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Green Wave: Blackbird’s Guide to 2018 Cannabis Ballot InitiativesOctober 26, 2018
Disclaimer: Keep out of reach of children. For use only by adults 21 years of age and older.
A lot has changed since the 2012 election. That was the year in which Colorado and Washington became the first two states to legalize recreational cannabis, forever reshaping the legal landscape for cannabis across the country. Since then, the entire West Coast has legalized recreational cannabis, along with our nation’s capital and a substantial block of states in New England. Vermont recently made history by being the first state to legalize cannabis through the state’s House of Representatives instead of through a statewide vote. Even in the South and Midwest, an increasing number of politically conservative states like Oklahoma have legalized medical cannabis or are poised to vote on medical cannabis in the future.
Perhaps the biggest sign that attitudes have rapidly evolved on cannabis over the last few years comes from our neighbors to the north. Canada recently made history by legalizing recreational cannabis at the federal level, though this has already raised plenty of concerns over how US Border Patrol will treat cannabis users who travel between the US and Canada. US Customs and Border Protection has threatened to impose a lifetime ban on any Canadian citizen who admits to working in the cannabis industry, investing in cannabis businesses, or even simply consuming cannabis at any point in the past.
So, what does the future hold here in the United States? Wondering which states are voting on cannabis in the November 2018 elections? Here’s our rundown of what to expect when it comes to cannabis laws (both medical and recreational) this fall and beyond.
Recreational Cannabis States
Michigan could be the first Midwest state to legalize recreational cannabis. If Proposition 1 passes, adults age 21 and up may legally possess up to 2.5 ounces of dried cannabis flower or up to 15 grams of cannabis concentrates. Michigan residents over age 21 could also grow up to 12 plants in their homes. Based on one poll of likely voters conducted by The Detroit News, the ballot initiative has a decent chance of passing.
North Dakota voters could usher in recreational cannabis in the Great Plains states with Measure 3. This measure would legalize cannabis possession and cultivation for adults over the age of 21, but it does not set any specific limits on how much cannabis residents may possess or cultivate. This leaves many details to be hammered out by legislators if North Dakota voters approve this measure.
Medical Cannabis States
Missouri residents who support medical cannabis legalization will have three distinct ballot choices this November. One option on the ballot, Amendment 2, taxes cannabis sales at 4%, with the incoming tax money being used to help fund veteran services. A second choice, Amendment 3, taxes cannabis sales at 15% and funds research on cancer as well as other serious illnesses. The third option, Proposition C, sets cannabis sales taxes at a modest 2% and helps fund childhood education programs, drug rehabilitation programs, public safety initiatives, and services for veterans. Missouri law states that if two amendments are approved at the ballot, the amendment with the higher number of votes is put into law. However, if one amendment and the proposition pass, the courts will likely need to decide which ballot initiative will be written into law.
Utah may have a reputation for conservative politics, but voters have the opportunity to pass a medical cannabis initiative this November with Proposition 2. That ballot initiative would ensure that qualifying patients with HIV, Alzheimer’s, ALS, cancer, cachexia, irritable bowel disorders, epilepsy, autism, or PTSD have safe access to medical cannabis and cannabis products . The initiative would also allow physicians to recommend the use of cannabis as an alternative to opiates for patients managing severe pain. The initiative has seen a lot of pushback from religious leaders, including Mormon Church members and representatives. However, much of the resistance seems to be against the details of Proposition 2. Even if this particular initiative fails in November, a deal has already been struck between supporters, opponents, the Governor’s office, and members of the state’s legislature to enact a statewide medical cannabis program in the near future.
Nebraska is considering a push to pass medical cannabis legislation in the coming year. Democratic State Senator Anna Wishart plans to introduce an initiative to legalize medical cannabis in early 2019. Four previous attempts at passing medical cannabis laws in Nebraska have been filibustered out of the legislature, but even the most conservative, anti-cannabis officials in Nebraska have started to come around. That’s because they suspect that a legislative measure would give state officials more control over the scope of the medical program than a ballot vote, all while ensuring that medical cannabis isn’t necessarily tied in with a vote on recreational cannabis in future elections.
New Jersey has already passed medical cannabis legislation, which was recently expanded by Democratic Governor Phil Murphy to include conditions like anxiety and migraines. Gov. Murphy vowed to legalize recreational cannabis in New Jersey by the end of the year, with recent claims that it could be legal before Halloween. However, other New Jersey officials say the NJ State Senate and State Assembly need to hold their own hearings on the issue before that can happen. This doesn’t necessarily mean that recreational cannabis won’t come to the Garden State, but it could substantially slow the process down.
New York has already legalized medical cannabis, but the program is somewhat restrictive. Smokable cannabis is not currently allowed by law, but everything could change if New York State legalizes recreational cannabis use. Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo used to oppose recreational cannabis, but he’s changed his mind now that neighboring states Vermont and Massachusetts have legalized cannabis and New Jersey is looking to do the same. Gov. Cuomo convened a special advisory board in August to put together what he hopes will be an airtight recreational cannabis bill. The board is expected to finish their bill by the end of November, with Cuomo hoping to have the bill before the state legislature by 2019.
Don’t see your home state on the list? Wish cannabis laws would change in other parts of the country? Make your voice heard! Research which politicians support cannabis law reform, then donate to their campaigns or volunteer your time. You can also find out about federal, state, and local ballot initiatives, petitions, and other ways to make a difference by checking out the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) Action Center. Get active, get involved, and stay informed!