Medical marijuana victories in Florida, North Dakota, Arkansas, Montana turn the tide

Tuesday was a banner night for medical marijuana — with ballot initiatives in numerous states widening access to the substance for Americans seeking relief from pain or a treatment for illness.

Massachusetts and California, where Napster co-founder and cancer philanthropist Sean Parker helped fund a campaign to legalize the drug, were among the states passing new recreational marijuana laws. The tide also turned in Florida, North Dakota and Arkansas — where similar measures were defeated in the past — and in Montana where measures regarding medical marijuana were passed. Before this week, medical marijuana was legal in a little over half the country or 25 states.

The wins come as rigorous scientific evidence is mounting that marijuana or its components may have beneficial medical effects. Earlier this year, GW Pharmaceuticals said that clinical trials show a cannabis-derived drug may be able to reduce seizures in patients with Dravet syndrome, a rare and severe form of epilepsy. Physicians are also increasingly looking to marijuana as an alternative to highly addictive opioids that have led to a crisis in overdoses. This chart, from my colleague Christopher Ingraham, shows just how dramatic the difference in the painkiller prescriptions is in medical-marijuana states vs. non-medical-marijuana states.

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