November Elections Could See One Quarter of Americans Free From Marijuana Prohibition

(Photo: Global Panorama; Edited: LW / TO)(Photo: Global Panorama; Edited: LW / TO)

One in four Americans may soon be living in places where marijuana is fully legal, thanks to state ballot initiatives this November.

California, Massachusetts, Arizona, Maine and Nevada will all be asking voters next month whether to end prohibition on the recreational consumption of cannabis.

Polling in all states but California indicate the outcome of the referenda will be close, according to an article published Thursday by The Hill. Voters in the Golden State — the first jurisdiction in the country to legalize medicinal marijuana — appear to back legalization by more than twenty points.

According to studies cited in a 2014 Congressional Research Service paper, the pretax price of cannabis is expected to drop in California by between 50 and 80 percent, in the event of full legalization.

“This price reduction would suggest a price of $100-$150 per ounce on average,” CRS said, while noting excise taxes would likely see retail prices much higher than that.

Medical sales last year in California at $2.7 billion accounted for nearly half of all legal marijuana transactions in the country, as The New York Times noted in April.

Close polling, however, doesn’t necessarily bode well for legalization advocates in Massachusetts, Arizona, Maine or Nevada.

“If the pro-legalization side is not at 55 percent at this point, it will likely lose,” said Sean Noble, a Republican strategist and prohibition advocate in Arizona. “We know that polling on legalization generally over performs actual results.”

In the past few years, voters have approved of recreational marijuana in Colorado, Washington, the District of Columbia, Alaska, and Oregon.

Despite the fact that medicinal cannabis is legal in 25 states and Washington, DC, the Drug Enforcement Administration earlier this year refused to remove it as a Schedule I controlled substance.

The decision means the federal government still officially considers cannabis to have no medicinal applications: as dangerous as heroin and cocaine, and more dangerous than Schedule II opioids that cause tens of thousands of annual fatal overdoses.

Drug scheduling also became the subject of controversy in late August, when the DEA fully banned kratom, an herbal opioid substitute.

The move, however, has not yet taken effect, though it was supposed to on Sept. 30. DEA officials are reportedly delaying enforcement and rethinking the move, after coming under significant public pressure. Dozens of lawmakers in the House, both Democrats and Republicans, asked the White House last week to stop the kratom ban on procedural grounds, noting that the DEA had not held a public comment period.