California, Nevada approve recreational marijuana; Arkansas voters support medicinal use
California and Nevada have joined the growing list of states that have voted to approve the use of recreational marijuana.
It was one of nine states considering measures Tuesday that would have expanded legal use of the drug. A recreational marijuana initiative also passed in Massachusetts, setting it up to be it the first east coast state to light up.
Earlier, Florida approves marijuana use for medicinal purposes.
A medical marijuana amendment passed in Arkansas, but one of its critics said he will continue to fight it in the state legislature.
"A clever and grossly misleading advertising campaign funded by the marijuana industry deceived enough people into voting for a measure that is recreational marijuana masquerading as medicine," Family Council President Jerry Cox said in a statement.
Legalization has been consistently popular with the public in polls in recent years, with support at 60 percent in the latest Gallup poll, but many state legislatures and the federal government have resisted.
California's vote means recreational cannabis will be legal along the entire West Coast, giving the legalization movement powerful momentum. That could spark similar efforts in other states and put pressure on federal authorities to ease longstanding rules that classify marijuana as a dangerously addictive drug with no medical benefits.
In general, the proposals for recreational pot would treat cannabis similar to alcohol. Consumption would be limited to people 21 or older and forbidden in most public spaces. Pot would be highly regulated and heavily taxed, and some states would let people grow their own.
The Massachusetts measure, for example, was opposed by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, which contributed $850,000 to the "no" campaign.
In Maine, opponents included some major players in the medical marijuana industry who worried about disruptions to their business model. In Arizona, the issue evoked uncertainty about how legalization might affect the flow of smuggled illegal drugs across the border with Mexico.
The proposal sowed deep division among marijuana advocates and farmers. In Northern California's famous Emerald Triangle, a region known for cultivating pot for decades, many small growers have longed for legitimacy but also fear being forced out of business by large corporate farms.
They were joined by more traditional voters who opposed legalization on moral grounds.
"I'm against it because you're going to get more and more problems if you legalize it," said Joanne Hsu, 86, a lifelong Republican from Walnut Creek who also voted for GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.
If "yes" votes prevail across the country, about 75 million people accounting for more than 23 percent of the U.S. population would live in states where recreational pot is legal. The jurisdictions where that's already the case — Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington state and the District of Columbia — have about 18 million residents, or 5.6 percent of the population. Twenty-five states allow medical marijuana.