Voters in nine states will get to decide whether to liberalize laws involving marijuana this year in a rush of ballot measures that pro-pot activists see as a critical tipping point in the fight over legalization.
Five states — Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada — will decide whether to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Four other states — Arkansas, Florida, Montana and Missouri — will decide whether to allow doctors to prescribe marijuana for medicinal use.
Collectively, the ballot measures mean more voters will be weighing in on marijuana issues than in any other year in American history. At the same time, the marijuana industry finds itself on something of a winning streak after voters in several states recently loosened restrictions on the drug.
In the last four years, four states — Washington, Colorado, Alaska and Oregon — and the District of Columbia have passed ballot measures legalizing marijuana for recreational use by adults over the age of 21. A similar measure has only failed once, in Ohio in 2015, though pro-pot activists are quick to distance themselves from a campaign they did not fully support.
Twenty-one other states allow marijuana for medicinal use. Twelve of those states have legalized medical marijuana since 2010.Karlyn Bowman and Heather Sims write at AEI:
Over the past 50 years, support for the legalization of marijuana has been growing. In 1969, when the Gallup Organization first asked people if they thought marijuana should be made legal, 12 percent said it should and 84 percent should not. When Gallup last asked this question in 2015, 58 percent said it should be legal. Other more recent major national polls also show majority support for legalization.
In addition to identifying it as the most dangerous kind of drug, marijuana’s Schedule 1 classification holds that the drug has no currently accepted medical use. But the public thinks otherwise. In fact, the public is even more supportive of marijuana’s legalization for medicinal purposes than it is for legalization in general. In a recent Quinnipiac University survey, an overwhelming 89 percent of registered voters supported allowing adults to legally use marijuana for medical purposes if their doctor prescribes it. In a CBS News poll from April of this year, about the same number (87 percent) said doctors should be allowed to prescribe a small amount of marijuana for patients suffering from serious illnesses. In a Pew poll taken in 2015, those who thought marijuana should be legal cited its medicinal uses most often among the reasons for legalization.