By Paul Armentano
On many issues, our country is deeply divided. But when it comes to loosening the longstanding prohibition on cannabis, most Americans agree.
On Election Day, voters in states across the country approved a series of ballot proposals legalizing the use and distribution of marijuana for either medical or adult-use purposes.
Their voices were unmistakable and emphatic. Majorities of Americans decided in favor of every marijuana-related proposition placed before them — a clean sweep — and they did so by record margins.
Voters approved the legalization of medical cannabis in two states, Mississippi and South Dakota.
In Mississippi, voters chose between two dueling initiatives. Ultimately, they favored a measure placed on the ballot by patient advocates and rejected a more restrictive alternative measure placed on the ballot by state lawmakers. In one of many lopsided results on Election Day, 74 percent of voters chose the more liberal of the two measures.
Voters legalized the possession of marijuana by adults in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota.
The measures in Arizona, Montana, and South Dakota each permit adults to possess and cultivate marijuana for personal use and establish a regulated retail market.
In New Jersey, voters decided on a public ballot question. That means Garden State lawmakers must now amend state law to comport it with the voters’ decision.
Voters’ actions on Election Day were an unequivocal rebuke to the longstanding policy of federal marijuana prohibition. They are an indication that marijuana legalization is far from a fringe issue, but one that is now embraced by mainstream America.
In New Jersey, 67 percent of voters chose legalization. In Arizona, legalization passed by a 20 percent margin, just four years after voters had rejected a similar ballot question. Fifty-seven percent of Montanans backed legalization, as did 54 percent of South Dakotans.
Voters did so despite opposition from many of their public officials. Republican South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem appeared in television ads opposing both state initiative measures. Montana U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme issued a white paper opining that legalization would have “serious ramifications” for “public safety and health.”
These attacks, however, failed to gain traction.
As in 2016, when voters in deep red states like Arkansas and North Dakota joined voters in deep blue states like California and Massachusetts to reform their cannabis laws, these 2020 results once again affirm that marijuana legalization is a uniquely popular issue with voters of all political persuasions.
Indeed, majorities of Democrats, independents, and Republicans consistently endorse legalization in national polls.
The results also continue a multi-decade long trend of marijuana legalization advocates achieving success at the ballot box. Since 1996, voters have decided affirmatively on 35 separate ballot measures legalizing cannabis (22 legalizing medical marijuana and 13 legalizing adult use).
Despite this public consensus, elected officials have far too often remained unresponsive to the legalization issue. This dereliction of representation has forced advocacy groups to directly place marijuana-related ballot questions before the voters.
The success of these initiatives proves definitively that marijuana legalization is not exclusively a blue state issue, but an issue that is supported by a majority of all Americans — regardless of party politics. Once these latest laws are implemented, one out of every three Americans will reside in a jurisdiction where the use of marijuana by adults is legal under state law.
For over two decades, the public has spoken loudly and clearly. They favor ending the failed policy of marijuana prohibition and replacing it with a policy of legalization, regulation, taxation, and public education.
Elected officials — at both the state and federal level — ought to be listening. Perhaps even more importantly, they ought to be acting.
Paul Armentano is the Deputy Director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and the Science Faculty Chair at Oaksterdam University in Oakland, California.
Dennis C Rathsam says
I have been smoking pot since 1969….I worked 33 years at GM,raised a family. All 3 of my kids have a college degree. My eldest has just earned his DR in education. I worked part time, at an Italian Deli, and drove a bread truck every Sunday. Pot was my salvation. It helped me with pain,it took my mind off the everyday pressures. You can control everything you do,and do it well. Some folks that drink alcohol, cant control what they do…Sometimes they get sloppy drunk, start fights, and get buligerant. Not with pot, if you smoke too much…you just go to sleep. Its not a gateway drug, all I ever did was pot, and it has served me well. I have no interest to try other drugs, Too much miss information out there. PS. I sleep like a baby every night, wake up in the morning, feeling great and ready go!
A Concerned Observer says
“Now is the winter of our discontent”. America has begun the slow but inexorable slide down a very slippery slope. Marijuana’s active ingredient is Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It is a drug, taken to create a feeling of euphoria or for a short time at least, escape reality. Marijuana without THC has recently gained popularity of marijuana proponents who claim its medicinal properties. The jury is still out on that claim, but it is legal in Florida, albeit with necessary restrictions. We must now live with it.
A false analogy often stated is that alcohol is legal and marijuana is no worse. Please enlighten me; what flavor of marijuana pairs well with red meat or fish? This user (NOT ABUSER) occasionally consumes a glass or two of wine or one or two drinks because I enjoy the taste. Who out there enjoys the taste of marijuana? Now, is the result of the abuse of alcohol similar to the result of the abuse of marijuana? Yes. Use is not abuse.
Is marijuana a “gateway drug”? Yes. How many people do you know start out by first injecting drugs into a vein or snort it up their nose? Very few I would bet. The overwhelming majority of drug abusers begin with a little, harmless marijuana.
Now, I suspect some readers are already gearing up the accusation that “Big Pharma” and their financially driven push of their products has created the “disease” of Opioid Addiction in America. Drug abuse is the result of a conscious choice of the abuser ingesting chemicals into their body to get high. Full Stop! COVID-19 is a disease. Cancer is a disease. Drug addiction is NOT a disease. The repeated abuse of these chemicals often results in an addiction.
Do you blame a pencil for spelling mistakes? No. The user of the pencil is the culprit and not the pencil itself. I personally have had the misfortune of enduring several very painful accidents over many years and have succumbed to medical issues requiring major surgery. The healing process followed with the prescribed use of Demerol, Oxycodone, OxyContin, Percocet and others. None of these procedures generated a desire in me to get high. Amazingly, I took the prescribed dose of these painkillers to relieve my pain for the prescribed time and quit! Imagine that!
Drug abuse is the proven outcome of taking drugs to escape reality or to “feel good”. Marijuana is just the first step taken on the inevitable trip down a dangerous and all too often deadly path. Unfortunately, it is the innocent citizenry and not the perpetrator who most often suffer the financial loss, injury or death from drug abusers actions. Legalization of the recreational use marijuana is a very bad thing.
R. S. says
Probably would put the sheriff out of a job if we were to do that around here, huh?
Good stop busting people for weed already.Cant wait to grow my own. I am sure Florida Legislature will drag its feet when time comes for this backward State to Vote on it
The times are a changing and I feel not for the good. Sure weed is not as bad as a flat drunk alcoholic, and it could help with pain management and PTSD, but could this led to what occurred Nov 4 in Oregon in the future of our state ? Oregon became the first state to decriminalize small amounts of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and other drugs.
Trailer Bob says
People smoking pot don’t burn down buildings Marky. And they don’t beat people. Where ya been?
Bob Ziolkowski says
Smoke’em if you got’em!
Freddie the Freckle says
Everyday I wake up thankful I can get stoned out of my mind and go to work as a professional fluffer. Long hours if you get my drift, but filling, I’m mean fulfilling Greatest country on earth.