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California approves recreational marijuana, Florida OKs medicinal use

By Stephen Feller
California approves recreational marijuana, Florida OKs medicinal use
Marijuana continued its slow growth of legalization as voters in California and other states approved recreational use for adults and several states, including Florida, approved marijuana for medicinal uses. Pictured, a patient smokes medicinal marijuana in the San Francisco Patients Cooperative in 2005 in San Francisco, not long after California legalized it for medical use. File photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Nov. 8 (UPI) -- Two of the most significant votes on marijuana -- for recreational use in California and medicinal use in Florida -- were approved with large margins, and voters said yes to some measure of legality in a number of other states where it was on the ballot.

Initiatives for recreational use appeared to be on the way to approval by voters in Nevada and Massachusetts, but 52 percent of voters in Arizona voted down the initiative.

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In Maine, the legalization initiative is close to approval with a more than 3,000-vote lead -- 50 percent is needed for passage -- but 2 percent of precincts have yet to report.

Florida and Arkansas became the first states in the South to approve medicinal marijuana, and both Montana and North Dakota did the same.

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In total, voters in 25 states and Washington, D.C., have now legalized marijuana either medicinally or recreationally. While marijuana is still considered illegal by the federal government, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Drug Enforcement Agency refused to move it out of schedule 1 drug consideration to allow for research and legal use in states that have approved it, advocates say Tuesday's election results suggest change may come sooner than later.

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"This represents a monumental victory for the marijuana reform movement," Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a statement. "With California's leadership now, the end of marijuana prohibition nationally, and even internationally, is fast approaching."

The California vote is considered to be the most significant of all nine initiatives as the state is often considered a bellwether for the rest of the country. California's approval of recreational marijuana also means the entire west coast of the United States has legalized consumption of the drug.

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The feeling among advocates, both for wider use of marijuana in medicine and for full legalization, is that the California approval could help push other states to do the same and may change the national conversation on marijuana, which is still considered illegal by the federal government.

Of states voting for medicinal marijuana, Florida was considered the most likely to pass, despite narrowly failing in 2014. Polls before the election suggested up to 80 percent of the state supported the initiative, and nearly that much voted to make the Sunshine State the first in the South to legalize the drug for medical use.

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