The nation woke up Wednesday morning to Michigan legalizing recreational cannabis, letting the green wave into the Midwest, and Missouri and Utah passing initiatives to allow the use of medical marijuana. What’s interesting about Tuesday’s election is that it proved that cannabis legalization has become a non-partisan issue.
“This election proves that U.S. voters are ready and eager for comprehensive cannabis policy reform at the state and federal level,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association. “This is no longer a third-rail issue. Members of Congress need to listen to their constituents, allow states to determine their own cannabis policies, and start treating this burgeoning legal industry fairly.”
The two biggest wins of the day were Michigan, a middle country state that will be a pillar for the surrounding states, and Mormon dominated Utah. Michigan represents a large market and is near Illinois, Ohio, and Indiana, giving them access to additional customers and influence over their state laws. In addition, newly elected Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker wants to legalize Marijuana nearly right away – shortly after his taking office. From a business point of view, this opens up the signature Midwest market in 2019, helping propel the industry to $20 billion in 2021. Michigan and Illinois combined have a population of almost 22 million, a bit more than half of California, the world’s largest market. Full recreational in Michigan and Illinois also makes for a positive social impact considering the strain on the criminal justice system with minor marijuana offenses.
Utah’s vote for medical marijuana highlights the nation’s view of cannabis. The initiative passed with the tacit support of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the largest political influence in the state. “We are not opposed to medical marijuana” said Marty Stephens, director of government relations for the church to a group of about 20 online influencers on September 29, 2019.
The one loss was North Dakota. The state-wide campaign was led by a grass roots efforts that was not fully funded and did not offer a clear vision of legalization post-election. What was learned from Ohio was voters want a clear, fair picture of what happens once they start to walk down the weed road. Despite this, they managed to receive 39 percent of the vote. A better organized campaign could lead to passage in the next election. Remember, their neighbor South Dakota converted in the Trump 2016 election.
The industry and the public has to be patient. This is not a quick turnaround; there are many factors that play into legalization including how to divide the large tax revenue. But one thing is clear, the general public has moved on and decided cannabis is here to stay.