There’s no question Election Day 2016 will mark a critical moment for stoners. Voters in at least five states will decide whether they want to legalize marijuana for recreational use – and that’s not to mention a presidential election that could determine the course of reform for years to come.

But how big will Nov. 8 really be? And how does it rank against the elections of 2012 and 2014?

Those were the years when Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and the District of Columbia voted to legalize cannabis. Voters in California, Nevada, Massachusetts, Maine, and Arizona will vote on legalization in November.

The decision in California is especially important. It’s the most populous state in the country, with nearly 40 million residents. Observers note that legalization would make the Golden State the “epicenter” of the world’s legal pot industry, and polls show the proposal is likely to pass.

California is the big prize

Legalization initiatives in other states are almost as critical. If both Arizona and California legalize marijuana, the drug will be available for any adult use along the entire West Coast and a large part of the desert Southwest. New Mexico and even Texas would feel increased pressure to do the same.

ballot legalize

The ballot initiatives in Maine and Massachusetts matter because victory there would bring legal marijuana to the East Coast for the first time. Once those states have voted yes, the rest of New England could soon follow suit. Vermont lawmakers have already tried to legalize the drug but fell short of success earlier in 2016.

Just two or three victories on Election Day would mark a new watershed in the reform movement, especially if those wins include California. A five-state sweep would be a remarkable step forward and a sign that reform will continue into the foreseeable future.

Turning point in marijuana reform

But the presidential election is equally important. Neither candidate is particularly well-liked by voters, but the legal pot industry strongly prefers Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump. While Clinton and the Democratic Party have promised to move toward federal legalization in coming years, Trump has made only vague statements on the subject.

More worrying, though, is the fact that the Manhattan billionaire has proven highly unreliable in his professed policies. Saying he wouldn’t interfere with state-level legalization doesn’t guarantee he really wouldn’t.

American Flag Marijuana Joint

It can be hard if not impossible to rank the importance of elections when it comes to legal cannabis. Certainly 2012 was a massive turning point, as Colorado and Washington became the first jurisdictions in the world to fully legalize the drug. Oregon, Alaska, and the District of Columbia took the same step two years later, making 2014 almost as critical.

But 2016? This Nov. 8 will definitely matter, big time, but we won’t really know how much it will matter until at least Nov. 9.

What do you think? Will November 2016 matter more than 2012 or 2014? Why? Leave a comment below.

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