The Cannabis Voter Project talks about cannabis midterms
Guest Author – Sam D’Arcangelo, Director of The Cannabis Voter Project
The midterm elections are today. Voters will have the opportunity to make their voices heard in almost every level of government. While midterm elections are usually marked by low voter turnout, this year looks to be much different—a clear sign that American believe a lot is at stake. Interestingly, it looks like cannabis-related ballot measures are one of the reasons why voters are mobilizing in records numbers.
Earlier this year, a survey of voters in “battleground districts” found that 55% would be more likely to go to the polls if a cannabis initiative was on the ballot. Numerous other surveys have shown that a majority of Americans support legalization, with particularly high support among young voters. As we head into a very consequential midterm election, here’s six states where cannabis measures may bring more people to the polls.
Many people consider Michigan to be the state that is most likely to legalize cannabis next. If passed, Proposal 1 would legalize possession, use and cultivation of cannabis for those over 21 years of age as well as commercial cannabis sales through state-licensed retailers. Polls show that it’s likely to be approved, and supporters have raised more money than their opponents by a significant margin.
Under Proposal 1, the state would license cannabis businesses and let municipalities ban or restrict them. It also subjects retail cannabis sales to a 10 percent tax, which will fund implementation costs, clinical trials, schools, and roads where the businesses are located. Additionally, Proposal 1 does not have any provisions for expungement of past cannabis convictions.
Proposition 2, the Medical Marijuana Initiative, is on the ballot in Utah as an initiated state statute. Under the measure, a medical cannabis cardholder could not smoke cannabis. During any single 14-day period, a person would be permitted to buy either two ounces of unprocessed cannabis or an amount of product with no more than 10 grams of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or cannabidiol. Proposition 2 would exempt cannabis from local and state sales taxes, and would direct the state legislature to enact cannabis business license fees to fund the ongoing costs of the initiative’s implementation.
Things got complicated with the bill when some lawmakers announced that they had reached a compromise with members of the Utah Patients Coalition to legalize medical cannabis even if Prop 2 fails to pass. The compromise bill is called Utah Medical Cannabis Act, and it would create a more restrictive system than the ballot measure. While Prop 2 was opposed by the Church of Latter Day Saints—a powerful force in Utah—and the major lobbying group Drug Free Utah, these two groups support the compromise legislation. No one is sure how the announcement of the compromise will affect how people vote for Prop 2, but it looks like medical legalization is happening no matter what (it’s just not clear how it will happen).
North Dakota Measure 3, the Marijuana Legalization and Automatic Expungement Initiative, would legalize the recreational use of cannabis in the state of North Dakota for people 21 years of age or older. It would also penalize the possession or distribution of cannabis involving underage individuals. Unlike Proposal 1 in Michigan, Measure 3 creates an automatic expungement process for those who have been convicted of a crime involving a controlled substance that has been legalized, and eliminate North Dakota’s immunity from damages resulting from expungement lawsuits.
There haven’t been many polls, and the few that exist appear to be inconclusive. Opponents of the Measure, including North Dakotans Against the Legalization of Recreational Marijuana and Healthy and Productive North Dakota, have spent a lot more than supporters on advertising and lobbying.
There are actually three separate medical cannabis initiatives in Missouri: Amendment 2, Amendment 3, Proposition C. Two of the measures are constitutional amendments, meaning only the one with the top vote total goes into the constitution. A third measure would legalize medical cannabis by creating a new state statute, which means it could pass concurrently with a constitutional competitor and still go into effect. If all of them pass, priority goes to the amendments. If both amendments pass, then the one with the most votes is the one that is enacted.
- Amendment 2 is the only one that would allow people to grow their own cannabis (it also appears to be the most popular and is backed by the most drug policy reform organizations). It’s organized by New Approach Missouri.
- Amendment 3 would create some of the highest medical cannabis taxes in the country, and much of that tax money would fund a new research institute tasked with finding cures for illnesses like cancer. The campaign behind Amendment 3 is organized by a millionaire named Brad Bradshaw, and the amendment includes language that would make Bradshaw the new research institute’s first Coordinator if it passes.
- Proposition C would create a new state law, which would let legislators tinker with it more easily than an amendment. It also has by far the lowest taxes of the three initiatives. It’s backed by a PAC.
Ohio will have Issue 1, the Drug and Criminal Justice Policies Initiative, on the ballot. It would make drug use and possession offenses misdemeanors; prohibit courts from ordering probation for felonies to be sent to prison for non-criminal probation violations; create a sentence credits program for inmates’ participation in rehabilitative, work, or educational programs; and require the state to spend savings from a reduction of inmates, resulting from Issue 1, on drug treatment, crime victim, and rehabilitation programs. It’s not a cannabis-specific reform, but it would certainly affect cannabis.
Six cities in Ohio will also vote on local level cannabis decriminalization ordinances: Dayton, Fremont, Garrettsville, Norwood, Oregon and Windham. The proposed ballot measures won’t change state law, but they would alter local policies and likely protect at least some cannabis consumers from criminal sanctions.
Sixteen Wisconsin counties and two cities will vote on non-binding cannabis-related referendums. Some of the referendums ask if recreational cannabis should be legalized, some ask if medical cannabis should be legalized and some ask if both should be legalized. The referendums will provide a measure of public opinion that can be shared with the state legislature, and possibly spur new laws relaxing or eliminating current prohibitions.
Cannabis legalization is an issue that has the power to drive voter turnout in a big way—there is little doubt about that. No matter what happens on November 6th, cannabis policy will be on the agenda at the state and national level for the foreseeable future. And that’s exactly what millions of Americans want.