Voters Pass Ballot Measures to Legalize Recreational Marijuana Use in Two States

Marijuana is weighed and packaged for sale at the Northwest Patient Resource Center medical marijuana dispensary, in Washington State. Credit: AP

Early voting returns show that Colorado and Washington will become the first two states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Non-medical marijuana has been decriminalized in several states while remaining illegal and prosecuted federally, but the ballot measures passed by voters in these two states Tuesday will make marijuana in small amounts a legal commodity for adults, with sale and production regulated by the state.

Oregon had a similar ballot measure Tuesday that would legalize marijuana, but The Oregonian reports that measure is failing.

In Colorado, Amendment 64 will regulate marijuana like alcohol, allowing adults 21 and over to posses small amounts of the substance. With over 40 percent precincts reporting, Colorado 9News has called Amendment 64 passed. The Seattle Times reports that Washington voters have voted to pass Initiative 502. The Washington Initiative would allow adults over 21 to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, 16 ounces of solid marijuana-infused products or 72-ounces of marijuana-infused liquid, but only if they are legally purchased through a state-licensed store. Capitol Hill Seattle reports that the provision would also create a framework for taxing marijuana legally, and allow for DUI prosecutions of drivers whose blood contains more than 5 nanograms per milliliter of active THC metabolites.

A Public Policy Polling survey released Monday showed that 52 percent of Coloradans support the amendment, with 44 against. With the amendment’s passing, marijuana would be available at marijuana centers in Colorado where an excise tax will be applied of up to 15 percent on wholesale sales. The first $40 million of that each year would be directed towards public school construction, according to KREXTV. The Denver Post reports that campaigns fighting for and against the measure had raised nearly $4 million this election season, and seventeen states had efforts to put a marijuana legalization measure on the ballot in 2012, with just three succeeding.