Besides choosing lawmakers, on November 4th voters in three American states and the District of Columbia considered measures to liberalise the cannabis trade. Alaska and Oregon, where it is legal to provide “medical marijuana” to registered patients, voted to go further and let the drug be sold and taken for recreational purposes, as Colorado and Washington state already allow. In DC, a measure to legalise the possession of small amounts for personal use was passed. A majority of voters in Florida opted to join the lengthening list of places where people can seek a doctor’s note that lets them take the drug. However, the measure fell just short of the 60% needed to change the state constitution. Even so, that such a big state in the conservative South came so close to liberalising shows how America’s attitude to criminalising pot has changed.
After this week’s votes only 27 states outlaw all sale or possession of marijuana. In the rest, a thriving “canna-business” is emerging…: trade in the drug is escaping the grasp of organised crime and becoming normal, just as alcohol did after the end of Prohibition. But even as moves to legalise and regularise the business continue at state level, the federal government and Congress remain dead set against the drug. A panoply of federal laws to curb the marijuana trade remain in place; and in recent months the Drug Enforcement Administration has raided cannabis dispensaries in California that are operating under state licences.