Healing Cannabis series in every My Herbs issue. On November 8, voters in the United States will choose a President and Vice President for the next four years, the 435 members of the House of Representatives for two years, and 34 of the 100 members of the Senate for six-year terms. In addition, many other officials will be elected in the 50 states and thousands of municipalities.

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Healing Cannabis series in every My Herbs issue

Series about the healing properties of cannabis

Technically, there are no “national” elections in the United States. Even the President and Vice President – the only American national-level elected officials – are chosen in 50 simultaneous state contests. Voters in the states choose those top offices and other officials at all levels of government, and sometimes they also vote to institute or change some specific laws. In nine states, laws to make marijuana legal for some purposes will be on the November ballot.

MEDICAL USE

SUBSCRIBEMarijuana sale, possession, and use has been illegal by national law in the United States since 1937. In 1996, California made the use of cannabis legal for medical use with a doctor’s prescription, defying the national prohibition. Twenty-four states plus Washington DC now permit some medical use, even though those state-level laws conflict with federal laws still in effect, putting national and state law-enforcement officials in opposition and creating legal ambiguity. Despite the initiatives listed below, there’s no prospect of an early resolution to that clash of national versus state policy.

Four states (Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota) are voting on medical-marijuana issues next month. (Montana has gone back and forth on the question, approving an initiative in 2004 that was virtually invalidated by the legislature in 2011.)

RECREATIONAL USE

Only four states and Washington DC have gone beyond medical use and authorized the possession and use of marijuana in small amounts for any purpose, policies that are clearly against federal law but are tolerated at this time. Voters in five additional states (Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada) will vote in November whether to add their states to that number.

PROSPECTS

Some of the nine states are likely to pass their proposals on November 8; indeed, many of them seem to have good prospects, given the rising public approval of legalizing cannabis use. A recent national survey found a record high of 60% of Americans now support it, a dramatic and recent change. Still, that approval varies greatly from state to state, so election results are not easy to predict. In any event, although the trend seems to be toward liberalization, American laws will continue to vary from state to state and between the states and the federal government for years to come.

Text by Edward Johns

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