In one month, a record number of Americans will vote to accept or reject cannabis advancement in their state.
Never before have so many states included ballot measures on medical and adult use cannabis. Five states will consider adult use measures, and four will consider medical cannabis, but all represent profound expressions of popular sentiment by a growing percentage of the populace. Even more striking, while opposition still exists, it appears to be waning as the years go on and the number of people willing to step up and put these measures before the people grows.
In addition to the ballot measures in the nine states, there are many more ballot measures at the municipal level that are just as important as those at the state level. Because of the local nature of cannabis legalization and regulation, it is essential that members of the industry and the public also inform themselves about what is happening where they live, and to participate whenever possible. The future of cannabis will be determined by those who step up to help define it.
The following states will vote on cannabis this Election Day.
States voting to legalize adult use of cannabis:
Proposition 205 permits adults to carry up to one ounce, grow up to six plants, and consume marijuana in non-public spaces. Retail marijuana sales would incur a 15-percent tax.
The Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act:
- Establishes a 15-percent tax on retail marijuana sales and allocates the revenue to public health and education.
- Allows adults 21 years of age and older to possess and privately consume and grow limited amounts of marijuana.
- Creates a system in which licensed businesses may produce and sell marijuana.
- Establishes a Department of Marijuana Licenses and Control to regulate the cultivation, manufacturing, testing, transportation, and sale of marijuana.
- Provides local governments with the authority to regulate and limit marijuana businesses.
State of Prop 205
The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (RegulateMarijuanaInArizona.org) has outraised opponents’ funds two-to-one. As of September 21, 2016, supporters had received about $3.1 million, while opponents had received about $1.5 million. Insys Therapeutics, a producer of synthetic painkillers, contributed $500,000 to the opposition, which set off a debate about whether the business opposes the initiative from the perspective of children’s health or financial gain. Polls have shown a close battle since the beginning of August 2016, with support running between 40 and 50 percent and opposition between 40 and 51 percent.
Arguments in support of Proposition 205:
- The proposition would replace the underground marijuana market and cartels with a regulated market and licensed businesses, making communities safer.
- The proposition would allow law enforcement to focus on crimes more serious than marijuana possession.
- The proposition would create thousands of new jobs and support local businesses.
- The proposition would provide revenue to schools and local governments.
- The proposition would repeal anti-marijuana laws that disproportionately impact racial minorities.
Arguments in opposition to Proposition 205:
- The proposition would give more power to Big Marijuana.
- The proposition would allow marijuana companies to profit by targeting children.
- The proposition would protect drivers under the influence of marijuana, making roads less safe.
- The proposition would create bigger and costlier government with a new state department.
- The economic costs of marijuana impact, such as drug treatment and school dropouts, would outstrip potential increases in tax revenue.
Proposition 64 allows adults age 21 and older to possess and use marijuana for recreational purposes. It creates two new taxes, one levied on cultivation and the other on retail price. Revenue from the taxes will be spent on drug research, treatment, and enforcement; health and safety grants addressing marijuana; youth programs; and preventing environmental damage resulting from illegal marijuana production.
- Legalizes marijuana under state law, for use by adults 21 and older.
- Designates state agencies to license and regulate the marijuana industry.
- Imposes a state excise tax of 15 percent on retail sales of marijuana, and state cultivation taxes on marijuana of $9.25 per ounce of flowers and $2.75 per ounce of leaves.
- Exempts medical marijuana from some taxation.
- Establishes packaging, labeling, advertising, and marketing standards and restrictions for marijuana products.
- Prohibits marketing and advertising marijuana directly to minors.
- Allows local regulation and taxation of marijuana.
- Authorizes resentencing and destruction of records for prior marijuana convictions.
State of Prop 64
The Yes on 64 campaign has outraised opponents 25 to 1. As of September 16, 2016, supporters had raised $18.2 million in contributions, while No on 64 had raised $708 thousand. Sean Parker, founder of Napster and former Facebook president, contributed more than $6 million to Yes on 64. California’s two largest newspapers, the Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle, endorsed the measure. The California Democratic Party also endorsed Proposition 64, and the California Republican Party came out in opposition. Support for the initiative has ranged between 52 and 71 percent, averaging around 60 percent since the beginning of August.
