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A man smokes a marijuana joint at a party celebrating weed Wednesday, April 20, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Will marijuana be legal for a quarter of Americans tomorrow?


Bernie Sanders supporters are telling the internet 'I told you so'

WATCH | The two sides of the marijuana debate give us their take the marijuana ballot measures.

There are nine marijuana ballot initiatives on the ballot in states across the country. A 350 percent increase from 2008 when there were only two marijuana initiatives. 

Five of the initiatives  would legalize the sale of marijuana for recreational use. The other four pertain to medical marijuana. If all the measures pass, medical marijuana would be legal in 28 states, and the sale of marijuana for recreational use would be legal in nine states, meaning that nearly a quarter of Americans live in states where they can buy weed. 

Marijuana legalization, both for medical use and for full legalization, is simply far more popular than two years or four years ago.
Keith Stroup, founder NORML

Why has everything changed so quickly?

Four years ago, weed wasn't legal anywhere in the U.S. But attitudes toward the drug have been changing, prompting more votes on marijuana. 


In 2006, Pew found that 32 percent of Americans thought weed should be legal. Today, that number stands at 57 percent. Gallup found similar results, in 2005, 35 percent of people supported legalizing weed. Today, 58 percent support it. 

Where it could be legal

Voters in Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada could legalize marijuana.

Stroup's pro-marijuana group, NORML, thinks that the measures in four out of the five states will be successful. He considers Arizona a toss-up. 

Kevin Sabet, president and CEO of SAM, an anti-marijuana group, thinks that it is difficult to predict but he considers three states tossups. In Arizona, he expects the measure will fail while in California he thinks it will succeed.

The crown jewel California

If weed becomes legal in California, that means more than 39 million people would have access to marijuana-- more than the population of the Netherlands, the famous drug tolerant country. Stroup sees that has the beginning of the end for pot foes. 

“I think once we win California, and I think we're going to win more than California, I think it's a tipping point. I think there simply is no going back," Stroup told Circa.

I think the pendulum will swing back against legalization,
Kevin Sabet

But Sabet doesn't see pot being legal in California as the end for anti-marijuana supporters. 

"When people realize there could be a marijuana store in their own community... they're much less likely to want to vote for this because it sounds great in theory, but no one wants a pot shop in their backyard,” Sabet told Circa.

Backlash to legalizing marijuana

Some communities are pushing back against legal weed. In Pueblo, Colorado, where weed is legal, there is a ballot measure to ban the sale and farming of marijuana. 

And since pot is still illegal federally, the next president could choose to prosecute marijuana growers, sellers, and users in states that have legalized marijuana-- effectively nullifying all these laws.

Medical Marijuana

The other four states with marijuana on the ballot are Florida, Arkansas, Montana, and North Dakota. In all of those states, except for Montana, voters could legalize medical marijuana. 

Both Stroup and Sabet see medical marijuana as a stepping stone to full legalization. "They're usually stepping stones to full legalization," Sabet said. "Medical marijuana laws have historically been passed, in the beginning, to soften people's attitudes towards marijuana."

FILE - In Aug. 19, 2015 file photo, Canna Care employee John Hough waters young marijuana plants at the medical marijuana dispensary in Sacramento, Calif. From California, with its counterculture heritage, to the fishing ports and mill towns of Maine, millions of Americans in nine states have a chance to vote Nov. 8 on expanding legal access to marijuana. Collectively, the ballot measures amount to the closest the U.S. has come to a national referendum on the drug. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

Stroup is not overly confident about medical marijuana passing except for Florida where the Sunshine state will join the 25 other states that have medical marijuana. He thinks opinions in the conservative states don't support people using marijuana.

If marijuana has medicinal components, let's get it in a pharmacy.
Kevin Sabet

Sabet is against putting medical marijuana on the ballot. He believes the FDA should determine its medical use. 

"We want medical marijuana to happen through the FDA, through the scientific process," Sabet said.

In Montana, voters could ease existing medical marijuana regulations. 

Either way, what's next?

Whether or not voters decide they want weed to be legal at the ballot box, 2016 won’t be the end of this debate. NORML has its sights set on pushing for weed to be legal in all fifty states by pushing the federal government to end their prohibition on the drug. SAM, will continue fighting to stem the growth of legalized weed by supporting localities who, like Pueblo, Colorado, are trying to ban the sale and growth of drug.

WATCH | For more news you need, check out our 60 Second Circa.


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