AND SO A few more dominoes fall. Michigan voted to legalize the recreational use of cannabis, while Utah and Missouri legalized it for medical use, according to projections made late Tuesday night. (A recreational measure in North Dakota failed, though medical cannabis remains legal there.) They join 31 other states that have already gone the medical route, and nine others that have gone fully recreational.
That’s a win for the citizens of these states—cannabis is far and away safer than alcohol and comes with a range of proven medical benefits, and still more that researchers are exploring. But it also may be a win for cannabis nationwide: The more states that legalize cannabis, the likelier it is that federal prohibition will topple soon.
“Momentum is gaining for change in Congress to allow states to determine their own marijuana policies,” says Morgan Fox, media relations director at the National Cannabis Industry Association. “Two thirds of the country wants marijuana to be legal, and politicians are ignoring that at their peril.”
This midterm election’s outcome is relevant to more than just the end game of dissolving the federal prohibition of cannabis. The momentum could also help the states that have already voted to legalize the drug but remain hamstrung by federal regulation. Over the summer, for instance, the Senate Appropriations Committee torpedoed an amendment that would have allowed banks to work with cannabis companies. This, of course, is a major headache for the industry: If a cultivator or distributor or dispensary can’t find a bank to work with, it’s kinda hard to do business.
States where marijuana is legal are also currently blocked from helping veterans gain better access to cannabis. In September, Congress stripped another amendment that would have allowed physicians affiliated with the Department of Veterans Affairs to recommend medical marijuana in states where it’s already legal.
So, the theory is that with more states voting to legalize, that attitude would trickle up to their representatives in Washington. And one particularly tall hurdle just fell. Republican Pete Sessions of Texas, the chairman of the House Rules Committee who’s been blocking votes on cannabis amendments, just lost to Democratic challenger Colin Allred. How serious is Allred about medical marijuana? It’s telling that he called Sessions out on the veterans amendment.
But then again, the cannabis momentum isn’t coming from politicians, but from the people. “One of the interesting political dynamics of cannabis legalization is that it’s happening in almost every state by ballot initiative,” says Ryan Stoa, author of the book Craft Weed: Family Farming and the Future of the Marijuana Industry. “Meaning, it’s not as if legislators are reading the tea leaves.”
Meaning, maybe we’re pinning too much hope on politicians to push for the federal reform their voters want. “For whatever reason, there still seems to be a lot of hesitation on behalf of politicians, even in the face of strong public support for legalization,” Stoa says.
It’s in a state’s best interest, though, to have cannabis legalized federally, because the economics of cannabis is nutso. Historically, California has provided perhaps three quarters of the domestically grown cannabis in the United States. That’s been over the black market, of course. But even though California has gone recreationally legal, that black market persists, both in-state (high taxes mean some patients skip the legal market) and across the country. Cultivators are “producing more supply than consumers are demanding in the state of California, which means a lot of that supply is going out of state on the black market,” says Stoa.
When a state goes legal, the cannabis sold in-state must be produced in-state (the feds don’t like interstate cannabis markets, for obvious reasons). But legalizing comes with severe growing pains. Small California growers, for instance, are buckling under the weight of new regulations meant to protect the environment and consumers. It’s mighty tempting, then, to skip selling to distributors (which in turn safety-test the product) and instead go black market and sell it all themselves out of state.
Four states across American are on the eve of introducing new cannabis legislation
America’s slow burn towards cannabis legalisation continues at the midterms as four states will vote on ballots featuring medicinal and recreational initiatives. Michigan and North Dakota will decide whether to make the drug legal while Utah and Missouri will vote on its medicinal uses. Polls are suggesting that all four ballots are likely to pass.
With two-thirds of Americans now pro-legalisation, it’s fair to say that attitudes have relaxed since the fears of ‘Reefer Madness’ in the late 1930s, making marijuana a rare issue where party politics don’t divide. This should result in an easy win politically to please constituents and generate a lot in tax revenue.
Despite Canada recently legalising marijuana at a national level, America is still yet to progress past the state-level. However, at the midterms, voters will be able to push America further towards its tipping point on federally legalised cannabis. Until then, here’s the current lay of the land.
Last week we asked ClickOnDetroit readers questions about marijuana, and you responded — lots of you. So far, 2,349 people responded to questions about Proposal 1 and marijuana use, giving us a glimpse into how people feel about legalizing weed across the state.
Here’s our report out on the survey with the reminder this was not a scientific survey. Most people who responded support Proposal 1 and seem to back marijuana use in general. Some responses are revealing, though, and the second half of this report is our attempt to answer the most frequently asked questions.
