Recreational Marijuana is also on the Ballot Today
Most Americans are focussed on their vote for President today, but five states are also voting on the legalization of marijuana. Citizens in Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada will decide whether the plant can be legally consumed recreationally, not just for medical purposes. Arkansas, Florida and North Dakota are voting on whether to allow medical marijuana only, and voters in Montana are deciding changes to their current medical marijuana system.
Studies have shown that the recreational use of the substance is essentially harmless to the fully developed adult brain, so long as there are no underlying mental health issues. If Proposition 64 passes in California, adults aged 21 and over will therefore be permitted to freely buy and use the drug at their own leisure, so long as they are in their own homes, outside or permitted by property owners. Legal growers will be taxed and 15 percent will be added to sales, continuing the large boost to the economy already seen in the state.
If Proposition 205 passes in Arizona citizens will be allowed to grow up to six pot plants on their own property and possess up to 1 ounce of the green stuff in its finished form.
In spite of Maine Governor LePage calling weed legalization "deadly" for pets and children and claiming it will lead to harder addictions, residents will be voting on Question 1, which would see a 10 percent sales tax and full recreational use allowed. The only catch is that consumption is not permitted in public places and must take place in private.
It's Question 4 is Massachusetts, which would again see a 21 year old age limit along with a large 10 ounce possession limit. Nevada are voting on a similar "Initiative to Regulate and Tax Marijuana" called Question 2.
On top of clear medical benefits, those in favor of legalization are keen to point out the economic advantages. Earlier this year 2,000 jobs were created in Oregon off the back of legal weed, while frontrunner Colorado created 18,000 jobs in 2015. The estimated benefit to Colorado's economy sits at around $2.4 billion, and despite Governor Lepage's insistence that legalization resulted in more road deaths, a new report from the Drug Policy Alliance suggests otherwise. Furthermore there were no significant increases found in youth marijuana consumption, and other research suggests a decrease in opioid usage in states that have legalized weed.
While these states wrestle with their own regulations, federally marijuana is still classed as an illicit substance with no medicinal value. This hasn't stopped it being the number one recreational drug of choice among the population. In the past three years the number of adults who have smoked pot has nearly doubled according to a Gallup poll this summer. Pew Research recently found that 57% of US adults believe the use of marijuana should be made legal, while 37% say it should be illegal.
If legal weed does continue to prevail across the country, we might finally be on the road to ending the wider "War on Drugs", which has destroyed far more lives than marijuana - whether that be from incarceration, police violence, black market related violence, or the negative social stigma forced upon users.
Interestingly the one thing both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton agree on is that marijuana regulation should be a state's issue and that medical use is a positive thing. "There's some great evidence about what marijuana can do for people who are in cancer treatment, who have other kind of chronic diseases, who are suffering from intense pain," Clinton told Jimmy Kimmel in March. "There's great, great anecdotal evidence but I want us to start doing the research."
"In terms of marijuana and legalization, I think that should be a state issue, state-by-state," Trump told the Washington Post. "Medical? I'm in favor of it a 100 percent," he expressed to Bill O'Reilly last year.
It's Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson that goes the full nine yards, championing full legalization for recreational use and happily admitting that he smokes pot himself - though not during his White House bid.
Is marijuana an important issue for you this election and which side do you fall?