Where Weed Is Now Legal

California hopes it is fueling a broader movement, yet opponents say, 'Not so fast'

As California goes, so goes the country.

The old saying may hold true on many things, but whether it does on recreational marijuana remains to be seen. Opponents of mass legalization as well as many law enforcement authorities, health experts, and addiction specialists hope that’s not the case. Here’s why:

Out of the five states voting on legalizing recreational use, two approved the measure.

Out of the five states voting on legalizing recreational use on Tuesday, three approved the measure. California, Massachusetts, and Nevada will be moving to full-scale legalization. The measures failed in Arizona, Maine.

Opponents of the measures say it was a tough fight — they were outspent in both states that approved legalization — but the loss wasn’t wholly unexpected.

“Despite having gained considerable ground in the last few weeks, the out-of-state interests determined to make money off legalization put in too much money to overcome,” said Dr. Kevin Sabet, co-founder of SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana), assistant professor of psychiatry and director of the Drug Policy Institute at the University of Florida, in a statement late Tuesday night.

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Related: The Risks of Recreational Weed

“This is the beginning of the conversation, not the end,” he added. “We will travel to California tomorrow to sit down with stakeholders — and Massachusetts soon — and discuss next steps. Legalization has a long and winding road to implementation and we will be working with localities to ensure they know their rights and obligations to protect their citizens from pot shops, candies, and advertising.”

Voters in four additional states were looking to either legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes or ease restrictions on existing laws. Florida and North Dakota were the only two to approve legalizing medicinal use; measures in Arkansas and Montana both failed.

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The measure in Florida, by the way, needed more than 60-percent support to prevail. The “yes” vote makes it the first state in the South with a full-scale medical marijuana program, the Associated Press reported. There are 25 states with current legalized medicinal use, while four others have legalized recreational marijuana. Supporters are predicting California’s win will pressure federal officials to remove the drug from a Schedule I classification.

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