Legalized Marijuana a Big Winner of U.S. Election

Article by Tamsin McMahon, The Globe and Mail

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Marijuana was one of the winners of an otherwise bitterly divisive presidential election campaign, as voters in several states voted to support measures that would permit some legal use of the drug.

Legalized marijuana was the most common among a raft of ballot measures – 162 in 35 states – on policy issues ranging from gun control to the death penalty.

Voters in three of the most populous states – California, Florida, Nevada and Massachusetts – backed plans to relax marijuana laws. Voters in California, Nevada and Massachusetts supported legalizing marijuana for recreational use, while Floridians supported measures to expand the number of conditions that can be treated with medical marijuana.

Early results also showed support for legalizing recreational marijuana use in Maine, even as Arizona voters appeared poised to reject the idea. North Dakota backed support for medical marijuana, with preliminary returns showing support for similar proposals in Arkansas and Montana.

Pot stocks have surged in the past three months as investors predicted the election would significantly boost support for legalized marijuana, according to the Marijuana Index, a benchmark that tracks North American publicly traded stocks that are tied to the industry. Public opinion on the issue has changed swiftly. A Gallup poll last month showed 60 per cent of U.S. adults support legalizing marijuana, up from 44 per cent in 2009.

California became the first U.S. state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996. But it has only been in recent years that states have begun to allow residents to possess or grow small amounts of the drug. Colorado and Washington became the first to vote to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012.

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