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Dank Depot/Flickr/CC BY 2.0
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Hillary Clinton May Have Lost, But Marijuana Won Big On Election Day

Picture of Nadia Elysse
US Editorial Team Lead
Updated: 9 November 2016
Even if you watched the election day results in horror Tuesday night, there may be some tiny bits of reprieve in the state by state outcomes. In the United States, election day isn’t just about choosing a president. Americans vote on smaller, more local initiatives as well. For marijuana advocates and enthusiasts this year’s election was pretty monumental. A total of five states voted on recreational marijuana legalization measures Tuesday. With recreational cannabis use on the line, here’s everything you need to know about where marijuana won big and where it lost.

“November 8 is the most important day in the history of the marijuana legalization movement,” Tom Angell, chairman of drug policy reform group Marijuana Majority, told The Huffington Post ahead of election day. “The stakes couldn’t be higher. Big wins will dramatically accelerate our push to finally end federal marijuana prohibition, perhaps as soon as 2017. But on the other hand, huge losses could interrupt the momentum we’ve been building for the last several years.”

The momentum he speaks of is quite impressive. At the federal level, those in favor of marijuana legalization across the U.S. have faced fierce opposition. Consequently, many turn to their home states in hopes of making progress locally. Over the last few years it seems to be working. Currently, four states and Washington, D.C. have legalized marijuana for more than just medicinal use. And support for recreational use is growing.

Photo courtesy of Tony Webster/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Photo courtesy of Tony Webster/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

“The legalization of pot in Washington, Oregon, D.C., and the other decriminalized states is an excellent indicator of marijuana’s bright future,”Anthony Franciosi, founder of Honest Marijuana Company, told Culture Trip. “Not only is each new legalized state another tally mark towards prohibition ending, but it will also help support the declassification of marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug.”

Schedule 1 drugs are those that are believed to provide no substantial medical benefit compared to the possible harm they can cause individuals who use them. Heroin, MDMA, and LSD are all classified as Schedule 1 drugs by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). So, the thinking goes, placing marijuana under the same classification as highly addictive drugs like heroin and party drugs like MDMA hurts the progress of the marijuana legalization movement.

Maine, Massachusetts, California, Nevada, and Arizona all had non-medicinal marijuana on the ballot. California was probably the most significant of the states to legalize recreational marijuana, simply because it’s the country’s most populous state. Arizona was the only state to strike it down. In a statement to Culture Trip, Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, glowed at the progress made Tuesday night. He acknowledges that Arizona may take another two to four years to catch up to its counterparts in other states, but remains hopeful that President-elect Donald Trump will not interfere with legalization and decriminalization at the state level. 

“President-elect Trump has clearly and repeatedly pledged to respect state marijuana laws, and we fully expect him to follow through on those promises, not only because it is the right thing to do, but also because these reforms are broadly supported by a growing majority of voters,” Angell told us. “Reversing course and going against the tide of history would present huge political problems that the new administration does not need.”


So, while the election results left many shocked and confused, it was a great night for supporters of marijuana legalization. States that’ve already embraced the marijuana industry have seen a marked increase in revenue and tourism. Maine, Massachusetts, California, and Nevada stand to see that same kind of boom.

“When you give the American people the opportunity to speak their minds on cannabis, the results are overwhelming,” said Joel Milton, CEO of Baker. “Regardless of political convictions or personal consumption habits, Americans realize the benefits of ending the war on prohibition […] As we trend towards national participation, it is time for the Federal Government to end their antiquated position on cannabis prohibition.”