Voters Relax Marijuana Laws In 3 More States: Michigan, Utah, Missouri

Voters in Michigan approved a ballot measure to legalize recreational use of marijuana on Tuesday, and two other states — Missouri and Utah — endorsed medical marijuana laws. Voters in North Dakota didn’t partake, rejecting a measure to legalize recreational marijuana use.

Now 33 states have legalized marijuana to some degree, and recreational pot use is now legal in 10 states, along with Washington, D.C. But possessing, selling or using marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

Coming into the Nov. 6 vote, both Michigan and North Dakota already had medical marijuana laws in place. Utah and Missouri didn’t have far-reaching legislation on the books, though Missouri had lightened the potential penalties for first-time offenses.

Marijuana legalization advocates welcomed the news from Michigan, the first Midwestern state to approve recreational marijuana. Backers called it proof that a wide variety of Americans want the country’s marijuana laws to change.

“I think it’s safe to say federal laws are in need of an update,” Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement. He added, “We hope the results of this election will inspire Congress to finally start addressing the tension that exists between state and federal marijuana laws in our nation.”

Here are the vote tallies, as reported by each state’s election offices as of 9:30 a.m. ET Wednesday:

  • Michigan Proposal 1: 55 percent in favor, 45 percent against
  • Missouri Amendment 2: 65.5 percent in favor, 34.5 percent against
  • North Dakota Measure 3: 59.5 percent against, 40.5 percent in favor
  • Utah Proposition 2: 53 percent in favor, 47 percent against

“Michigan residents over 21 years old will soon be able to buy, possess, use, and grow marijuana,” reports member station Michigan Radio, which adds that Proposal 1’s backers will now focus on trying to expunge criminal records related to nonviolent marijuana cases.

In Missouri, St. Louis Public Radio reports that Amendment 2 would impose a 4 percent tax on sales of medical marijuana, with the funds used to pay for the program. Any overage would go to the state’s veterans commission. The station adds, “For the most part, there was no opposition arguing against the idea of medical marijuana.”

North Dakota’s Measure 3 would have required “the expungement of all marijuana-related convictions,” Prairie Public Broadcasting reports. But critics said it went too far. The North Dakota Association of Counties opposed the measure, saying it lacked limits on how much marijuana one person could grow. It also said the state is still struggling to implement the 2016 measure that legalized medical use.

In Utah, Gov. Gary Herbert and key legislators already were working to frame a medical marijuana bill that is similar to Proposition 2, with the intention of passing it regardless of how Tuesday’s vote turned out, Utah Public Radio reports. Those backing the plan to approve medical use include the Mormon church.

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