Marijuana Legalization Expands, Though Future Remains Uncertain

On Election Day, voters in nine states considered marijuana-related ballot initiatives. Eight of those measures passed.

California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada approved the legalization of recreational marijuana use. Arizona failed to legalize recreational use, with 52 percent of voters voting against it.

Florida, North Dakota and Arkansas passed medical marijuana initiatives. Montana passed a measure to expand medical marijuana use.

In total, 29 states and the District of Columbia allow for the medical or recreational use of cannabis.

“This represents a monumental victory for the marijuana reform movement,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, in a statement.

Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States. According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 44 percent of people aged 12 or older reported using cannabis at least once in their life. Nearly 53 percent of people aged 18 to 25 reported lifetime use of the drug.

However, marijuana remains illegal under federal law. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration classifies cannabis as a Schedule I substance, the same category as heroin, Ecstasy and LSD.

Clinton Voters Largely Supported Legalization in California

Hillary Clinton backers, African-Americans and voters aged 18 to 29 strongly supported the legalization of recreational marijuana use in California.

A poll conducted by SurveyMonkey found that 68 percent of Clinton supporters voted for Proposition 64, California’s measure that allows people 21 and older to possess, transport, buy and use up to an ounce of cannabis for recreational purposes. The measure also allows individuals to grow as many as six cannabis plants and permits retail sales of the drug.

Fifty-nine percent of President-elect Donald Trump voters opposed the measure.

Sixty-four percent of African-American voters, 58 percent of whites and 56 percent of Latino voters supported the initiative. Sixty-six percent of voters aged 18 to 29 voted for the measure. However, just 49 percent of people aged 50 to 64 supported the initiative.

“If Hillary Clinton had won, this would have been the grand slam that everyone in the industry had been hoping and praying for for years,” Chris Walsh, editorial director of Marijuana Business Daily, told CBS News. “With Trump coming in, no one knows what’s going to happen.”

Trump Administration and Marijuana Reform

In 1990, Trump told the Miami Herald that the United States should legalize all drugs and use the tax revenue to educate Americans about the dangers of drug use. More recently, he has said marijuana legalization should be decided by the states.

However, an administration conservative on drug policy could threaten further legalization efforts.

Nadelmann expressed concern over a Trump administration that may include former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and. Nadelmann says these politicians and Vice President-elect Mike Pence could derail legalization efforts.

“There are various ways in which a hostile White House could trip things up,” Nadelmann told The Washington Post.

During his presidential run, Christie said he would enforce federal laws that would ban recreational marijuana use. Giuliani said during a 2007 town hall meeting that he opposed any form of marijuana legalization.

As the governor of Indiana, Pence lobbied against efforts to reduce punishments for low-level marijuana crimes. In fact, the Hoosier State has some of the strictest cannabis laws in the nation.

Dr. Kevin Sabet, co-founder of anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, said a cabinet of Giuliani, Christi and Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions could spell doom for marijuana reform.

“Everything is up in the air right now,” he told NBC News.

Tom Angell, chairman of drug policy reform group Marijuana Majority, does not expect Trump to interfere with existing state laws.

Angell told The Huffington Post that state marijuana laws are supported by a majority of voters, and efforts to reverse legalization would present unnecessary problems to the administration.