Arguments in support of Proposition 64:
- The proposition has specific safeguards that would protect children while allowing responsible adult use of marijuana.
- The proposition would incorporate best practices from other states that have already legalized marijuana use and would adhere to recommendations provided by California’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy.
- The proposition would decrease law enforcement costs and generate tax revenue to fund things like afterschool programs, drug prevention education, drug and alcohol addiction treatment, law enforcement training, research on impaired driving, and other programs.
- The proposition would prevent legislators from using generated revenue for their pet projects.
- The proposition would provide an environment where marijuana is safe, controlled, and taxed.
Arguments in opposition to Proposition 64:
- The proposition would result in more highway fatalities and more impaired driving.
- The proposition would allow marijuana growing near schools and parks, and would erode local control.
- The proposition would increase black market and drug cartel activity.
- The proposition would allow marijuana advertising.
- The proposition would hurt underprivileged neighborhoods.
- The proposition would put small marijuana farmers in northern California out of business.
Currently, medical marijuana is legal in Maine but recreational marijuana is not. Question 1 will legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana in Maine as an agricultural product. It allows individuals over the age of 21 to possess and use marijuana and provides for the licensure of retail facilities and marijuana social clubs. Question 1 directs that the marijuana industry be regulated by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry; that municipalities may limit the operation of retail stores; and that a 10-percent tax be placed on marijuana sales
State of Question 1
As of September 9, the support campaign had raised nearly $1.2 million, while no groups had formally filed in opposition to the measure and no opposition funds had been raised. A poll conducted in March 2016 showed that nearly 54 percent of Maine voters support Question 1.
Arguments in support of Question 1:
- It will make communities safer.
- It will bolster the state economy.
- It just makes sense.
Arguments in opposition to Question 1:
- Some local medical marijuana growers and patients believe Question 1 would put marijuana in the hands of big business.
- The needs of patients who moved to Maine for the medical marijuana-friendly environment will be commodified.
- Pot shops will proliferate, and cannabis will be more available to youth.
- Cannabis-related publications out in the open, instead of behind a counter, would encourage people to consume marijuana.
Currently, cannabis is permitted only for medicinal purposes. Under the new law, individuals at least 21 years old would be able to use, grow, and possess marijuana. Question 4 stipulates individuals could possess less than ten ounces of marijuana inside their homes and less than one ounce in public. They also could grow up to six marijuana plants in their homes.
- Permits the possession, use, distribution, and cultivation of marijuana in limited amounts by persons 21 and older and would remove criminal penalties for such activities. Regulates commerce in marijuana, marijuana accessories, and marijuana products.
- Authorizes persons at least 21 years old to possess up to one ounce of marijuana outside their residences and up to ten ounces inside their residences; grow up to six marijuana plants in their residences; give one ounce or less of marijuana to a person at least 21 years old without payment; possess, produce, or transfer hemp; make or transfer items related to marijuana use, storage, cultivation, or processing.
- Creates a Cannabis Control Commission of three members appointed by the state Treasurer to administer the law governing marijuana use and distribution, promulgate regulations, and be responsible for licensing commercial establishments.
- Authorizes cities and towns to adopt reasonable restrictions on the time, place, and manner of operating marijuana businesses and to limit the number of marijuana establishments in their communities.
- The proceeds of retail sales of marijuana and marijuana products would be subject to the state sales tax and an additional excise tax of 3.75 percent. A city or town could impose a separate tax of up to 2 percent.
- The proposed law would take effect on December 15, 2016.
State of Question 4
Polling from late July showed 41 percent support the measure, 51 percent oppose, and 9 percent are undecided. The numbers contrast with a poll conducted in April that showed 57 percent in support, 35 percent opposed, and 7 percent undecided.
Arguments in support of Question 4:
- Regulating marijuana will replace a dangerous underground market with a system of licensed businesses. Products will be tested, packaged, and labeled. Law enforcement officials will spend more of their time addressing serious crimes.
- Taxing marijuana sales will raise millions of dollars in new revenue each year. Legitimate marijuana businesses will create thousands of good jobs for Massachusetts residents and utilize the products and services of other Massachusetts businesses.
- Marijuana is less harmful than alcohol to the consumer and to society. Adults who can legally consume alcohol should not be punished for using a less harmful substance.
