Three more states approve medical marijuana use

Reflecting the country’s changing attitude toward marijuana, voters in three states Tuesday approved the use of medical marijuana and three other states voted to legalize its recreational use.

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Add Arkansas, Florida and North Dakota to the list of states that now allow the use of medical marijuana. Voters in Montana also rolled back restrictions on an existing medical cannabis law. Prior to Tuesday’s vote, 25 states plus the District of Columbia had legalized medical marijuana. 

California, Massachusetts and Nevada legalized marijuana for recreational use by adults. The only state where marijuana decisively lost was in Arizona, where voters rejected recreational legalization, although medical marijuana remains legal in the state.

Maine’s vote on recreational use of cannabis was still too close to call this morning as polling results continued to trickle in, though the Portland Press Herald reported a narrow lead with results from 90 percent of statewide precincts reported.

Leading up to the election, recreational marijuana use was legal in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington, along with the District of Columbia.

The vote in Florida to legalize medical marijuana reflected a shift in attitude about the use of cannabis. Two years ago, a similar measure fell just shy of the votes needed for passage, but on Tuesday voters were decisive with 71 percent giving their support.

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"This is a major tipping point,” Tom Angell, of the marijuana reform group Marijuana Majority told The Washington Post.

“With Florida's decision, a majority of states in the U.S. now have laws allowing patients to find relief with medical marijuana, and these protections and programs are no longer concentrated in certain regions of the country like the West and Northeast.”

Depending on how states set up their medical marijuana programs, cannabis is used to treat conditions such as anxiety, depression, nausea, pain, psychosis, seizures, sleep disorders and spasticity. Data from some studies have suggested that overdoses from opioid medications are lower in states where medical marijuana is legal.

In Minnesota, half of the marijuana dispensed under the state’s medical cannabis program is prescribed to ease patients’ pain, according to a report in the Star Tribune. The state expanded its program to include pain patients three months ago and now half the 3,331 people currently enrolled in eight cannabis clinics are pain patients.