Which States Legalized Recreational Weed On Election Day? 2016 Could Be A Turning Point

A man rolls a joint during a demonstration demanding the approval of the use of marijuana for medicinal and recreational purposes in front of the Mexican Senate building in Mexico City on September 28, 2016. / AFP / PEDRO PARDO (Photo credit should read PEDRO PARDO/AFP/Getty Images)
Source: PEDRO PARDO/AFP/Getty Images

Now that Election Day is almost over, we are faced with voting results that extend far beyond our newly elected president. For several states, this election carried the possibility of marijuana legalization. That now begs the question, which states legalized recreational marijuana on Election Day? So far, California is leading the charge.

A total of five states were voting on bills that would legalize recreational weed, including Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, and California. It's crucial to make the distinction that all five of those states previously legalized medical marijuana, and the voting on Nov. 8 was to make it legally possible to buy and smoke or consume weed without getting a medical prescription or meeting a dude wearing a homemade shirt in the back room of a house party. At the time of writing, early results in Arizona indicated the legalization would not pass. Massachusetts did legalize recreational weed. It was too early to call at the time of writing, but Maine and Nevada were leaning towards recreational marijuana approval.

Before the Election Day results, recreational weed was already legal in five U.S. states: Washington, Colorado, Alaska, Oregon and Washington D.C., so theoretically, if all five recreational bills passed into law, you could legally light up in one-fifth of all states. Besides altering the economies and lifestyle options for people living in those states, the growth of individual states with legalized recreational weed could push the government to lift the federal marijuana prohibition, which would dramatically reverse the way weed has been penalized since the first marijuana regulation in 1937.

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Obviously, the legalization of recreational weed all five states would be the preferable outcome for marijuana activist groups, as well as many looking for a shift in drug policy. 

Much of the marijuana legalization attention has fallen on the shoulders of the state of California. While the large scale use of medical marijuana was legalized in California in 1996 under Proposition 215, recreational weed has remained illegal. Since California voters unanimously supported  Proposition 64 and successfully green-lit the use of recreational weed, the growth of the cannabis industry may very well immediately balloon. According to a report from CNBC published in September, which used data from the analysts at Cowen and Company, the national marijuana industry would triple in size if California signed in Prop. 64, with the industry grossing an estimated $50 billion by the year 2026.

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While California was in many ways the focal point of the five states voting on weed, prior to the election, the red state of Arizona was the most divided on their support of recreational weed. According to Ballotpedia, voters were pretty evenly split on Arizona's Proposition 205, with a recent average of polls showing support for recreational marijuana at 45.74 percent with opposition at 45.56 percent and as many as 8.7 percent of Arizonans polled undecided. 


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