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With November 8th in the rear-view mirror, we thought it worthwhile to discuss the outcome of the polls with regard both medical marijuana and the legalization of recreational use. In the shadows of one of the most disheartening elections in American history, it is easy to lose sight of legislation happening on the state level. In California, voters decided on a number of important topics, from trying minors as adults to the repeal of the death penalty; now judges, not prosecutors decide which minors are tried as adults and there will be a shorter appeal process for death penalty cases.

Yet, many Californian voters are most pleased to hear that adult marijuana use is now legal. Just, twenty years after California became the first state to approve the use of marijuana for medical problems, it is now one of eight states where it is legal for people over the age of 21 to use the controversial drug. Recreational cannabis use is now legal in:

  • Alaska
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Maine (still counting, with “Yes” in the lead)
  • Massachusetts
  • Nevada
  • Oregon
  • Washington

Before voters went to the polls earlier this week, there were 25 states and the District of Columbia that had medical marijuana programs. There are now 28 states with addition of Florida, North Dakota and Arkansas. More than half of the United States has adopted medical marijuana and almost ten states have legalized the drug; surely this is a trend that is not going to change.

With California legalizing cannabis, many believe that it is the tipping point that will lead to the end of the federal prohibition. While most would agree that prohibition has done little good, lawmakers need to work hard in the states where the drug is legal to ensure that teens do not have misconceptions about the drug. Adolescents need to be made aware that:

  • Legal, does not mean safe.
  • Marijuana can be addictive.
  • The drug has been linked to the development of psychiatric problems.

Naturally, not everyone is thrilled about legalization. Former Rep. Patrick Kennedy tells The Washington Post:

“It’s disappointing that big marijuana and their millions of out-of-state dollars were able to influence the outcome of these elections. We will continue to hold this industry accountable, and raise the serious public health and safety issues that will certainly come in the wake of legalization.”