This Election Day showed the burgeoning political clout of the drug policy reform movement, with the results expected to accelerate efforts to legalize marijuana and to end the broader war on drugs in states across the U.S., at the federal level, and internationally.
Michigan voters approved Proposal 1, a ballot initiative to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana for adults 21 and over, making it the 10th U.S. state to legalize marijuana – and the first in the Midwest. Missouri and Utah also became the 32nd and 33rd states to approve medical marijuana.
“Western and northeastern states have led the way on legalizing marijuana, but the victory in Michigan powerfully demonstrates the national reach of this movement,” said Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “With such overwhelming public support for marijuana legalization, even including majorities of Republicans and older Americans, there’s only so long that the federal government can continue to hold out.”
Michigan’s Proposal 1 will legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana in Michigan for adults aged 21 and older. It allows for the possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and cultivation of up to 12 plants for personal use, while also establishing a legal framework for the licensing and regulation of marijuana businesses and products. There were over 200,000 marijuana arrests in Michigan from 2007 through 2016, averaging roughly 21,000 per year. Of those arrests, 84% were for personal possession. The Drug Policy Alliance and its lobbying arm, Drug Policy Action, helped fund and played a significant role in drafting this initiative.
Missouri’s victorious Amendment 2 will provide legal access to medical marijuana for patients with certain qualifying conditions. It creates a robust system of access for patients through the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services while allowing physicians to decide when medical use is appropriate. Missouri had three separate medical marijuana initiatives on the ballot. The Drug Policy Alliance and its lobbying arm, Drug Policy Action, played a leading role in drafting and funding Amendment 2.
Voters in Utah passed Proposition 2, which will protect terminally and seriously ill patients with specific debilitating medical conditions from arrest and prosecution. It will establish a regulatory system to license and regulate the production and distribution of medical marijuana.
Florida voters, meanwhile, approved a historic initiative to restore the vote to over 1.4 million people with past felony convictions upon completion of their sentences, except for those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense. As in most other U.S. states, drug possession is punished as a felony in Florida.
Embracing drug policy reform proved to be a winning strategy for gubernatorial candidates, as Gavin Newsom (CA), Jared Polis (CO), J.B. Pritzer (IL), and Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM) emerged victorious.
Drug policy reform also played a major role in scores of local, state and federal races all over the country. The most powerful marijuana reform opponent in the House of Representatives, Pete Sessions of Texas, lost to Colin Allred, a supporter of marijuana reform.
“The public has long believed that drug use should be treated as a health issue, not as a criminal issue. It’s encouraging to see so many political candidates finally getting on board,” added McFarland. “The momentum to end the drug war took a significant leap forward today.”