Several states are voting on legalizing weed, not to mention federal marijuana legalization could finally come into focus.
Everything is at stake for marijuana legalization across the United States in this election. Not only do a handful of states have voter initiatives on the ballot aimed at legalizing the leaf for medicinal and recreational use, but the prospect of legalizing at the federal level has also landed in the chamber of American politics.
It all depends on how the Senate and presidential elections shake out, dictating how soon our prohibition nation becomes the Land of the Weed. But if this election is anything like times past, there are bound to be some small victories by the end of the day.
Four States Voting on Marijuana Legalization
We could see four more states with legal marijuana laws on the books at the end of this election. Arizona, South Dakota, Montana, and New Jersey are all considering proposals aimed at legalization for recreational purposes. This means legalizing pot for adults 21 and older in a manner similar to alcohol. Meanwhile, Mississippi is asking voters if people should be allowed to have cannabis for medicinal use. So, which of these jurisdictions stands a fighting chance at making legal weed a reality? Well, after some careful consideration, this is what we’ve come up with.
Arizona, which already has a medical marijuana program, tried once and failed to legalize for adult use. The voters just weren’t into this concept at the time. However, they might be ready for it now. Some of the latest polls show roughly 56 percent of the voters support legalization this time around. If we had to pick one state with the best chance, Arizona would be ranked in the top three.
South Dakota voters must consider a couple of different proposals. One aims to legalize for medicinal use. The other measure looks to take things a step further by legalizing for adult-use while also putting together a therapeutic program. It’s possible that both initiatives could receive enough votes to pass. If that happens, South Dakota would have to figure out how to implement both a system that allows people to gain access to weed for various ailments and one that lets them buy it as though it was beer. Some argue that having conflicting measures on the ballot only serves to confuse the voter. And that could sabotage both proposals by the end of the day. This is just one of the reasons that we don’t see South Dakota legalizing anything this year.
Montana also has two initiatives on the ballot this election calling for legal marijuana. They are both geared toward adult-use, yet they each have a slightly different view on how that should happen. Again, dueling ballot measures could throw the voting public into a tailspin and completely wreck any chance the state has of actually pulling it off. But the initiatives seem to have substantial support from the voting public.
We can easily see Montana going the distance this election.
After years of trying to get marijuana legalization done through the state legislature, New Jersey lawmakers finally handed it off to the voters. The state, which has had a medical marijuana program for years, is asking voters, “Do you approve amending the Constitution to legalize a controlled form of marijuana called ‘cannabis’?” If they do, the folks in charge of the medical marijuana program will have to get the adult-use system off the ground. Some of the latest polls show that two-thirds of the voters support the cause, which is why we see it passing. If it happens, the Garden State would be the largest eastern state to establish a taxed and regulated market, perhaps pressuring neighboring states to get more serious about doing the same in 2021.
Mississippi is only pushing for medical marijuana in this election. Voters will get to decide on two initiatives — one that allows patients to use weed for some 22 qualifying conditions and another exclusively for the terminally ill. It remains to be seen just how much support there is for either measure. We don’t see it happening for them this time around. But if we’re wrong and one of the proposals happens to pass, more southern states could move in this direction next year.
Federal Marijuana Legalization Could Finally Come Into Focus
Neither President Trump nor his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, wants to legalize marijuana at the federal level. That’s the cold hard truth. Trump wants to continue putting it in the hands of states, while Biden, a hardcore drug warrior during his time in Congress, still thinks that taxing and regulating the herb like alcohol would be a bad idea. However, if there was a lesser of two evils, Biden would be it. He’s not likely to jump onboard a proposal aimed at full-blown legalization, but he has agreed to decriminalize pot possession nationwide. This would mean no more jail time for small time cannabis offenders, while black market drug dealers would continue to be prosecuted as usual.
Still, Biden is a huge let down for pot reform, especially since the Democrats are in a position to take over both the House and Senate in 2021.
Having Democratic control on Capitol Hill means that we could see a measure designed to legalize cannabis at the federal level being pushed through almost effortlessly. But if it lands on the desk of either Trump or Biden, rest assured it will never see the light of day. The only hope the cannabis community has is putting Biden in the White House and perhaps convincing him to take a more progressive position during his administration. Otherwise, it could be another four years before we advance the cannabis debate.
Meanwhile, more than 60% of the population thinks the nation should go for it. We will see just how strong we stand following election results.