Mainers asked to legalize, regulate recreational marijuana

The results of those ballot questions - and similar votes being taken in California, Arizona and Nevada - could represent a key turning point in the legalization movement nationwide.

In the Bay State, Ballotpedia summarizes the measure like this: A "yes" vote supports this proposal to legalize marijuana but regulate it in ways similar to alcoholic beverages. Medical marijuana is legal in half of U.S. states and is on state ballots this year in Montana, Florida and North Dakota. Montanans voted on whether to ease restrictions on an existing medical marijuana law. And polls show a statistical dead heat on the ballot measure in Arizona. As a practical matter, the federal government has only a very limited supply of law enforcement personnel, and depends heavily on state police and prosecutors for help in waging the War on Drugs. They complained that legalization would endanger children and open the door to creation of another huge industry that, like big tobacco, would be devoted to selling Americans an unhealthy drug.

So, what is the prognosis for the ballot measures in each of the five states where recreational pot might become legal? The jurisdictions where that's already the case - Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington state and the District of Columbia - have less than 6 percent of the population.

Twenty-five states permitted the use of legalized marijuana, whether medical or recreational.

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Both Massachusetts and ME previously voted to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana and to authorize medical marijuana programs.

Question 4, as the recreational use measure is called, would legalize it and allow the commonwealth to tax and regulate its use and sale, much like the way alcohol is handled. But there are differences in the way the two New England states would proceed under the respective measures.

One of the most exciting initiatives at the municipal level is in San Francisco, where there's a campaign to give 16- and 17-year-olds the right to vote. Proposition 64 would allow California residents 21 and older to legally possess up to an ounce of weed and grow six marijuana plants at home.

California law allows marijuana use since 1996 for medical purposes. An amendment is far more hard to reverse, whereas the state legislature could dismantle the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act should it choose to do so. The commission would be advised by a Cannabis Advisory Board with 15 members appointed by the governor. Besides a 15% tax on retail sales of marijuana, the state would also tax cultivation at rates of $9.25 per ounce of flowers and $2.75 per ounce of leaves.

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Backers counter that removing prohibitions on adult use marijuana would largely remove the drug from the black market and generate a new stream of tax revenue.

Florida's Proposed Constitutional Amendment No. 2 allows the use of medical marijuana for "debilitating" conditions.

The No on Prop 205 campaign aired TV ads that feature former Colorado school and city officials who say legalization has led more teens to use the drug, businesses to target edibles to children and nearly no money to flow to schools, as proponents promised when it passed in 2012. Conservative megadonor and casino owner Sheldon Adelson is against it.

They say today's marijuana is far more potent than the pot that people smoked decades ago. Another win to legalize the substance means the entire West Coast could turn into a "cannabis-friendly zone". Still other states are looking to approve it for medical purposes.

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