Across the country, voters have spoken, and they are embracing marijuana. In California, Florida, and even North Dakota, measures to legalize recreational or medical marijuana have passed handily.
In Florida, voters have moved decisively to legalize medical marijuana, a significant cultural shift from just two years ago when an almost identical measure failed to pass the 60 percent threshold to become a constitutional amendment.
In California and Massachusetts, voters went even further, voting to legalize recreational cannabis use for anyone over the age of 21, thereby joining Colorado, Washington, Washington, D.C., Oregon, and Alaska — all states where recreational marijuana is legal.
In all, nine states had marijuana-related initiatives on the ballot, and along with California, Massachusetts, Arizona, Maine, and Nevada each voted on whether to legalize recreational cannabis.
Each ballot measure was expected to pass, except for perhaps in conservative North Dakota — where no polling was done — though it now seems clear that the initiative to legalize medical marijuana there has also passed.
In Florida, while the amendment, known as Amendment 2, will not legalize the recreational use of marijuana, it is considered among the widest-ranging of medical-marijuana legalizations. It specifies that doctors may prescribe cannabis to treat disorders like PTSD, HIV, and cancer, but also includes language that gives doctors discretion to use marijuana to treat other ailments that they feel are of comparable severity.
While many expected the amendments to pass, they did face stiff — and well-funded — opposition. In Florida, for example, the measure was opposed by the likes of Republican fundraiser Mel Sembler and Las Vegas casino mogul and right-wing power-player Sheldon Adelson.
Florida now becomes the only southern state with any degree of legalized cannabis, and along the entire West Coast weed has been legalized.
Floridians shouldn’t light up just yet. The Florida Department of Health has until July to pass new regulations, and the state won’t start registering growers and dispensaries until October.
Still, it appears that the tide has turned in favor of marijuana nationwide.