Hidden behind the immaculate triumph of Donald Trump was another politically historic moment: the rise of marijuana legalization.
Recreational and medicinal marijuana legalization was on the ballot in nine states last night, and it passed in eight of them. California, Massachusetts, Maine, and Nevada all legalized recreational use on Tuesday, while Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota legalized medical use, and Montana pulled back restrictions on its medical marijuana laws.
Arizona was the only state whose marijuana bill failed, and it went down in a tight race that saw 52 percent of the electorate vote the measure down.
"This represents a monumental victory for the marijuana reform movement," Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a statement. "With California's leadership now, the end of marijuana prohibition nationally, and even internationally, is fast approaching."
If Colorado, which legalized recreational use in 2014, is any indication, marijuana legalization could mean great things for these states. The cannabis industry is now 2 percent of Colorado's economy and has poured millions of dollars into the public school system, all while creating between 100,000 and 150,000 jobs nationally.
Far from just jobs, legalization could also have lasting effects on our prison system. Some reports have estimated that right now, 1 in 8 federal prisoners is serving time for marijuana-related offenses. In the wake of some major prison reforms earlier this year, activists for incarcerated individuals stressed how bad prisons were for the country.
"We also know and our data shows our prisons are criminogenic: they create criminal activity," Alex Horowitz, the chief of staff of The Doe Fund, told A Plus. "It's a great irony and a great blight on American society, and there is no doubt that treating people as commodities contributes to that."
Less marijuana laws will inevitably mean less people in prison and more Americans contributing to society. Medical marijuana users may also be rejoicing: cannabis has been successfully used to treat pain, cancer patients, stress, and even insomnia. Other studies have shown medical marijuana as an effective tool in weening people off of harder drugs such as opioids.
With Donald Trump as president-elect, the future of legalization remains blurry. Trump himself has expressed some pro-marijuana views, but the suspected cabinet he is bringing into office is no friend to marijuana legalization.
For now, the forms of legalization across eight states represent a growing shift in America's perception of marijuana. The result could be a good thing for Americans.
Cover photo: Teri Virbickis / Shutterstock