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The Daily Tar Heel

Voters in eight states approved varied levels of marijuana legalization

Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota passed initiatives legalizing or expanding the use of medical marijuana. Meanwhile, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada legalized marijuana for recreational use and licensed its retail.

Karen Goldstein, executive director of Florida’s chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said it was a tough battle to legalize medical marijuana in the state. She said the initiative passed because the public was more educated on marijuana.

“I think that we made people realize that a lot of what the opposition was saying, number one, was not true — that they were trying to mislead the public and that there was a lot of special interests involved in keeping it illegal,” she said.

Scott Chipman, Southern California co-chairperson of Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana, said there was a misconception that the ballot initiative would decriminalize marijuana. He said it was decriminalized over 10 years ago.

“Those that are in jail are in for trafficking large quantities and those — that criminal is still a felon even after Prop. 64,” he said.

Chipman said Californians are unaware of the dangers of marijuana and the proposition passed for a host of reasons.

“So, there’s a misunderstanding that marijuana’s not harmful, there’s this concept that we have to stop arresting people for marijuana and they didn’t realize that it was allowing for TV ads and for every house to become a grow site,” he said.

Jon Kennedy, treasurer of N.C. NORML, said the organization has a two-pronged approach for legalizing marijuana — education and lobbying.

However, he said lobbying is difficult in North Carolina.

“We don’t have a referendum or a ballot initiative that would let us gather enough signatures to get marijuana legalization on the ballot for medicinal or recreational purpose,” Kennedy said.

He said as a result, citizens need to reach out to their representatives to open a discussion and see if there is a chance they will change their position on marijuana.

“Otherwise, the only other option is to try to vote the scoundrels out,” he said.

Kennedy said he is not optimistic about North Carolina legalizing marijuana in the near future.

“But North Carolina has recently shown itself to be kind of bringing up the rear nationally with how progressive it isn’t,” he said.

Goldstein said prohibition doesn’t work and said education and regulation are key.

“They may eliminate the legal market, but they’ll never eliminate the market,” she said. “And we may as well — they may as well — keep the legal market because prohibition doesn’t work.”

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