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Legalized Marijuana Wins Big on Election Night

American voters seem united on at least one thing this election season: Legalized marijuana.

Nine states had measures for either medical or recreational marijuana usage on Tuesday’s ballots, including California’s Prop. 64 legalizing recreational marijuana for adults.

Early in the evening, Prop. 64 won a majority vote (51%) in the state. Massachusetts and Nevada also voted to legalize recreational marijuana resoundingly. Though the vote in Maine is still being tallied, “Yes” votes are in the lead. Arizona voters voted against legalizing recreational use. 

Prop. 64 will allow adults over the age of 21 to possess a small amount of marijuana legally, grow up to 6 plants and purchase cannabis at retail stores. It also creates a structure for taxing, permitting and regulating the cannabis industry from seed to sale. The Drug Policy Alliance says California could reap up to $1.4 billion from legal sales.

Florida, Arkansas and North Dakota have reached majority votes approving medical marijuana usage. In Montana, restrictions on medical marijuana have been rolled back.

The vote means that 28 states now allow medical marijuana, and eight have legalized recreational marijuana. It also means the entire West Coast — California, Oregon and Washington — have legal recreational cannabis use. All of this despite the fact that marijuana is still considered a Schedule 1 Drug and illegal under federal law.

President Obama recently said that California’s recreational legalization will force feds to look at re-categorizing cannabis as a medically prescribable drug or even legalizing marijuana nationally.

What does it all mean, and how will these laws roll out? With Colorado as a solid roadmap, along with California’s backbone of existing medical marijuana policies all eyes are on the Golden State for leadership. Locally, Sonoma County has already begun the process of creating a business structure for what looks to be a wave of interest in the gateway to the Emerald Triangle.

But don’t look to see immediate results. Without an existing structure for the testing, distribution and retail permitting for recreational marijuana the state is months, if not years away from a system to support adult recreational usage. Meanwhile, medical marijuana will continue to be the only legal way to purchase cannabis.

As one NPR pundit said after votes were tallied in the presidential race, “We’re stepping into the abyss,” which seems a fitting considering the many yet-to-be-answered questions about the legalization of marijuana. At least in some states, however, adults will be able to enjoy the ride.