It’s almost over. We’re on the home stretch of one of the most bizarre, contentious election seasons in recent history. While the frenetically crazy presidential race has dominated headlines and cable TV shoutfests, marijuana legalization efforts in nine states have flew relatively under the media radar.
But the future of cannabis policy in the United States is at play in 2016. Nationally, polling strongly suggests that Americans want legalization. and momentum appears to be in favor of more progressive laws, but breaking down the state-by-state initiatives is a slightly different matter.
Game-Changing States: California and Florida
California is the big enchilada this election cycle simply because of its size and cultural influence. Although a survey released Wednesday night showed declining support for Proposition 64, most pollsters agree that the measure will likely pass. As of this writing, 55 percent of likely California voters support the initiative. If polling is correct, the shear economic impact of the cannabis industry will send ripples across the country.
Florida, which is voting for a medical marijuana program, is key because it would become the first southern state to allow for a robust, regulated program for patients. Florida, unlike California, is considered a swing state, so the vote should move those politicians who currently sit on the fence.
The Northeast Corridor: Maine and Massachusetts
Maine and Massachusetts have full legalization on the ballot. Polling in both states suggest that it is too close to call, although both measures are slightly ahead in the latest surveys.
These two states — but especially Massachusetts — are important because of the close proximity of neighboring states in the region. If one state moves to legalize, nearby states are likely to follow suit in an attempt to share in the tax benefits.
Voters in Arizona and Nevada will also decide on full legalization. Polling in both states is tight.
Arkansas, Montana and North Dakota have medical marijuana measures on the ballot. Victories in those states are unlikely.
Jacob Sullum, senior editor at Reason magazine, offers this polling insight:
A look at the latest initiative-specific polling suggests that marijuana will be legalized for recreational use in California, Maine, and Massachusetts, while Florida will become the first Southern state to recognize marijuana as a medicine. General legalization looks iffier in Arizona and Nevada, while medical marijuana initiatives seem headed for defeat in Arkansas and Montana. A lack of recent polling makes the outcome in North Dakota harder to predict.
Arkansas: A new poll, conducted last week, puts support for Issue 6 and Issue 7 (both of which would legalize medical use) at 45 percent and 40 percent, respectively. But things got strange in this state on Thursday morning. The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled that Issue 7 be removed from the ballot because of problems validating signatures. Issue 6 remains on the ballot. The confusion does not bode well for supporters of medical cannabis in Arkansas.
Florida: Amendment 2 needs approval from 60 percent of voters to win. A new poll, sponsored by the Yes on 2 campaign and completed last week, puts support at 74 percent. The 2016 average, based on 12 polls, is about 70 percent.
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