can eliminate the income tax, rescind Obamacare and bring the corporate tax down to one percent, if not eliminate it outright.

  15. There are people here that are suggesting legalization at the federal level. I believe this is a good idea and that is something we should work on. The best way to do that is to contact your Congressional Representative: and your Senators: and let them know you want marijuana legalized at the federal level.

  16. Easiest and best way to “legalise” marijuana is simply to repeal the Conrolled Substances act. Bang, the whole prohibition, DEA, Listing, all federal laws, sentences, crimes, etc, go POOF!!!

    It is unconstitutional on its face, as it meddles in an area that Document never assigns to FedGov. Since it doesn’t that authority is left to the States, or to the People. Simple.

    And make the repeal specificaly include ALL laws at the fed level ralated to possession, sale, transport, financing, etc, of any of those controlled substances also disappear. No more “civil asset forfeiture”, no more “federal deposit standards”, no more anti-“structuring’ laws, no more firearm “enhancement” laws for possession of a substance now deemed legal. And at the same time, erase ALL criminal records for possession, sale, transport, dealing, processing, financing any of thoes controlled substances . Whcih would also mean restoration of ALL rights denied anyone for any of those related “crimes”.

    1. Gasp!
      Think of the children!!!!

  17. until I looked at the paycheck saying $4730 , I did not believe that…my… brother woz like actualy bringing in money part time from there computar. . there friend brother started doing this for less than 7 months and resently paid for the morgage on there home and bought a new Cadillac …….


  18. The Live Free or Die state is being squeezed by two legalized reefer states, Taxachusetts and Maine. That’s gotta hurt.

  19. Legalizing marijuana will not end prohibition. Only getting our bodies completely out of control of government will do that. And only full legalization of all drugs will do THAT.

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  21. So, did the states that legalized just repeal the law, or did they do like Colorado and set up a cartel that denies the free market and is primarily a money raising scheme for government?

  22. until I looked at the paycheck saying $4730 , I did not believe that…my… brother woz like actualy bringing in money part time from there computar. . there friend brother started doing this for less than 7 months and resently paid for the morgage on there home and bought a new Cadillac …….


  23. until I looked at the paycheck saying $4730 , I did not believe that…my… brother woz like actualy bringing in money part time from there computar. . there friend brother started doing this for less than 7 months and resently paid for the morgage on there home and bought a new Cadillac …….


  24. Required Reading For Trump – From The Cato Institute:

    >>>”Evidence on the liberalization of marijuana laws suggests that this loosening may have increased marijuana consumption modestly, at least among adults. It also seems to have reduced traffic fatalities, suicide rates and crime rates.”…..ana-518564

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