Now that medical marijuana is permitted in about one-third of the nation, advocates hope to move beyond therapeutic uses with ballot questions in three states that could legalize pot for recreational use.
Voters in Colorado, Washington state and Oregon face proposals to change state laws to permit possession and regulate the sale of marijuana although the plant with psychoactive properties remains an illegal substance under federal law.
Approval in even one state would be a dramatic step that most likely would face legal challenges but could also bring pressure on the federal government to consider modifying the national prohibition on marijuana that has been in place since 1937, backers say.
“One of these states crossing that Rubicon will immediately set up a challenge to the federal government,” says Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
Independent polls have shown proponents leading in Washington and Colorado a month or more before the election. But the outcome remains in doubt, and both sides are aware of what happened in California in 2010: The similar Proposition 19 lost 53.5% to 46.5% after an early lead in favor disappeared.
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