Article by Elisabeth Garber-Paul, Rolling Stone
There are plenty of things to be scared about during Donald Trump’s presidency: who he’ll nominate to the Supreme Court, the potential gutting of the Affordable Care Act, whether he’ll further strip women of their bodily autonomy and the treatment of millions of Muslim citizens, just to start.
While it may seem like a sad second prize in the wake of an election that could potentially roll back decades of American progress, for those paying attention to a few state referenda, there was some good news Tuesday night: California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts each passed laws to make recreational use of marijuana legal for adults, while North Dakota, Arkansas, Montana and Florida each voted in new (or, in Montana’s case, improved) medical marijuana bills. (The only state to have a referendum on the ballot that did not pass was Arizona, where opponents spent an impressive $6 million on campaigns largely based on misinformation.)
Though it remains to be seen if Trump has a mandate from the people, it seems clear that these successful referenda represent, at the very least, a mandate on marijuana policy. Not only did eight of the nine initiatives pass, they passed at much higher margins than most had expected. “We were surprised not so much in the victories as the spread,” says Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, an anti-prohibition advocacy group. Tvert points in particular to the 71 percent of Florida voters who approved the most robust medical marijuana program the South has ever seen. Erik Altieri, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), agrees. “This is clearly no longer a regional issue confined to the West Coast,” Altieri told Rolling Stonein an email. “But an American one.”
And it’s true. Twenty-eight states plus Washington, D.C., now offer some form of medical marijuana, while eight (plus D.C.) offer full recreational legalization as well. The latest polls suggest upwards of 60 percent of Americans support full legalization, while an impressive 89 percent believe pot should be available for medical use. And the overwhelming approval of the referenda on Tuesday proved that voters are willing to support marijuana at the polls.
Many people predicted that the referenda would go through – especially California’s all-important Prop 64. But the hope was this surge in state programs might finally mean a push at the federal level, where marijuana is still classified by the DEA as a Schedule I drug – alongside heroin and LSD – meaning it has no recognized medical use, and is highly illegal. Clinton’s campaign had said that she was open to it being moved to Schedule II, meaning it would be available for federal medical testing. But with her upset this week, what will happen to marijuana policy in America?