Medical and recreational marijuana voter initiatives have qualified for ballots in nine states.
We knew that 2016 was going to be a historic year for cannabis. Already over the course of the year, two states (Pennsylvania and Ohio) have adopted medical marijuana legislation, bringing the national total to 25. This fall, the number of states with cannabis legislation could continue to rise, as nine states will present cannabis ballot initiatives to voters in November.
Attitudes regarding marijuana, both recreationally and medically, are shifting toward acceptance. Voters have a better understanding of the benefits to ending prohibition and the medicinal benefits of cannabis, and this expanding knowledge is translating to expanding cannabis legislation throughout the United States. Acceptance is even growing among notoriously anti-cannabis Republicans.
This November voters in five states will decide on recreational marijuana initiatives, and if polls are any indication, it won’t be a surprise if by the end of the year if the number of U.S. states with adult use laws jumps from four to nine. More Americans than ever now support adult use marijuana legalization.
Voters in Arizona will decide the fate of Proposition 205, a measure that if passed would legalize up to 1 ounce of marijuana for adults 21 years and older. Adults would also be allowed to cultivate up to six marijuana plants per house.
An Arizona Republic/Morrison/Cronkite News poll conducted between August 17 and August 31 found that 50 percent of Arizona registered voters are likely to vote in favor of the recreational use of marijuana measure, while 40 percent are in opposition of the measure and 10 percent are undecided.
The poll also found that nearly three-fourths of Arizona voters believe the state’s schools lack proper funding, a concern that could influence voters to support the marijuana initiative. Under the measure, a 15 percent tax would be applied to all retail sales, with 80 percent of the revenue going to school districts and charter schools. An independent analysis from nonprofit Grand Canyon Institute projects that if the measure passes, it would mean $58 million in education by 2019.
Already the largest legal cannabis market in the world ($2.7 billion market in medical marijuana), California could become even bigger if voters support the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) this fall. AUMA, or Proposition 64, permits adults ages 21 and over to possess and transport up to one ounce of marijuana for recreational use. Adults would also be permitted to cultivate up to six plants for personal use.
A report from research firm The Arcview Group estimates that the passing of AUMA would add an estimated $1.4 billion in revenues within the first year the market is fully operational. The cannabis market is then predicted to grow to between $2.7 billion and $6.6 billion by 2020.
Support for the initiative is strong, as a recent poll by the Institute of Governmental Studies (IGS) at University of California-Berkeley found that 63.8 percent of voters support legalizing recreational marijuana use.
In Maine, voters will have the opportunity to decide on Question 1, a ballot initiative that if passed would legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older, allowing them to possess up to 2.5 ounces. The initiative would enact a 10 percent tax on all sales, and the revenue would be used to implement and enforce regulations.
A Marijuana Policy Project poll from May found that 55 percent of registered and likely voters support a law allowing marijuana to be legalized, taxed and regulated.
Facing Massachusetts voters in November is the Legalization, Regulation, and Taxation of Marijuana initiative, or Question 4, which would legalize the use, purchase, possession and transfer of marijuana by adults aged 21 and older. Under the measure, adults could possess up to an ounce of marijuana, keep up to 10 ounces of marijuana at home, and grow up to six plants. The law would also legalize cannabis edibles and concentrates. A 3.75 percent excise tax and a 6.25 percent sales tax would be applied to retail sales under the law.
A report from Arcview Market Research and New Frontier estimates that if the initiative were to pass, the Massachusetts’ marijuana market would be worth $1.1 billion by the year 2020. Legalization of recreational marijuana would bring in an estimated $300 million in sales in 2018 and then triple in value in two years time.
Despite having the public endorsement of 10 Massachusetts lawmakers, the initiative is struggling to gain support from voters. A Gravis Marketing poll from July found that 51 percent of those surveyed plan to oppose the marijuana initiative, while 41 percent responded that they would vote for it and nine percent were undecided.
Marijuana prohibition could come to an end in Nevada, where voters will decide on Question 2, an initiative that not only removes all legal penalties for personal use and possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, but creates a system of licensed marijuana retail stores, distributors, cultivation facilities, product manufacturers and testing facilities. A 15 percent excise tax would be applied to wholesale marijuana sales and retail sales would be subject to standard state and local sales taxes.
If the initiative passes, Nevada would pull in a projected $629.5 million in legal cannabis sales by 2020, according to a report from New Frontier and Arcview Market Research.
A KTNV-TV 13 Action News/Rasmussen Reports poll from July found that 50 percent of Nevada voters supported the recreational marijuana measure, while 41 percent opposed it and nine percent were undecided.
Nationally, support for medical marijuana by American voters is at an all-time high. By the end of the year, 28 of 50 U.S. states could have full, comprehensive medical marijuana programs. Voters in three states – Arkansas, Florida and North Dakota – will be deciding whether to introduce medicinal marijuana to their state. In Montana, voters will have the opportunity to amend their already-established and flawed medical marijuana law.
Regardless of whether these medical marijuana laws pass, CBD oil extracted from hemp, which is naturally low in psychoactive THC, remains legal to purchase and ship to all 50 states and to over 40 countries internationally. That is because hemp containing 0.3% or less THC by weight is not banned alongside marijuana by the Controlled Substances Act.
In Arkansas, voters will be presented with two separate medical marijuana initiatives, a situation that could mean failure for both if votes are split. One of the measures, presented by Arkansans for Compassionate Care, is a simple state statute. The other, organized by Arkansans United for Medical Marijuana, is a constitutional amendment. Overall, the two measures are similar, but there are a few notable differences between the two measures. Arkansans United for Medical Marijuana’s amendment, for example, would ban home cultivation and sets no limitations on how much to charge for a product.
This summer, a Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College Poll found that 58 percent of Arkansas voters said they would support a medical marijuana initiative. Voters are allowed to vote for both measures.
After narrowly rejecting a constitutional amendment for medical marijuana in 2014, Florida voters will have another opportunity to pass a comprehensive medical marijuana program with Amendment 2. Currently the state has in place a CBD-specific marijuana law, which allows medically qualified patients with written permission from a physician to use CBD oil.
Amendment 2, if passed, would change the state’s constitution to allow full medical marijuana for patients with a wide range of “debilitating medical conditions,” including cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and multiple sclerosis.
Polls indicate that Florida voters will pass the amendment. In May, Quinnipiac University found that 80 percent of voters supported the constitutional amendment.
While Montana legalized medical marijuana back in 2004, a more recent bill inadvertently caused a majority of patients to lose legal access to medicinal cannabis earlier this month. Thankfully, Montana voters will have an opportunity to right the legislative wrong this November and support Initiative-182, which would amend the recent bill to remove the restrictions limiting access. The voter initiative would also expand the medical marijuana program to include PTSD patients and remove obstacles for patients suffering from chronic pain.
In North Dakota, voters will be faced with the North Dakota Compassionate Care Act, which would allow patients with a recommendation from a licensed physician to legally possess up to 3 ounces of marijuana for medical purposes.
Under the measure, several conditions, including cancer, HIV and AIDS, hepatitis C, ALS, PTSD, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia, Crohn’s disease, fibromyalgia, spinal stenosis or chronic pain related to neuropathy or damage to the spinal cord, glaucoma and epilepsy, would qualify for medical marijuana. Patients suffering from conditions that cause cachexia or wasting syndrome, intractable nausea, severe pain and seizures would also be allowed legal access.