NJ.com- Voters from California, Nevada and Massachusetts passed ballot initiatives legalizing marijuana on Tuesday, expanding the lucrative market to the nation's most populous state and the northeast while creating greater momentum supporters say will end the drug's prohibition.
Marijuana legalization advocates on Wednesday cautioned that a Trump administration may interfere with these laws, citing Gov. Chris Christie's pledge to do so when he was a presidential candidate. Christie is leading Trump's transition team.
Donald Trump's victory a Republican-controlled House and Senate "suggest there are various ways for the federal government to throw a wrench in the works," Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance said in a conference call with reporters. "Momentum is strong, the wind is at our back, but it is not a lock."
Voters in Maine also were on track to approve similar legislation, but less than 10 percent of the votes still needed to be counted Wednesday.
Legalization fell short in one state: Arizona.
In all, roughly 25 percent of the nation now will live in a state where recreational marijuana is legal, supporters estimated. Recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older is already legal in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Washington, D.C.
"This represents a monumental victory for the marijuana reform movement," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, an advocacy group that has raised money to help the referenda pass. "With California's leadership now, the end of marijuana prohibition nationally, and even internationally, is fast approaching."
Support is building slowly for legalizing marijuana in New Jersey, as well, as lawmakers consider the revenue windfall and the jobs it could create.
Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Union) has pledged to introduce a bill before the end of the year, with the hope of the next governor signing it into law in 2018. Gov. Chris Christie's outspoken opposition to legalization has killed its chances of passage, but his term ends in January 2018.
New Jersey proponents of legalizing marijuana say the success in other states will help the Garden State effort.
"This shows I have been ahead of the game and the state has been behind," Scutari said. "You can see from these results there is appetite to get it legalized."
"You see the progressiveness and open-mindedness of people," Scutari added. "I hope we can get this done in the next year or so."
Drug policy activists have championed the cause by pointing out the failures of the drug war and how it led to mass incarceration of minorities.
The sale, possession and use of marijuana remains a federal crime. But public sentiment has favored legalization since Colorado and Washington state voters passed ballot initiatives in 2013. That year, support for legalization reached a majority for the first time at 58 percent, according to a Gallup poll.
Support for legal pot reached 60 percent this year, according to Gallup.
Wealthy donors like former Facebook president Sean Parker, cannabis advocacy groups like the Drug Policy Alliance and the growing marijuana industry plowed $18 million into promoting Proposition 64 in California. Opponents such as casino magnate Sheldon Adelson spent $2 million, according to Ballotpedia.
Voters in Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota also approved ballot questions allowing marijuana to be used for medicinal purposes.
Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority noted now more than half of all states in the nation have sanction medical marijuana programs.
"This is a major tipping point: With Florida's decision, a majority of states in the U.S. now have laws allowing patients to find relief with medical marijuana, and these protections and programs are no longer concentrated in certain regions of the country like the West and Northeast," Angell told The Daily Beast.