Marijuana legalization: California, Nevada, Florida voters say yes but Arizona rejects
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- California voters approved a proposition to allow the recreational use of marijuana Tuesday as other states, including Nevada and Florida, expanded legal access to the drug.
California voters passed a ballot measure to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, giving a big boost to the campaign to end the drug's national prohibition. A preliminary exit poll conducted for The Associated Press and television networks by Edison Research found Proposition 64 passing by a wide margin.
Voters in Florida, Arizona, Nevada and North Dakota have also passed marijuana measures Tuesday. Collectively, it's the closest the U.S. has ever come to a national referendum on marijuana.
California, the first state to approve medical marijuana two decades ago, was among five states weighing whether to go beyond medical use and permit pot for adults for recreational purposes. The other states were Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada.
With California "yes" vote, recreational cannabis will be legal along the entire West Coast, giving the legalization movement powerful momentum. That could spark similar efforts in other states and put pressure on federal authorities to ease longstanding rules that classify marijuana as a dangerously addictive drug with no medical benefits.
In general, the proposals for recreational pot would treat cannabis similar to alcohol. Consumption would be limited to people 21 or older and forbidden in most public spaces. Pot would be highly regulated and heavily taxed, and some states would let people grow their own.
With 94 percent of precincts reporting, the Sunshine State's Amendment 2 passed with 71 percent of the vote. Critics of Amendment 2 feared its passage would lead to pop-up dispensaries with little supervision. But supporters said it's a necessary treatment for a wide variety of conditions from seizures to PTSD to cancer.
In order to pass, the initiative needed 60 percent of the vote since it was proposing a constitutional amendment. In 2014, it got 57.6 percent of voters' approval.
State-by-state polls showed most of the measures with a good chance of prevailing. But staunch opponents that included law enforcement groups and anti-drug crusaders urged the public to reject any changes. They complained that legalization would endanger children and open the door to creation of another huge industry that, like big tobacco, would be devoted to selling Americans an unhealthy drug.
Arizona voters rejected legalized recreational marijuana following a multimillion-dollar campaign to defeat it. Proposition 205 failed Wednesday after opponents poured millions into fighting recreational pot for adults in the conservative state on the border with Mexico.
The measure drew donations from local businesses and out-of-state magnates such as casino owner Sheldon Adelson, who contributed $500,000.
Supporters of legal pot said it would have eliminated black markets, freed up police and raised money for K-12 schools.
Opponents said legalization would increase drug trafficking because growers in Arizona can sell to states where it's illegal. They warned of an increase in teen use and deadly car crashes tied to marijuana.
In Nevada, the approval by voter of Ballot Question 2 means Nevada residents can possess up to an ounce of pot beginning Jan. 1. A 15 percent excise tax will be levied on the sales, with revenue going to regulate the substance and support education.
Local governments will be allowed to make rules on where marijuana businesses can be located, but won't be allowed to impose blanket bans on the substance.
Nevada voters legalized medical marijuana on the ballot in 2000, but it wasn't until 2013 that the state Legislature passed a law allowing for dispensaries.
Under the new law, only business that have medical pot certificates will be allowed to apply for recreational licenses for the first 18 months.