Ohio voters passed a ballot initiative to legalize and regulate recreational marijuana on Tuesday by a 57-43 margin. When the measure takes effect next month, Ohio will join the ranks of two dozen other states, as well as Washington, D.C., that have legalized marijuana for recreational usage. As a result, a clear majority of the nation’s population will now live in jurisdictions where weed is legal at the state level.
As shown on the map at the top of this story, where states are sized according to their 2020 census populations, the addition of Ohio means that 54% of Americans will be free to use cannabis for their personal enjoyment. (Click here for a larger map, and see here for a traditional map). A further 14 states covering another 21% of the country also permit marijuana to be used for certain medical purposes. Just 26% of Americans live in states where neither recreational nor medicinal usage is legal.
Legalization has spread rapidly across the United States ever since Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize recreational marijuana following the passage of ballot measures in both states in 2012. While federal policymakers have been slow to act, and the drug remains illegal at the federal level but mostly unenforced in states that have legalized it, public opinion has likewise moved swiftly over the past two decades. Now, a broad majority of Americans favor legalizing it for both recreational and medicinal usage.
That means that Ohio’s vote almost certainly isn’t the end of this trend. Several more states that allow voters to put measures on the ballot could see recreational marijuana become legal soon, and even some state governments run by Democrats could do so, depending on the results of upcoming elections. In particular, Florida may see an initiative on the ballot in 2024 to legalize recreational usage after 71% of voters approved medical marijuana in 2016, though the Sunshine State requires a daunting 60% supermajority of voters to pass initiatives.
Given the vastly higher support for legalization among younger voters than older voters, as well as the significant support it enjoys among both Democratic and Republican voters, it may just be a matter of time before the entire nation joins Ohio and its sister states in making recreational marijuana available to adults.