California is one of the country’s most densely-populated states, with some 39 million residents. Recreational use passing in that state alone means that one fifth of Americans are now living in a state where such use is legal.
"If California votes 'yes,' it's legitimately the beginning of the end of the war on marijuana in the United States. Period. Full stop," California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom said in a statement prior to election day.
Marijuana advocates also heralded Tuesday evening’s big wins as an important step toward federal legalization.
“Last night’s results send a simple message — the tipping point has come,” National Cannabis Industry Association executive director Aaron Smith told the Washington Times. “More than 16 million voters, including in two of the three most populated states in the nation, chose legal, regulated cannabis programs that promote safety, boost the economy, help sick patients, and address social injustices.”
Arkansas was the first state in the Bible Belt to pass medical marijuana laws, with 53 percent of their residents voting in support. Qualifying patients will now be able to purchase medical marijuana through regulated dispensaries.
In Florida, a fierce battleground state won by Donald Trump, the measure won in a 71 percent landslide, showcasing that voters on both sides of the political aisle support legalizing marijuana, at least in some capacity.
Nationwide, polls show that 57 percent of Americans favor legalization.
"It's changed in the minds of these voters from being like cocaine to being like beer," University of Southern California political scientist John Matsusaka told Reuters.