Having proven they can win in the West, advocates for recreational marijuana hope the Nov. 8 election brings their first significant electoral victories in the densely populated Northeast, where voters in Massachusetts and Maine will consider making pot legal for all adults. Supporters believe "yes" votes in New England would add geographical diversity to the legalization map, encourage other East Coast states to move in the same direction, and perhaps build momentum toward ending federal prohibitions, the AP reports. "We have to get to a point where we can win legalization voter initiatives in other parts of the country," says Keith Stroup, founder of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML, adding there's a "puritanical streak" to fight among New Englanders. Several Eastern states are among the 25 that already allow some form of medicinal marijuana, but none in the region has approved recreational pot.
Big money is at stake, which helps explain why pot supporters have raised more than $6 million in Massachusetts and about $1.3 million in Maine, mostly from outside those states. Cowen and Co. analysts issued a report last month forecasting a $50 billion legal cannabis market in the US by 2026, a nearly tenfold increase over now—but such growth would be predicated on federal legalization. Passage of the November state referendums would be a "key catalyst" toward that end, analysts wrote. Three other states—California, Arizona, and Nevada—are also voting on recreational pot. If the California initiative passes, marijuana will be legal along the entire West Coast. Washington, Oregon, Colorado, and Alaska have already voted to permit it. DC also passed a legalization measure in 2014, but it has no regulatory framework for retail sales, and possession remains illegal on federal property. (Read more marijuana stories.)