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UPDATED: These 6 States Voted to Legalize Marijuana

November 9, 2016, 2:57 AM UTC
Boston Freedom Rally
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This story has been updated to add voting results from additional states.

The big question on most Americans’ minds Tuesday was whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton would be the nation’s next president, but voters in nine states also had a big decision to make regarding marijuana legalization.

When polls closed on Election Day, Florida led the pack, voting to legalize marijuana for medical purposes. North Dakota and Arkansas also later approved their own medical marijuana ballot measures. Meanwhile, California, Massachusetts, and Nevada voters approved measures to legalize recreational marijuana in those states, while Arizona rejected a similar measure. Maine’s vote on recreational pot was still close to call early Wednesday morning, though The New York Times reported that the “yes” vote had a narrow lead.

In total, five states (Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada) had asked voters to decide on ballot initiatives that would legalize marijuana for adult-use, or recreational purposes. Four more states (Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota) voted on legalizing medical cannabis.

Going into Tuesday’s election, a total of 25 states had already legalized medical marijuana, while recreational pot is already legal in four states—Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington—as well as the District of Columbia. After Tuesday’s voting, roughly 20% of the U.S. population will now live in a state where recreational marijuana is legal.


The next steps for the states that voted “yes” on their respective ballot measures will vary, as regulators in each state will likely spend several months deliberating on the specific framework for a legal marijuana market.

For instance, various regulatory delays in Alaska forced the state to wait nearly two years for its first legal recreational cannabis sales, which came last month, after voting to legalize in Nov. 2014. In Colorado, the regulatory process took a little over a year before the first legal recreational pot sales in Jan. 2014.

California’s vote Tuesday likely had the greatest implications for the burgeoning legal marijuana industry, adding the state’s more than 38 million residents to an already rapidly growing legal pot market. Recent polls suggested roughly 60% support for the ballot to legalize recreational cannabis in California, which legalized medical marijuana two decades ago and already sees an estimated $2.7 billion from legal medical pot sales. (California’s ballot measure ended up passing with support from 56% of voters.)

Cannabis industry research firm ArcView Group estimates California could generate $6.5 billion in annual revenue from legal cannabis by 2020, while the U.S. industry overall could reach nearly $22 billion in annual sales by that point.

Of course, marijuana remains very much illegal on the federal level, though the Obama Administration has typically allowed individual states to freely regulate the drug in accordance with voters’ wishes. It will be interesting to see how the federal government’s policies change, if at all, once Donald Trump enters the White House. Trump has expressed general support for states’ rights to legalize medical marijuana in the past, but has not exactly taken a definitive stance on the issue.