4 states just voted to make marijuana completely legal — here's what we know

Nearly half of the US has already legalized marijuana in some form, and before Election Day, four states allowed recreational use and sales.

On November 8, another four states voted in favor of outright marijuana legalization: California, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts all voted in favor of legalized use, sale, and consumption of recreational marijuana.

marijuana coloradoMarijuana at the Grass Station marijuana shop in Denver, Colorado.Rick Wilking/Reuters

Most significantly, California voted overwhelmingly in favor of legislation making marijuana legal, on Proposition 64 — thus making the entire West Coast a legal enclave for recreational cannabis.

But the story is bigger than vote tallies — by how much did these ballots pass? What happens next? When do these laws go into effect?

Here's everything we know:

1. Massachusetts

In Massachusetts on November 8, voters chose yes on Question 4 — a bill to legalize the recreational use, possession, cultivation, and sale of marijuana. The bill calls for regulation along the lines of alcohol.

Though Massachusetts is a long-running blue state, the legalization effort in the commonwealth faced serious opposition from sitting leadership in both parties. Republican Gov. Charlie Baker and Boston Democratic Mayor Marty Walsh opposed recreational legalization. The two joined Attorney General Maura Healey in a Boston Globe op-ed this March opposing the measure:

"Our state has already decriminalized the drug for personal use, and we've made it legally available for medical use. The question before us now is whether marijuana should be fully legal and widely available for commercial sale. We think the answer is 'no.'"

Result: A majority of voters supported the measure — 54% yes to 46% no — according to Ballotpedia. The bill legalizes recreational marijuana starting on December 15.

2. California

2. California
Skye Gould/Business Insider

In California on November 8, voters chose yes on Proposition 64 — a bill to legalize the recreational use, possession, cultivation, and sale of marijuana. Legalization is limited to people over age 21.

California's Proposition 64 was the most important of all the legalization initiatives on the ballot this November.

With the passing of Proposition 64, the entire West Coast of the US has legalized recreational and medicinal marijuana use. That's huge. California, by itself, is the world's sixth-largest economy, ahead of places like France. You know, that whole country? France? Right.

An overwhelming majority of California residents support it, even though Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein opposes legalization, and Gov. Jerry Brown said in 2014 "How many people can get stoned and still have a great state or a great nation?"

California's initiative is unique in that it rolls back the sentences of thousands of people who've been convicted on charges related to marijuana.

Result: Proposition 64 passed overwhelmingly, with 56% voting yes to 44% voting no. As of 12:01 a.m. on November 9, marijuana use is fully legal in California. There's a $100 fine for smoking in public, and driving under the influence of marijuana remains illegal. California residents are allowed to grow up to six plants in their homes, and recreational sales from shops will become legal on January 1, 2018.

3. Nevada

In Nevada on November 8, voters chose yes on Question 2 — a bill to legalize the recreational use, possession, cultivation, and sale of marijuana. Legalization is limited to people over 21.

Despite the "Sin City" association with Las Vegas, much of the state of Nevada is rural and conservative. President Barack Obama took the state in both the 2008 and 2012 elections, marking a political slide toward blue as demographics in Nevada started to look more like California.

Still, even with Nevada's move toward progressive policymakers and despite being a place known for its close relationship with vice, legislators aren't all in favor. Democratic Sen. Harry Reid said he'd vote against legalization if it were up to him. Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval also opposes the measure — all of which is to say it could face opposition from sitting leadership.

Results: Question 2 also passed with flying colors, with 54% of voters saying yes to 46% saying no. As of January 1, 2018, Nevada residents are legally allowed to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana. Only licensed medical marijuana dispensaries are allowed to apply for licenses for recreational sales.

4. Maine

In Maine on November 8, voters chose yes on Question 1 — a bill to legalize the recreational use, possession, cultivation, and sale of marijuana to adults over 21. Maine already allows medicinal marijuana use.

Though Maine is a Democrat-leaning state, several prior legalization efforts failed where Question 1 succeeded. That's largely due to the pro side vastly outspending the against side. Over $1 million was raised in pursuit of legalization in Maine, much of which was spent gathering the signatures necessary to get Question 1 on the ballot.

Attorney General Janet Mills and Gov. Paul LePage both oppose legalization.

Results: Question 1 passed, but just barely — a few thousand votes pushed the initiative into legislation. Many publications were still undecided on who won as of November 9; Maine newspaper The Bangor Daily News declared a win for pro-legalization folks, and the against side accepted defeat in the piece.

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