In historic votes on Tuesday, residents in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, DC, voted to legalize marijuana. But the measures won't take effect immediately, as they need to work through some final procedural hurdles to become law.
Today's election already means millions of Americans will be able to legally possess, use, and likely buy marijuana in the near future. But Alaska, DC, and Oregon residents shouldn't light up the joints just yet.
Can I legally smoke and buy marijuana in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, DC, right now?
Legally and without a medical card, no. Each state varies on how it handles ballot initiatives, but the measures very rarely take effect immediately. Marijuana legalization is no different. Here are some quick visual guides for each successful ballot initiative.
If you want to smoke anyway, legalization advocates would prefer you do it in the privacy of your own home. "I'm worried that the city is going to erupt in smoking on election night. That is not the kind of behavior we are looking for," Adam Eidinger, head of the legalization campaign in DC, told Washington City Paper. "Celebrate at home."
What does 2014 mean for marijuana legalization going forward?
The marijuana legalization movement obviously celebrated the victories, but supporters always cautioned that 2014 was never going to make or break the movement. Prior to Election Day, Marijuana Policy Project spokesperson Mason Tvert said that, win or lose in 2014, polls show support for legalization growing over time.
The big year, experts and advocates say, is 2016, when legalization will likely be on the ballot in California, where medical marijuana is already legal, and several more states.
"It's an uphill battle, but we see support growing at the state and federal level," Tvert said. "We've filed committees to support initiatives in Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada."
Legalization advocates expect to deal with a much friendlier electorate in those states than they did in Alaska, Oregon, and Florida this year. Young voters are more likely to turn out for presidential elections than midterms, and young voters are much more likely to support legalization than older generations.
Advocates could even bring back initiatives from any of the states that lose in 2014. Before Election Day, one of the main financial supporters of Florida's medical marijuana amendment vowed to try again in 2016 should the measure fail.
"When more people vote, we see more support for making marijuana legal," Tvert said. "During a presidential election year, we're going to see far more people voting."