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Lawmakers keep saying no, but Americans keep saying yes to legal marijuana.
The results are in, and five more states — Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota — are either introducing or expanding legal weed programs, and the results weren't particularly close.
By a 68%-32% margin, voters in Mississippi approved the creation of a medical marijuana program for their state. Then, by a 74%-26% margin, they chose a much stronger constitutional amendment that will allow medical pot for more than 20 qualifying conditions, allow individuals to possess up to 2.5 ounces at a time, and tax the sale of cannabis at 7%.
That amendment was approved over a tepid alternative offered by state legislators, which limited medical marijuana use to only terminally ill patients and given medical professionals much greater oversight over patients using the drug. Better luck trying to subvert public opinion next time, guys!
South Dakota voters also approved, 69%-31%, creating a medical marijuana program for those with a "debilitating medical condition." Patients will be allowed to possess up to 3 ounces of medical marijuana or grow a minimum of three plants at home, or more if a doctor orders it.
Not content to stop at medical marijuana, South Dakotans also voted, 53%-47%, to let all adults 21 and older toke up by authorizing recreational weed. Local governments will have the opportunity to ban commercial cultivation and sales, but people who live in those locations will be able to grow up to three plants.
Voters in Arizona (60%-40%), New Jersey (67%-33%), and Montana (57%-43%) all voted to expand on existing medical marijuana programs to legalize recreational weed for all adults. Arizona's measure also allows people with certain marijuana convictions to petition for an expungement of their records.
As with all marijuana legalization amendments, lawmakers or regulators working at state agencies will fill in the details. This will include covered medical conditions, permits for farms and retail operations, and standards for driving under the influence.
And do not rush to start your little home-based growing operation yet! These laws do not take effect immediately, and in some states, they do not go into effect on January 1, either. This means recreational marijuana is still illegal in Montana, Arizona, South Dakota, and New Jersey, and medical marijuana is still illegal in Mississippi and South Dakota.
And governments in states and localities where citizens overwhelmingly vote to approve marijuana (if 5% can be a landslide for the popular vote, what do we call the marijuana margins?) like to drag their feet on setting up programs. So don't be surprised if the same thing happens where you live.
But at some point, lawmakers are going to finally have to reckon with the fact that marijuana is now fully illegal in only seven states when you include states that have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of the drug. While the American people can't agree on much these days, when it comes to getting high, we are united.