On Tuesday night, the nation sat in front of their laptops, phones, and televisions awaiting election results.
With so many questions about the House, Senate, and other important issues, it’s easy to forget how significant an impact this year’s voting will have on the cannabis industry.
Now that the votes have been tallied, the clear winner in this year’s voting was cannabis. Let’s look at the midterms and marijuana ballot initiatives that were decided.
Legalizing Recreational Cannabis – Michigan, North Dakota
Michigan: Proposal 18-1
PROPOSAL 18-1 passed with nearly 57 percent support.
The measure won’t go into effect for at least 10 days after the results are certified, and applications for retail stores will begin being accepted within 12 months of legalization. It’s possible Michigan residents could purchase legal recreational weed by the end of 2019.
Prop 18-1 legalizes the possession and use of marijuana for adults 21 and older while implementing a marijuana sales tax.
Michigan is the tenth state to legalize recreational marijuana use and the first state in the Midwest. Many businesses have already set their sites on the Great Lake State to secure a foothold in the region.
North Dakota: Measure No. 3
MEASURE NO. 3 was defeated with just over 59 percent of voters against.
The North Dakota ballot initiative was always a longshot. It would have been one of the “loosest” marijuana laws in the nation, with no limit on possession, automatically expunging the record of anyone with a drug conviction for a now legal controlled substance, and removing the state’s immunity to expungement lawsuits.
The measure would also prohibit prosecution of non-violent marijuana-related activity, though it would introduce new penalties for selling to minors.
It’s likely a new initiative will find its way onto an upcoming ballot, and a “tighter” proposal has a better chance of convincing those voters who support cannabis legalization but voted “No” due to a lack of regulation or a fear that expungement lawsuits could damage the state’s budget.
Medical marijuana is legal in North Dakota.
Legalizing Medical Marijuana – Missouri, Utah
Missouri: Proposition C, Amendment 2, Amendment 3
Missouri voters had three separate ballot initiatives to consider this year. But if we learned anything from Highlander, there can be only one… that passes.
PROPOSITION C was defeated with roughly 57 percent of voters coming out against the initiative. Prop C would have removed state prohibitions related to the growth, sale, and possession of medical marijuana by licensed facilities while levying a 2 percent tax on retail cannabis sales.
AMENDMENT 2 was approved with more than 65 percent of voters supporting the measure. Amendment 2 permits medical doctors to suggest cannabis to help treat specific conditions. It also permits medical marijuana patients to grow their own plants at home. The amendment introduces a 4 percent marijuana sales tax with tax revenue to be spent on healthcare services for veterans.
Qualifying patients will be able to apply for medical marijuana access no later than June 4, 2019. Dispensary applications will begin being accepted no later than Aug 3, 2019 and the state has 150 days to review each application.
AMENDMENT 3 was similar to Proposition C, and was similarly defeated (68.8 percent against). It would have removed state prohibitions while levying a 15 percent tax on retail sales to fund a research institute working toward developing treatments and cures for cancer.
While two of the three ballot initiatives were defeated, the state would have only been able to approve and enact one of the initiatives even if all three had passed. In the end, the result is that Missouri became the 31st state to legalize medical marijuana.
Utah: Proposition 2
PROPOSITION 2 passed with roughly 53 percent voter support.
Prop 2 authorizes medical marijuana use for patients with qualifying ailments, with a few caveats.
- Smoking marijuana is prohibited: patients must vape, consume edibles, or use a topical or patch (or other method).
- Doctors will be prohibited from owning or working for a medical marijuana dispensary, and they will only be able to recommend a medical marijuana card to 20 percent of patients.
- Medical patients will be able to cultivate their own plants if they live at least 100 miles away from a licensed dispensary. (I’d be salty as a french fry if I lived 99 miles away…)
- State officials will license and regulate medical marijuana businesses, including dispensaries and growers.
Additionally, legislators are working on compromise legislation that is likely to change how medical marijuana will be implemented in Utah. It is expected the compromise legislation will reduce qualifying conditions, require additional certification for doctors before they can recommend a medical marijuana card, ban home growing entirely, and may even ban edibles (leaving patients with vaping and “other means of consumption”).
Pro-Legalization Officials Elected
Even those states without marijuana ballot initiatives were affected by public opinion on cannabis. Every congressperson on the ballot faced increased scrutiny this year, and many voters are aware of how incumbents voted on cannabis initiatives in previous years.
Newly elected pro-legalization governors and state representatives in many states will make it easier to decriminalize cannabis in the coming years (whether through a ballot initiative or legislation).
Incoming ILLINOIS Governor J.B. Pritzker (D) made marijuana legalization a key piece of his campaign, even saying in his primary night victory speech, “Let’s legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana.”
MINNESOTA Governor Elect Tim Walz (D) has taken a similar stance.
WISCONSIN’s new governor, Tony Evers (D) supports decriminalization and plans to put a full legalization measure before voters to let the state’s residents decide on the issue.
And while MICHIGAN voted to legalize recreational cannabis, they also elected Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D), who supported Prop 18-1 and has referred to cannabis as an “exit drug” that can help fight opioid addiction.
And that’s just in the Midwest!
NEW YORK Governor Andrew Cuomo recently asked a working group to draft legislation that would legalize cannabis in the state. The legislation would be considered in 2019.
In NEW MEXICO, incoming Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) has said that marijuana legalization would bring in hundreds of millions of dollars and boost the state’s economy.
Even those states that have already decriminalized marijuana came out in support of cannabis. New and reelected governors in California, Colorado, Maine, Nevada, and Oregon are all vocal supporters of ending prohibition and are likely to defend state laws.
At the federal level, two roadblocks to legalization have been removed. Texas Rep. Pete Sessions lost his bid for reelection. Pete Sessions was chairman of the House Rules Committee and blocked every proposed marijuana amendment from reaching a floor vote. And one day after the midterms, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a staunch opponent of ending prohibition, is out.
The U.S. now has 10 states and the District of Columbia with recreational cannabis, and 32 states that allow medical marijuana. And with the prospects of ending prohibition at a federal level on the rise, it was a good week for cannabis legalization.
2018 Midterms: Marijuana’s Moving Up
While cannabis initiatives didn’t quite run the table during the 2018 midterms, it was undoubtedly a huge night for the industry, consumers, and the federal movement to end marijuana prohibition.
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