It seems like an understatement to say that last week's national election results were shocking, though perhaps not in Deschutes County, where more voters cast their ballots for Trump versus Clinton. One result that was not shocking, however, was the continued spread of legal cannabis across the nation.
Recent national polls show that approximately 60 percent of American voters support legalizing cannabis, a solid majority that has only emerged in the last decade. And that preference was reflected in the election results, which have various national media outlets referring to the vote as a "landslide victory" and a "national tipping point" on cannabis.
In the largest vote on cannabis in American history, voters legalized recreational cannabis for adults 21 and over in four of the five states where the question was on the ballot, as well as in all four states where the question of medical cannabis was on the ballot. Recreational cannabis is now legal for 68 million Americans, or about 21 percent of the population. The number of recreation-legal states doubled, to eight (plus DC). And medical-legal states are now the majority, at 28 (again, plus DC).
The biggest change comes in California, where adults in the world's sixth-largest economy will now be allowed to possess up to an ounce of cannabis or 8 grams of concentrate and to grow up to six plants in their home. "Proposition 64 will allow California to take its rightful place as the center of cannabis innovation, research, and development," said a triumphant Nate Bradley, executive director of the California Cannabis Industry Association.
The new law imposes a 15 percent sales tax on recreational cannabis, and an additional tax on commercial growers. The recreational market is expected to generate over $1 billion in new tax revenues for the state, and many voters in exit polls said they voted for the measure for the tax benefits alone. The law also allows Californians to have their criminal records changed or eliminated and jail sentences reduced.
And cannabis will soon be another "sin" allowed in Sin City, but like what happens in Vegas, it too will have to stay in Vegas. As in California, Nevadans will be able to buy recreational cannabis in stores, will have to pay a 15 percent sales tax, and will only be able to consume cannabis in private. That privacy restriction likely will not allow consumption in hotel rooms, so expect to smell pot wafting around the streets of Las Vegas, as it does currently in cities like Denver, Seattle and Portland. Nevadans will also be able to grow up to six plants at home, but only if the home is more than 25 miles away from a licensed store.
Cannabis made a big step forward in the east as well, with voters in Massachusetts and Maine approving recreational cannabis. Only Arizona rejected recreational cannabis, narrowly.
Arkansas became the first Bible Belt state to legalize medical cannabis. Voters in Florida set the record for the highest approval of medical cannabis, with over 70 percent of voters approving of legalization. Voters in the unlikely states of Montana and North Dakota also approved medical marijuana.