by Steve Birr
Marijuana advocates stand to secure major victories on election day as nine states gear up for ballot votes on legalization for recreational and medical purposes.
Five states are putting recreational marijuana legalization on the ballot this November — California, Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada — while an additional four states are voting on medical marijuana. A recent poll from Gallup shows that 60 percent of Americans favor legalization, the highest support the issue has registered in nearly 50 years.
The ballot initiative in California is getting the most attention, as it polls at an approval rating of 59 percent and promises to rake in enormous revenues for the state. Proposition 64 would allow anyone over 21 to possess one ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants in their home. The 15 percent tax on all marijuana sales could earn the state more than $1 billion in annual revenue.
“Not every marijuana legalization supporter likes the initiative, which imposes a 15 percent tax on weed sales and regulates it from seed to sale,” Steve Greenhut, Western region director for the R Street Institute, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Some worry that it is too heavy-handed. Nevertheless, it’s a welcome shift from the drug war in a state where marijuana flourishes any way.”
The other states with recreational marijuana legalization on the ballot are proposing similar possession laws to California and 10 to 15 percent sales taxes. (RELATED: Support For Marijuana Legalization Highest In Nearly 50 Years)
Polls indicate a majority in support of legalization in Maine, Massachusetts and California, while public opinion in Nevada is split at roughly 50 percent support. The ballot measure in Arizona promises to be the closest vote, with recent polling showing roughly 48 percent approval, reports Reason.
“The topline number [in the Gallup poll] obviously bodes well for the marijuana measures on state ballots next month,” Tom Angell, an activist with Marijuana Majority, told Business Insider. “But what gives me even more hope are the demographic breakdowns showing just how strongly young people support ending prohibition.”
Roughly 77 percent of adults aged 18 to 34 support legalization, according to Gallup. For people aged 55 and older, support has increased by 16 percent in the last decade to reach 45 percent. Recent studies showing legalization does not lead to higher teen smoking rates and is linked with reduced opioid abuse has contributed to the growing support.
Florida, Arkansas, Montana and North Dakota are voting on medical marijuana legalization, but polls show less support on the issue. Support in Arkansas, Montana and North Dakota sits somewhere around 45 percent, and experts are not certain which way these votes will go.
Florida appears likely to pass legalization, with roughly 70 percent approval throughout the state. Florida came close to legalizing medical marijuana in the 2014 election with a majority of residents voting yes on the ballot, but state law requires the ballot to pass with at least 60 percent support before it can become law.
Record national support is giving marijuana activists hope for victories this election year and in the future. Many states are following the example of California, which means a push for national legalization could come next.
Legalization nationwide would rake in $28 billion in annual federal and state revenue, according to a study by the Tax Foundation.
“I think there will be moves in Washington following Nov. 8 to change federal law,” Dale Gieringer, with the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, told the Daily Tarheel. “The people are well ahead of the government on this issue.”