Sunshine State voters approve ballot measure to allow medical marijuana

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The movement to legalize marijuana faced its biggest test yet Tuesday as voters in nine states, including the nation’s most populous, considered proposals to expand legal access to the drug, which is still forbidden by the federal government.

Florida, one of three states deciding whether to permit marijuana for medical purposes, approved the idea. Montana voted on whether to ease restrictions on an existing medical marijuana law.

State-by-state polls showed most of the measures with a good chance of prevailing. But staunch opponents that included law enforcement groups and anti-drug crusaders urged the public to reject any changes. They complained that legalization would endanger children and open the door to creation of another huge industry that, like big tobacco, would be devoted to selling Americans an unhealthy drug.

The Massachusetts measure, for example, was opposed by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, which contributed $850,000 to the “no” campaign.

In Maine, opponents included some major players in the medical marijuana industry who worried about disruptions to their business model. In Arizona, the issue evoked uncertainty about how legalization might affect the flow of smuggled illegal drugs across the border with Mexico.

According to national polls, a solid majority of Americans support legalization. Gallup’s latest survey gauged support at 60 percent, up from 14 percent from when the question was first posed in 1969. Gallup says 13 percent of U.S. adults currently report using marijuana, nearly double the percentage who reported using pot in 2013.

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