This November, voters in at least nine states will check a box for either full cannabis legalization or a medical marijuana program. Never before in our history have so many voters had the opportunity to have their voices heard on this issue.
Five states will vote on full legalization of recreational cannabis, while voters in four (more, depending on last-minute legal challenges) will decide on whether to allow medical marijuana.
Here, in order of likelihood, are where cannabis enthusiasts will celebrate on the morning of Nov. 9:
California: Full legalization
This vote is the big enchilada. The Golden State is the world’s sixth largest economic engine and is home to the most cannabis farms in the U.S. As California goes, so goes the nation. Proposition 64 — the Adult Use of Marijuana Act — will allow adults (21 and older) to possess and grow small amounts of cannabis for personal use.
California was the first state to allow for medical marijuana back in 1996 and that program generates nearly $3 billion. This is the state’s second attempt at full legalization; it failed in a contentious 2010 campaign that didn’t garner the support of longtime cannabis growers in California’s northern region. This year, Proposition 64 is comfortably ahead in the polls and looks headed for certain victory.
The Sunshine State appears poised to join the growing number of states with a fully functioning medical marijuana program.
The Sunshine State appears poised to join the growing number of states with a fully functioning medical marijuana program. Amendment 2 — United For Care — will allow patients with certain qualifying conditions to consume cannabis without fear of arrest. There is no provision for growing your own plants. Most statewide news organizations have endorsed the measure and polling shows that more than 75 percent of likely voters support it. Just two years ago, a similar amendment received 58 percent of the vote. Unfortunately, it required 60 percent to pass.
Nevada: Full legalization
Question 2 — Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol — will achieve what the title of the measure clearly states: Make marijuana legal for adults 21 years of age and older and establish a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol. The ballot initiative is based on Colorado’s successful 2012 campaign and polling suggests a clear path to victory. Clearly, Las Vegas — long considered the nation’s Sin City — is poised to benefit financially from full cannabis legalization. Reno, with its proximity to California and Lake Tahoe ski resorts, is also gearing up for a new industry.
Only 2.8 million people live in Nevada, but more than 40 million tourists head to the state annually. Legalization here will have a broader impact than most smaller states.
Sheldon Adelson, the conservative billionaire who funded Florida’s anti-cannabis forces in 2014 with a $5 million contribution, is the new owner of the Las Vegas Review-Tribune and is once again fighting against marijuana.
Maine: Full legalization
Mainers will get a chance to legalize cannabis — and at the same time repudiate embattled anti-marijuana Gov. Paul LePage — this November.
LePage, along with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, have been two of the most ardent anti-marijuana politicians in the nation. But both governors appear out of step with the will of their states’ voters.
Question 1 — Regulate and Tax Marijuana — allows adults 21 years of age and older to possess a limited amount of marijuana, grow a limited number of marijuana plants in their homes, and possess the marijuana produced by those plants. It will remain illegal to use marijuana in public. Recent polling data shows 55 percent support the ballot measure; 41 percent lean against it.
Maine was one of the early states to decriminalize cannabis back in the 1970s and legalizing medical marijuana in 1999.
Well, Arkansas is currently a bit of a mess. There are two competing measures on the ballot which could lead to voter confusion. If both measures — pass, the one with the highest number of yes votes will be enacted. Yes, it’s an electoral mess.
A medical marijuana victory in Arkansas would be huge.
Four years ago, Arkansans voted against a similar measure in a close vote. This year, polling suggests that nearly 60 percent of likely voters will support it.
But a medical marijuana victory in Arkansas would be huge. It will be the first state in the south to enact a program designed to assist patients who want and need cannabis as a medicine. It likely will force other southern states to consider adopting similar laws.
Arkansas Business, a statewide publication, describes how the AMCA snd the AMMA differ.
Massachusetts: Full legalization
The Bay State proves that cannabis legislation is not a blue-red, Democratic-Republican, conservative-progressive issue. The perennially liberal state will most likely reject the legalization of marijuana this year.
Question 4 — the Tax and Regulate Marijuana ballot measure — is polling at 41 percent in favor, according to the latest data.
Meanwhile, the “No on 4” campaign has garnered support from Gov. Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Martin Walsh.
New England states have become a key battleground for the legalization movement. Because of the proximity of the cluster of states, most advocates believe that once one or two states legalize the entire region will jump aboard the tax revenue train. But, as of now, 2016 does not bode well for those supporting legal weed.
North Dakota: Medical
This ballot measure — the North Dakota Compassionate Care Act of 2016 — is a real wild card. Polling in North Dakota is as sparse as the state’s population — the latest data from two years ago suggests narrow support.
The state’s conservative political leaders have fought hard to keep this off the ballot, but cannabis advocates scrambled to get enough signatures in August to qualify for the ballot.
Trying to predict an outcome here is essentially like flipping a coin.
Arizona: Full legalization
It is highly unlikely that Arizonans will vote for full legalization of cannabis. Proposition 205 — Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol — is polling at less than 40 percent approval, according to a July survey.
The measure is similar to Nevada’s and Maine’s, but Arizona is still a deep red conservative state. It would take a a miracle for this state to pass full legalization.
Another long shot for patients in Oklahoma. Proponents in this state, a grassroots organization called Oklahomans for Health, have submitted signatures that are currently being verified. Even though a 2013 poll showed that 71 percent of residents of the state agreed with the concept of “joining … other states who now have laws allowing seriously ill patients to possess marijuana for medical purposes,” the chances of a measure on the ballot in time is unlikely.
This may not be the year here, but the winds in Oklahoma are shifting on the issue.
Oklahoma is a deep-red state and Republicans dominate the statehouse, but a majority of GOP voters support medical marijuana. This may not be the year here, but the winds in Oklahoma are shifting on the issue.
Montana’s medical marijuana situation is like its weather: Unpredictable and wild. The state already approved an MMJ program 12 years ago, but the conservative legislature has been gutting it ever since. In 2011, the state essentially outlawed dispensaries and led patients back into the black market for their cannabis.
Initiative 182 — Montana’s New Medical Marijuana Initiative — promises responsible access for patients and ensures accountability.
There is no polling data available in the state and advocates continue to fight an uphill battle with state legislators who appear hard-bent on keeping marijuana out of the state.