Marijuana advocates scored a number of substantial ballot victories in the middle of the country on Election Day, chief among them the legalization of recreational marijuana in Michigan, which becomes the 10th state in the nation to approve recreational use of the drug.
“Michigan will be the first state in the Midwest to end marijuana prohibition and replace it with a system in which marijuana is regulated for adult use,” said Marijuana Policy Project deputy director Matthew Schweich, who directed the legalization campaign, in a statement. “Adults will no longer be punished for consuming a substance less harmful than alcohol, and rather than having to resort to the illegal market, they will be able to access it safely and legally from licensed businesses.”
The results in Michigan follow the opening of recreational marijuana markets in Canada and the repeal of marijuana prohibition in Mexico. With the addition of Michigan, nearly 80 million Americans — 25 percent of the total U.S. population — live in a state or jurisdiction that has legalized recreational marijuana. The most recent polling by Gallup shows that two-thirds of American adults support legalization of the drug.
In deep-red North Dakota, on the other hand, voters overwhelmingly rejected an unusual bill that would have legalized marijuana without setting any possession limits or regulatory structure. The outcome in North Dakota underscores Republican skepticism of legalization — in the Gallup survey just 53 percent of Republicans nationwide said they supported marijuana legalization, compared with 71 percent of independent voters and 75 percent of Democrats.
“Tonight, parents can sleep easy knowing their children won’t wake up to more marijuana use in their schools,” said Luke Niforatos, senior policy adviser to Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a group that opposes legalization. “The sensible, wonderful people of North Dakota have rejected marijuana commercialization in their state.”
Elsewhere on the ballot Tuesday, voters in Missouri approved one out of three medical marijuana measures up for consideration, avoiding a potentially messy fight over which measure would go into law if multiple passed. Missouri’s Amendment 2 allows doctors to recommend marijuana for a number of medical conditions. Patients would be able to obtain the drug either through a dispensary or by growing it at home.
Meanwhile, as of this writing, a medical marijuana measure in Utah is leading 54-46 with 56 percent of precincts reporting. That comes after supporters and opponents of the bill struck a deal with Utah’s governor to call a special section of the legislature to write a compromise bill regardless of whether the measure passed. Supporters of the bill agreed to the compromise because lawmakers in Utah are able to overturn ballot propositions with a simple majority vote.