Arguments in opposition to Question 4:
- Increased ambulance rides, emergency room visits, and treatment.
- Increased availability to, and use of drugs among, young people.
Nevada voters have had a long time to think about Question 2, which has been on the November ballot for eighteen months. Over that time, support for the measure has grown modestly but steadily. A Rasmussen/KTNV poll conducted in late September found 53 percent of respondents were in favor of the legalization of cannabis, 39 percent were opposed, and 8 percent were unsure.
- Tax marijuana sales and allocate revenue from the tax to education.
- Authorize the Nevada Department of Taxation to issue licenses to marijuana retailers, suppliers, testing facilities. and distributors.
- Give the Department of Taxation the authority to determine the qualifications for licensing and limit the number of licenses issued.
- Authorize local governments to control marijuana business locations.
- Forbid marijuana businesses from operating near schools, childcare facilities, houses of worship, and certain community facilities.
- Impose a 15-percent excise tax on wholesale sales of marijuana.
- Apply the existing sales tax to retail sales of marijuana.
- Use revenue generated from marijuana taxes to support K-12 education.
Argument for Question 2:
“If we do this right, this will be a major boon to tourism, which is our economy.” —State Senator Tick Segerblom (D-3)
Argument against Question 2:
“Working with the homeless on the street, I’m running into drugs constantly. Every one of these guys I talk to, guys that are shooting up heroin, I ask them how they got started. Every single one of them started with the recreational use of marijuana.” —Nevada Assemblyman PK O’Neill (R-40)
States voting to legalize medical marijuana:
Voters in Arkansas will take up issue 6. A “yes” vote supports legalizing medical marijuana for 17 qualifying conditions, creating a Medical Marijuana Commission, and allocating tax revenue to technical institutes, vocational schools, workforce training, and the General Fund.
Amendment 2 requires 60 percent of the vote in order to pass. In 2014, a medical marijuana ballot initiative fell 2.4-percent shy of approval. This year, supporters believe they have the votes to meet the threshold, and recent polling puts support for the initiative above 70 percent. In contrast with the 2014 effort, the 2016 measure clarifies requirements for parental consent for the use of medical marijuana by minors and also further defines what is meant by “debilitating” illnesses that would qualify for marijuana as a treatment option. The 2016 measure also addresses concerns regarding caregivers by making it clear doctors would not be immune from malpractice claims for negligent prescribing of marijuana, and by limiting how many patients a caregiver can treat with marijuana.
Amendment 2 was written to explicitly allow medical marijuana to be provided as a treatment for patients with the following diseases:
- post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- Crohn’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- multiple sclerosis
Montana voters approved medical marijuana at the polls in 2004 with 64 percent support, but the Montana legislature repealed the act in 2011 and replaced it with SB 423 which, among other changes, makes it much harder for patients to prove they suffer from “severe chronic pain.” The new law, which goes into effect this year, has been called “unworkable for patients and providers” by supporters of I-182, which liberalizes patient and provider access to one another and the plant and addresses product safety protocols.
- Requires providers to obtain licenses and receive unannounced yearly inspections.
- Allows product testing to ensure safety, consistency, and accurate dosages.
- Provides access to veterans and other patients diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Removes the three-person patient limit for providers.
- Creates licensing fees to pay for administration of the new law.
Statutory Measure 5 will be the first opportunity for North Dakotans to vote on a cannabis-related ballot measure. A similar measure failed to reach the ballot in 2012. In 2015, the North Dakota legislature also defeated two bills that would have legalized medical cannabis in the state. There is no recent polling to indicate the will of the people, but a 2014 poll on the general merits of medical cannabis found that 47 percent of respondents supported the legalization of medical marijuana, while 41 percent were opposed, and 9 percent.
Statutory Measure 5 will legalize the use of medical cannabis to treat defined debilitating medical conditions, such as cancer, AIDS, hepatitis C, ALS, glaucoma, and epilepsy, and authorize the development of procedures for regulating medical marijuana growing, dispensing, and usage. It also will make it legal for residents to possess up to three ounces of marijuana for medical needs, and permits people who live more than 40 miles from a licensed dispensary to grow up to eight plants for personal use.