Associated Press

California voters approved a ballot measure Tuesday allowing recreational marijuana in the nation’s most populous state, handing the legalization movement its biggest victory yet. Voters in eight other states also considered proposals Tuesday to expand legal access to the drug, which is still forbidden by the federal government.

A preliminary exit poll conducted for The Associated Press and television networks by Edison Research showed the measure passed handily.

Proposition 63 was winning with 63 percent of the 3.5 million votes cast.

California’s vote makes the use and sale of recreational cannabis legal along the entire West Coast, giving the legalization movement powerful momentum. That could spark similar efforts in other states and put pressure on federal authorities to ease longstanding rules that classify marijuana as a dangerously addictive drug with no medical benefits.

In addition, Massachusetts voters also legalized the recreational use of marijuana.

California was the first state to approve medical marijuana two decades ago. It was among five states weighing whether to permit pot for adults for recreational purposes. The other states were Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada.

Florida and North Dakota earlier approved medical marijuana measures Tuesday. Arkansas was considering a similar measure and Montana voted on whether to ease restrictions on an existing medical marijuana law.

The other controversial measure was Measure 63, the ammunition restrictions with voters leaning toward expanding some of the nation’s toughest gun control by banning large-capacity ammunition magazines, requiring background checks for ammunition sales and speeding the seizure of firearms from owners who are no longer allowed to own them.

In more measures it looks as though California voters approved proposition giving California prison officials more say in release of prisoners, repeal nearly two-decade-old law limiting bilingual education in schools.

A preliminary exit poll conducted for The Associated Press and television networks by Edison Research found Harris easily defeated her fellow Democrat, U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez, to win the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer.

Hillary Clinton also was a big winner in the state, according to the poll, extending to seven the string of Democratic presidential victories in the state that started with her husband in 1992.

More election results will be posted as they come in.

Associated Press writers David Crary in New York and Jocelyn Gecker in San Francisco contributed to this report.