Drug legalization makes big gains with voters

Drug legalization makes big gains with voters
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PEORIA, Ariz. — Voters in six states and the District of Columbia approved measures that will broaden the availability of previously illicit drugs for recreational or medical use on Tuesday in an across-the-board win for legalization advocates.

In Arizona, almost 60 percent of voters approved Proposition 207 to legalize the use of recreational marijuana, and to allow adults over the age of 21 to possess up to six marijuana plants in their homes.

In Montana, a legalization measure passed with more than 56 percent of the vote. More than two-thirds of New Jersey voters approved Question 1, which will amend the state constitution to allow recreational marijuana use. South Dakota voters approved measures seeking both medical and recreational use of marijuana; the medical measure passed by a wide margin, while legalization passed by a slimmer 53 percent to 47 percent margin.


And Mississippi voters approved Initiative 65, which would allow the use of medical marijuana to treat about two dozen specific conditions. Nearly three-quarters of voters opted for the initiative language submitted by legalization proponents over a watered-down version approved by the legislature. 

“It's clear that marijuana is not a partisan issue when voters in blue, red and purple states all overwhelmingly vote to legalize on the same day,” said Tom Angell, editor of Marijuana Moment, a news site that tracks marijuana policy. 

Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota will join 11 other states where recreational marijuana use is legal. Fourteen of those 15 states have approved legalization at the ballot box; only Vermont, where Gov. Phil Scott (R) allowed a legalization bill to become law this year without his signature, has acted through the legislature. 

Voters in Oregon passed a first-of-its-kind measure legalizing the use of psilocybin mushrooms, regulated through the state Health Authority. Mushrooms will be decriminalized in Washington, D.C., after voters passed an initiative there by a wide margin

Oregonians also passed a measure decriminalizing possession of drugs including heroin, cocaine and methamphetamines. Possession will now be a misdemeanor punishable only by a $100 fine.

Marijuana legalization advocates in particular hope the new measures, and their broad acceptance from voters, could signal a changing approach to drug policy reform through Congress — though the prospects of a Republican-controlled Senate likely dim those hopes.


“Regardless of who ends up winning the White House and control of the Senate, politicians are no longer going to be able to ignore the fact that embracing this issue puts them on the side of a majority of voters, and that bodes well for reform on the federal level sooner rather than later,” Angell said.