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Activists Hopeful Marijuana Ballots Will Spark Nationwide Reform

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Marijuana reform activists are expecting victories in a number of states this election year, but say California is the key to legalization nationwide.

Voters in five states will decide on ballots that legalize marijuana for recreational use, which could legalize the drug for nearly 60 million people across the country. Support for marijuana legalization is at a record high, and reform advocates are hopeful this will translate into ballot victories on election day. Many of the ballots hold majority support but the fight remains tight in two states, reports Bloomberg.

National reform advocates are focused on Proposition 64 in California, which holds nearly 60 percent support in the state. The ballot would allow anyone over 21 to possess one ounce of Marijuana and grow up to six plants in their home, with a 15 percent tax on any sales. Experts say that California often serves as the national model for legislative reforms.

“If this passes in California, and particularly if it passes in the other four states, it’s lights out for marijuana prohibition,” Troy Dayton, CEO of The Arcview Group, told Bloomberg. “There’s a whole swath of investors that have been looking in Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska and saying ‘okay, interesting,’ but when California passes, that’s going to be go time for a lot of people.”

Legalization in California, which approved medical marijuana in 1996, would open up marijuana access to the state’s 39 million residents and potentially rake in $1 billion in annual revenue. Critics of legalization are fearful over the impact on public health, and claim the push is purely motivated by profit.

“The thrust of these initiatives is not personal liberty and social justice, it’s really money,” Jeffrey Zinsmeister, with the anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, told Bloomberg. “It’s an addiction-for-profit model that’s being sold to voters.”

Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada also have recreational legalization on their ballots with similar possession laws to California and 10 to 15 percent sales taxes. Legalization is polling above 50 percent in Maine, Massachusetts and California, however public opinion in Nevada is split at roughly 50 percent support. The ballot measure in Arizona promises to be the closest vote, with recent polling showing roughly 48 percent approval.

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