When California voters head to the polls in November, they will decide whether the state will make history again — this time by legalizing the recreational use of marijuana for adults.
The state was the first to legalize medicinal marijuana use, with voters passing it in 1996. Since then, 14 states have followed California's lead, even though marijuana remains illegal under federal law.
"This is a watershed moment in the decades-long struggle to end failed marijuana prohibition in this country," said Stephen Gutwillig, California director for the Drug Policy Alliance. "We really can't overstate the significance of Californians being the first to have the opportunity to end this public policy disaster."
California is not alone in the push to expand legal use of marijuana. Legislators in Rhode Island, another state hit hard by the economic downturn, are considering a plan to decriminalize possession of an ounce or less by anyone 18 or older.
A proposal to legalize the sale and use of marijuana in Washington was recently defeated in that state's legislature, though lawmakers there did expand the pool of medical professionals that could prescribe the drug for medicinal use.
And a group in Nevada is pushing an initiative that marks the state's fourth attempt in a decade to legalize the drug.
The California secretary of state's office certified the initiative for the general election ballot Wednesday after it was determined that supporters had gathered enough valid signatures.