LOS ANGELES (AP) — California and Massachusetts voters approved measures allowing recreational marijuana Tuesday, handing the legalization movement a huge victory in the nation’s most populous state and giving it a toehold in the densely populated Northeast.
Voters in seven other states also considered proposals to expand legal access to the drug, which is still forbidden by the federal government.
A preliminary exit poll conducted for The Associated Press and television networks by Edison Research showed the proposal passed handily in California.
California’s vote makes the use and sale of recreational cannabis legal along the entire West Coast and gives legalization advocates powerful momentum. Massachusetts is the first state east of the Mississippi to allow recreational use.
The victories could spark similar efforts in other states and put pressure on federal authorities to ease longstanding rules that classify marijuana as a dangerously addictive drug with no medical benefits.
“I’m thrilled,” said Northern California marijuana grower Nikki Lastreto. “I’m so excited that California can now move forward.”
California was the first state to approve medical marijuana two decades ago. It was among five states weighing whether to permit pot for adults for recreational purposes. The other states were Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada.
Florida, North Dakota and Arkansas approved medical marijuana measures. Montana voted on whether to ease restrictions on an existing medical marijuana law.
In general, the proposals for recreational pot would treat cannabis similar to alcohol. Consumption would be limited to people 21 or older and forbidden in most public spaces. Pot would be highly regulated and heavily taxed, and some states would let people grow their own.
State-by-state polls showed most of the measures with a good chance of prevailing. But staunch opponents that included law enforcement groups and anti-drug crusaders urged the public to reject any changes. They complained that legalization would endanger children and open …read more