By Emily Ledger
Although election day in the USA is understandably widely characterised by the Presidential race, voters are also called upon to have their say on a wide range of other appointments and initiatives. In recent years, these initiatives have increasingly featured cannabis – and this election is no exception.
As votes continue to be counted, it seems that voters in four states – Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota – have supported movements to legalise recreational cannabis! Voters in South Dakota and Mississippi have also opted for the legalisation of medical cannabis.
If these preliminary results are confirmed once all the ballots are counted, 15 states (plus Washington D.C.) will have legalised the adult use of recreational cannabis. This means that a third of Americans now live in a state where recreational cannabis is legal. A total of 35 states have now legalised the medical use of the drug.
Arizona voters have so far voted 60% to 40% in favour of Proposition 207, which will legalise the recreational use of cannabis. A similar initiative was rejected by voters in the last election four years ago.
Voters in Montana also passed legalisation by a significant margin, with 57% in favour and 43% in opposition. However, New Jersey has perhaps seen the biggest support for legalisation, with a potential 67% of voters agreeing that recreational cannabis should be legalised. In comparison, only 33% of votes opposed initiative I-190.
South Dakota was the only state with both medical and recreational cannabis on the ballot. The state has become one of the first to legalise both initiatives at the same time, with most opting to allow medical use before recreational. Voters have so far announced a 53% to 47% majority in support of recreational cannabis legalisation and 69% to 31% in favour of medical access.
Finally, voters in Mississippi appear to have overwhelmingly supported a medical cannabis legalisation initiative, with over two thirds in favour.
While more states continue to take a more liberal approach to cannabis, federal laws still prohibit the drug for both medical and recreational purposes. Yet, the subject has become increasingly prominent in candidates’ election campaigns with Democrat candidate Bernie Sanders vowing to legalise cannabis at the federal level.
However, the final Democrat candidate, Joe Biden, has taken a slightly less dramatic approach, opting for the decriminalisation of some cannabis offences.