In California, l’erba è legale Marco Crestani
SAN FRANCISCO — California, Massachusetts and Nevada legalized marijuana on Tuesday in what advocates said was a reflection of the country’s changing attitude toward the drug.
Leading up to the election, recreational marijuana use was legal in four states: Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington, along with Washington, D.C.
With the addition of California, Massachusetts and Nevada, the percentage of Americans living in states where marijuana use is legal for adults rose above 20 percent, from 5 percent.
Representative Earl Blumenauer, Democrat of Oregon and a supporter of legalization, said Tuesday’s votes would add to the pressure on the federal government to treat cannabis like alcohol, allowing each state to decide on its own regulations.
“The new administration is not going to want to continue this toxic and nonproductive war on drugs,” Mr. Blumenauer said.
The federal government’s ban on the drug precludes the interstate sale of cannabis, even among the states that have approved its use. But Tuesday’s votes created a marijuana bloc stretching down the West Coast, and Gavin Newsom, the lieutenant governor of California, said he saw an opportunity for the states where recreational marijuana is now legal to “coordinate and collaborate” on the issue, including applying pressure in Washington to relax the federal ban.
A Gallup poll in October found nationwide support for legalization at 60 percent, the highest level in the 47 years the organization has tracked the issue.
Support is rising even though some public health experts warn that there have been insufficient studies of the drug’s effects and that law enforcement agencies lack reliable tests and protocols to determine whether a driver is impaired by marijuana.
Supporters in California portrayed legalization as both a social justice and a criminal justice issue, saying the measure would help redress the disproportionate numbers of arrests and convictions among minorities for drug crimes.
“I think of this victory in California as a major victory,” said Lauren Mendelsohn, the chairwoman of the board of directors of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, a group that has campaigned against the government’s war on drugs. “It shows the whole country that prohibition is not the answer to the marijuana question.”
Ms. Mendelsohn spoke at a celebration in Oakland for the passage of Proposition 64, as California’s legalization measure was known.
Supporters of legalization in California vastly outspent opponents.
The California measure, which passed with 56 percent approval, allows people over 21 to possess limited amounts of marijuana for personal use and also permits the personal cultivation of up to six plants in private residences, provided they are shielded from public view. The sale of recreational marijuana will not be allowed until licenses are issued, a process that will take at least two years, said Steve DeAngelo, the founder of Harborside, a medical marijuana dispensary in Oakland.
California officials expect additional tax revenue of around $1 billion from marijuana sales. The revenue is earmarked for the study of medical marijuana, for the California Highway Patrol to develop procedures to determine driver impairment due to marijuana consumption, for youth education on drugs, and for the prevention of environmental damage from marijuana production, among other programs.
Support for legalization in California cut across all age groups except voters over 65, according to a Field poll released on Friday. Among those older voters, 42 percent were in favor, and 57 percent were against.
A large majority of Republicans in the poll, 65 percent, were against the measure, compared with 72 percent support among Democrats.
Support has been rising steadily since the 1960s, when only around 10 percent of California adults favored legalization, according to a 1969 Field poll, and legalization was the culmination of decades of campaigning by proponents. A measure to decriminalize marijuana in 1972 was soundly rejected in California, with 66.5 percent of voters opposed to it. In 1996, California voted to allow medical marijuana. But a 2010 measure to permit recreational use failed.
In addition to Tuesday’s votes on recreational marijuana, Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota had medical marijuana initiatives on the ballot. All four passed the legislation.
LOS ANGELES — The marijuana legalization movement scored its biggest victory yet Tuesday as voters in Massachusetts, California and Nevada approved recreational pot, making the drug fully legal in the nation’s most populous state and giving it a toehold in the densely populated Northeast.
The outcome of the vote in Maine, which also was considering recreational marijuana on the ballot, remained undecided early Wednesday.
Voters in Florida, North Dakota and Arkansas approved medical marijuana measures.