The 2016 election is once-in-a-lifetime, but not only because of the presidential race. This year could be the tipping point—one way or the other—in the fight over marijuana legalization.
Recreational marijuana is already legal in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon, and possession has been decriminalized in Washington, D.C. Medical marijuana is accessible in an additional 20 states. But on Tuesday, four more states will vote on medical marijuana legalization and five—Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada—will vote on legalizing the sale and use of recreational pot.
For marijuana activists, the future is now. Gallup has been asking Americans about marijuana since 1969, and in that time, support for legalization has grown from a mere 12 percent to 58 percent.
If these initiatives succeed, over half of the states will have legal marijuana of some form or another, and nearly 25 percent of the population will live in a place where carrying marijuana won’t result in an automatic arrest.
The vote for legal marijuana is considered a particularly big deal in California, because of its position as the most populous state in the nation, and Arizona, which is home to some of the harshest marijuana legislation in the country. For example, Arizona is the only state to still categorize first-time possession charges as felonies, with a maximum penalty of 18 months in jail and $150,000 in fines.
So what will it mean if your state makes the jump to legalized recreational marijuana on Tuesday?
All five state ballot initiatives would allow adults over the age of 21 to carry an ounce of marijuana, with the exception of Maine, which would allow a whopping 2.5 ounces. Adults would also be able to grow between 6 and 12 marijuana plants in their residence, depending on their state and contingent on their landlord’s permission.
On funding, each ballot initiative is different. Arizona and California would both levy a 15 percent excise tax on marijuana sales to fund the laws’ implementation and enforcement, with any excess revenue being funneled into education, drug prevention and treatment, and more. Nevada would also adopt a 15 percent tax, but it would be applied to cultivators rather than directly to consumers. Maine’s tax would only be 10 percent, and Massachusetts’ would only be 3.75 percent state-wide, with an option for cities and towns to levy an additional 2 percent.
Despite all the potential changes that could take place, some laws remain the same. It would still be illegal in every state to drive under the influence of marijuana, and these potential new laws will have no effect on an employer’s policy on marijuana use. It is also important to remember that, although marijuana could be legal at the state level, it is still a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance at the federal level. So long as state regulations prevent marijuana from crossing state lines or falling into the hands of minors, the government has promised not to intervene, but the potential effects of the ongoing federal ban on marijuana include difficulties for marijuana cultivators securing investments and loans, marijuana consumers purchasing pot with a major credit card, and federal employees and contractors.
More important than your decision to vote for or against marijuana legalization is your decision to make an informed vote. Do your research and then turn out on November 8.
Elisabeth is a caring, dog crazed bookworm. When not swamped with school, she enjoys traveling to new places, working at dog day cares or pestering people to give her new books to read.