For people fighting for the legalization of marijuana as a remedy for the mass incarceration of people of color, November 8, 2016 was actually a good day.
California voters passed Proposition 64, a law being touted by advocates as the gold standard for marijuana legalization because it reinvests money into communities most damaged by the war on drugs. Under Prop 64, adults 21 and older can buy, use and share up to one ounce of marijuana and eight grams of concentrate for recreational purposes. They may grow up to six plants at home. In addition, people under 18 will no longer be prosecuted for marijuana offenses and their existing records will be expunged automatically. Adults who are in jail for certain marijuana offenses can now petition for immediate release and request to have their records wiped clean. And through a community-based distribution system, the state will reinvest $50 million into mostly Black and Latinx neighborhoods that have been impacted most severely by drug war.
Massachusetts also voted yes to a recreational marijuana measure, Question 4. The state decriminalized possession of an ounce or less of weed in 2008. Yesterday’s vote makes it legal for adults 21 and older to possess up to 10 ounces and grow up to 12 plants at home. Marijuana retail stores will likely open in the state in early 2018. According to the ACLU of Massachusetts, which supported the measure as a remedy for racialized mass incarceration, Black people were arrested for weed possession more than three times as often as White people in the state in 2014 [PDF].
At press time, with more than 90 percent of votes counted, it appears as if Maine passed Question 1, which allows people age 21 and over to have up to an ounce of marijuana and grow six plants at home. Maine will also allow licensed social clubs to sell weed. Arizona (Proposition 205) and Nevada (Question 3) also passed measures allowing possession of one ounce of marijuana for personal use and the cultivation of six plants.
Arkansas (Issue 6) and North Dakota (Initiated Statutory Measure 5) legalized marijuana for medical use yesterday. Florida (Amendment 2) broadened the range of illnesses eligible for marijuana treatment. Medical marijuana has been legal in Montana for 12 years. By approving I-182 yesterday voters repealed a law that prohibited doctors from treating more than three patients with marijuana. Doctors will also be able to hire people to grow, dispense and transport marijuana.
Some measures don’t kick in automatically. Please read your state’s new statutes carefully before you buy, grow or consume marijuana.