BY C.M. WATTS
Election 2016 is proving to be a huge tipping point in ending marijuana prohibition throughout the United states as four more states passed medical cannabis legalization initiatives.
Residents of Florida, Arkansas, North Dakota, and Montana voted to pass ballot initiatives to legalize the medical use of cannabis. They now join a total of 21 states with medical cannabis access.
“Last night was a historic victory for the movement to legalize medical cannabis and provide safe, legal access for patients who are in critical need of medical cannabis for therapeutic uses,” said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans of Safa Access (ASA). The ASA is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research.
Florida moved beyond their small CBD-focused program to a system of doctor-approved access and cannabis centers with Amendment 2. Arkansas also passed a marijuana amendment through.
“With Arkansas joining Florida as the 27th and 28th medical cannabis states, 2016 marks the year the comprehensive medical cannabis programs were established in the South,’ Sherer said. By passing the initiatives as amendments, both states ensure that it is highly unlikely for the action to be repealed.
Montana and North Dakota represent the grassroots work that goes into passing legislation through. Although Montana legalized medical cannabis in 2004, the entire program halted and was nearly impossible to work. This passing of Initiative 182 undoes these issues and once again brings medical cannabis access back to patients.
“The passage of North Dakota Medical Marijuana Legalization (Measure 5) was perhaps the biggest surprise for patient advocates in 2016,” says Sherer. “The grassroots initiative received little national funding or attention, yet managed to pull off an impressive victory to become the 29th state with a comprehensive medical cannabis program.”
Recreation marijuana also passed in California, Massachusetts, Maine, and Nevada. This November now brings legal marijuana to the majority of the country, as 28 states and Washington D.C. have all passes recreational or medical initiatives. “Ending the prohibition against the adult use of marijuana is now the mainstream view,” stated reform philanthropist George Zimmer.
In regards to recreational laws, Sherer said, “But as the states move forward with implementing the adult use programs, they must be careful to preserve their medical programs and resist the temptation to merge the medical and adult-use programs.
“While most of the 2016 adult-use ballot measures contain provision to preserve their state’s medical program, patients must be vigilant to ensure that state officials preserve the independence of both programs.”
Here’s a comprehensive list of the measures that passed on Tuesday.