5 States Voting to Legalize Marijuana

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Saguaro arizona
Source: Thinkstock

1. Arizona
> Ballot name: Arizona Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act
> Amount decriminalized: N/A
> Max. fine for less than 2 lbs: $150,000
> Pct. adults using in past year: 13.5%

Currently, penalties for marijuana possession in Arizona are among the most severe in the country. Arizona is the only state where a person possessing any amount of marijuana can face felony charges. In addition, possession can lead to a two-year prison sentence and up to a $150,000 fine.

Despite the draconian laws, Arizona may well be the next state to legalize recreational marijuana. State voters submitted more than enough petition signatures to the Secretary of State in late June to include a ballot initiative to end marijuana prohibition and effectively regulate the drug in a manner similar to alcohol. If passed, the provision, known as Proposition 205, would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana. A report released by the state’s Joint Legislative Budget Committee estimates that legalizing marijuana would generate $82 million in additional tax revenue annually.

Ventura County, California
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2. California
> Ballot name: Adult Use of Marijuana Act
> Amount decriminalized: 28.5 g or less
> Max. fine for 28.5 g or less: $100
> Pct. adults using in past year: 14.4%

California voters have said no to legalizing recreational marijuana use multiple times: first in 1972 and again in 2010 but by a much slimmer margin. This year may be different, as voters will, again, be given the opportunity to overturn marijuana prohibition. Proposition 64, commonly referred to as the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, would legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana. Proponents say the proposition will save state and local governments tens of millions of dollars in enforcement of marijuana laws and potentially bring in more than a billion dollars in tax revenue annually. Recent polls suggest Proposition 64 will easily pass.

Despite some early defeats for marijuana reform groups, the state has historically had a relatively progressive attitude towards pot. California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger decriminalized possession of less than an ounce of marijuana in October 2010.

Portland Fishing Harbour at Sunset, Maine
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3. Maine
> Ballot name: Marijuana Legalization Act
> Amount decriminalized: 1.25 oz or less
> Max. fine for 1.25 oz or less: $600
> Pct. adults using in past year: 19.8%

Historically, Maine has been among the states leading the campaign for marijuana reform. Possession of small amounts of pot has been decriminalized in the state since the mid 1970s, and Maine voters legalized the drug’s medicinal use in 1999. In November 2014, Portland became the first city on the East Coast to legalize recreational marijuana use. City voters overwhelmingly passed a law allowing adults 21 and over to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana. Voters statewide will have the opportunity to pass a similar law for the rest of the state this November. Proponents of the Marijuana Legalization Act, known as Question 1, argue that ending prohibition will make communities safer and raise millions of dollars in tax revenue.

As in many other states potentially on the brink of legalizing, marijuana use is relatively common in Maine. Nearly one in five adults in the state have used marijuana in the past year, a larger share than in all but three other states.