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Cannabis legalization measures set to pass in 5 states

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Arizona, Montana, and New Jersey are all braced to become the latest states to legalize the recreational use of cannabis, while voters in Mississippi are set to pass initiatives legalizing medical marijuana use. South Dakota had separate measures for recreational and medical use, and both are likely to pass.

In the case of Arizona, New Jersey, and South Dakota, the result appears official; the Associated Press projects that ballot measures legalizing recreational cannabis in the first two states, and medical cannabis in the latter, have passed. Early returns indicate that similar ballot initiatives legalizing recreational use in Montana and South Dakota, and medical use in Mississippi, are also likely to pass, though it remains too early to call.

With at least 75% of the vote in, the people of Arizona have decided by a 60% to 40% margin in favor of Proposition 207, an initiative legalizing the recreational possession and use of marijuana by adults aged 21 and over. Arizona voters rejected a similar recreational measure on their ballots four years ago, though the state legalized medical cannabis in 2010. 

New Jersey became the first state in the Mid-Atlantic region to legalize recreational cannabis, with Public Question 1 passing by a 67% to 33% margin with up to two-thirds of votes counted. The state legalized medical use of the drug in 2010.

And while Montana remains too early to call, voters appear to favor ballot initiative I-190, which legalizes recreational adult use in that state, by a margin of 58% to 42%, with about 75% of the vote counted. Medical use has been legal in the state since 2004.

Voters in South Dakota had their say on separate ballot initiatives legalizing recreational and medical cannabis use. The medical initiative has passed by a 69% to 31% margin with up to 99% of the vote in, according to the AP, while passage of recreational measure is leading 57% to 43% but remains too early to call. Meanwhile, in Mississippi, a measure to pass the use of medical marijuana is leading by considerable margin with only around 10% of votes counted, in what would be a major step forward for initiatives to liberalize cannabis in the Deep South.

Marijuana activist gets ready to inflate a 51-foot joint before a rally at the U.S. Capitol to call on Congress to pass cannabis reform legislation on Oct. 8, 2019.
Caroline Brehman—CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

If the results on Tuesday night hold, recreational marijuana will now be legal in 15 states plus the District of Columbia, while medical use will be permitted in 35 states plus D.C.

Despite the continued prohibition of cannabis and derived products by the federal government, more states have pushed to legalize marijuana in recent years—driven by evolving public attitudes and a desire to regulate the massive black market that exists for the drug. Those efforts have seen booming, lucrative cannabis industries emerge in states like California and Colorado, with hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues flowing into state coffers as a result.

With state and local governments across the U.S. facing major budget shortfalls in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic’s devastating economic impact, more states are expected to consider legalization measures of their own in the years to come. New Jersey’s successful initiative, for instance, is expected to spur neighboring states in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic U.S. to follow suit—with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo having expressed support for legalization in his own state.

More politics coverage from Fortune:

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  • The state ballot measures the business community should watch in the 2020 election
  • Trump fancies himself an incredible closer—but is it enough to make him a winner?
  • How Trump can and can’t use the courts to shape the election

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