Marijuana Legalization on the Ballot in Five States

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Source: Matthew Kenwrick, “Leaf on Black,”, Mar. 2, 2009

On Election Day, Nov. 8, 2016, voters in five states – Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada – will decide whether or not to legalize marijuana. Each of these measures would allow adults to possess up to one ounce of marijuana (up to 2.5 ounces in Maine) and grow up to six marijuana plants. All five states currently have legalized medical marijuana.

California is seen by many as a tipping point for marijuana legalization, with proponents saying that if the state legalizes marijuana, then the rest of the country will follow. Four states have already legalized marijuana: Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington.

An Oct. 2016 Pew Research Center poll shows that support of marijuana legalization is at 57%, up from 12% in 1969. Gallup reports that 13% of Americans use marijuana. The trends are driven largely by Millennials (18-35 years old), of whom 71% support marijuana legalization, compared to the Silent Generation (71-88 years old), of whom 33% support marijuana legalization, according to Pew.

Evan Nison, Board Member of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), stated, “We do have an historic amount of initiatives on the ballot, which signals the trends that are happening. I think we’ll almost for sure get California, which is going to be huge. I think we’ll get Maine, which will be the first legal state on the East Coast.”

Roger Morgan, Founder and Chairman of the Take Back America Campaign, stated that marijuana is “an illegal drug by federal standards for good reason.” He outlined opponents’ environmental concerns: “We already have over 50,000 illegal outdoor cultivation sites [in California] that are destroying our natural resources. The fertilizers and pesticides used are polluting the ground and the water table… It’s an environmental disaster, aside from the fact that today’s high potency marijuana is extremely harmful [to users].”

The 2016 presidential candidates vary on marijuana legalization. Hillary Clinton, Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, and Donald Trump are all pro medical marijuana, while Johnson and Stein are also pro marijuana legalization.

Medical marijuana is already legal in 25 states and would grow to 28 if ballot initiatives in Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota are passed. Medical marijuana initiatives were proposed but did not make the 2016 ballots in Missouri, Michigan, or Oklahoma. The ballot measure in Oklahoma was approved for later ballot inclusion, likely 2018.


Andrea Noble, “Marijuana Initiatives on Ballot in Record 9 States Despite Fed’s Firm Stand,”, Aug. 14, 2016

AP, “9 States to Vote Soon on Expanding Legal Access to Marijuana,”, Sep. 28, 2016

Elizabeth Chuck, “These Nine States Will Vote on Legalizing Recreational and Medical Marijuana,”, Oct. 14, 2016

Paul Elias and David Crary, “Marijuana Legalization 2016: A Glance at 9 States with Pot Measures on the Ballot,”, Sep. 28, 2016

Abigail Geiger, “Support for Marijuana Legalization Continues to Rise,”, Oct. 12, 2016

Trevor Hughes, “Voters Will Consider New Marijuana Rules in Nine States,”, Oct. 13, 2016

Jeffrey M. Jones, “In U.S., 58% Back Legal Marijuana Use,”, Oct. 21, 2015

Marijuana Policy Project, “Medical Marijuana Initiative Makes Ballot,”, July 21, 2016

Alicia Wallace, “Definitive Guide to Marijuana on the 2016 Ballot: Recreational and Medical Initiatives,”, Oct. 14, 2016