Marijuana legalization efforts in the United States achieved a major step forward on Tuesday. Voters in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, DC, all approved ballot initiatives to legalize possession outright of at least one ounce of cannabis.
Only the Florida ballot measure, which would have approved medical use of the plant, fell short of the necessary 60 percent threshold. Meanwhile, a similar medical-marijuana vote in the US territory of Guam won approval.
The latest round of marijuana legalization affirms a growing sentiment among the US population in favor of more lax marijuana laws. A 2014 Pew Research poll found that 54 percent of US Americans support legalizing marijuana, and this figure is line with Tuesday’s approval margins. In Oregon, 54 percent of voters approved the sale and possession of marijuana, 52 percent in Alaska, and 56 percent in Guam. Initiative 71 in DC drew overwhelming support, passing with 65 percent of votes.
Unlike the votes in Oregon, Alaska, and DC, Floridians voted to amend the state’s constitution to allow for the use of medical cannabis. This route necessitated higher support of 60 percent.
Advocates on both sides of the debate appeared energized following Tuesday’s results. In an interview with Reuters, Kevin Sabet of Smart Approaches to Marijuana declared, “Tonight is going to inspire us to do better and to try harder and go after the donors we have to go after in order to level the playing field. The more people that hear about legalization, the more people are uncomfortable with it.”
However, proponents of marijuana legalization are already looking to build on their newfound momentum to push the issue further in the coming years. According to Leland Berger, a Portland attorney who helped craft Measure 91, “In 2016 we’re going to push the ball forward in several states until we end prohibition.”