Thanks to everyone who took the time to answer, and it’s not too late to participate. Take the survey here and you’ll see the results at the end.
Here’s our takeaways from your answers:
77% of respondents said they back Prop 1 – Not surprising for a self-selecting survey. People into the idea of legalizing pot are probably a little more likely to answer questions about it. Just 18% said they were opposed. 82% of men said they supported Prop 1 compared to 69% of women who said they support. WDIV’s scientific poll of likely voters in late October found Prop 1 approval leading 57 percent to 40 percent.
55% of people who responded said they’ll use marijuana if Prop 1 passes, while 34% said no and 11 percent answered undecided. It seems some people see more at play with Prop 1 than getting stoned, such as tax revenue from sales or decriminalizing use.
36% said they would use marijuana if Prop 1 fails, while 52% said they would not. That’s another interesting gap based on legalization. A similar 36% of respondents said they use marijuana now, so passing Prop 1 may increase the number of people using across the state.
We asked how people would consume marijuana, if it was legal. Here’s the breakdown:
Smoke – 78% (80% of men, 70% of women)
Edibles – 61% (60% of men, 64% of women)
Vape – 46% (47% of men, 35% of women)
Oils – 37% (45% of women, 34% of men)
84% of respondents said they wouldn’t use marijuana in front of their kids, while just 6.5% said they would, and 9.2% were undecided.
Finally, we asked people if they would grow marijuana, which would be allowed if Prop 1 passes. 46% said no, while 33% said yes and the remaining 21% were undecided.
Along with our survey questions, we asked people what questions they had about Proposal 1 and promised to seek out answers. Here’s our answers to the most commonly asked questions about the proposal to legalize marijuana in Michigan.
One note before diving in: There are many unknowns about what will happen if Proposal 1 passes. State legislators, local governments, workplaces, and police departments will all have to wrestle with implementing legal weed. Other states, like Colorado, have implemented recreational marijuana, so there’s a road map. But Michigan officials would make their own decisions on how to proceed.
If this passes, when can I buy marijuana in Michigan?
This was the most common question, and it’s one of the hardest to answer. It would be up to the state Legislature to set the rules for selling marijuana in Michigan, and that could take awhile. Colorado voters approved adult use in 2012, but couldn’t legally buy in their state until Jan. 1, 2014.
Local governments will also have a say in where you can legally buy pot. Any municipality can ban marijuana sales, though they’ll lose tax revenue if they prevent legal sales.
Can I lose my job if I fail a drug test? Will employers continue to test? What if I’m off the clock?
Several variations on the question of what happens to drug tests at work. That will be up to your employer. Companies retain the right to test and reject job candidates and fire current employees under the proposal. And federal employees will still fall under the federal law, which outlaws marijuana use.
The law doesn’t protect a worker’s right to use marijuana.
Will there be a law in place to prohibit operating a motor vehicle while smoking, ingesting marijuana products?
The group organizing the legalization effort calls itself the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, so expect enforcement similar to alcohol. One key difference: No amount of marijuana would be allowed in someone’s system if they’re operating any vehicle, which includes boats, snowmobiles, airplanes and ATVs.
A number of people asked about tests law enforcement officers can use to detect marijuana. Here’s how Colorado handles enforcement. Officers are trained to detect impairment caused by many drugs, and anyone who refuses a blood test is considered a high-risk driver with significant penalties, such as mandatory ignition lock for two years.
Colorado also ramps up penalties for driving while impaired with children in the vehicle, and bans open containers of marijuana in the passenger area of a vehicle. Seriously, read Colorado’s Q&A on enforcement for an idea of what Michigan could implement.
Medical Marijuana is All I’m Interested In.
“Adult-use” marijuana, which is what would be legal if Prop 1 passes, is treated separate from medicinal use. They would have separate regulations and likely not able to crossover between medicinal and adult-use sales.
Several medical marijuana users asked about taxing their prescriptions. Right now Michigan charges a 3 percent excise tax and a 6 percent sales tax on medical marijuana. The 3 percent excise tax on medical marijuana would go away, if Proposal 1 passes.
You will sill need a medical marijuana card to purchase medical marijuana. You won’t need a card for adult-use marijuana, though, like alcohol, you would have to be 21.
How Do Taxes Work?
Many of you asked about how much Michigan could make off of legal marijuana sales and where that money would be spent. First, the proposal calls for a 10 percent excise tax on marijuana sales, which is over and above a 6 percent sales tax. Using that combined tax rate, state analysts project something like $130 million in new annual revenue for the state, which would be split among local governments, schools and the state road fund. Here’s the split:
35 percent to improve state roads
35 percent for schools
15 percent to counties that allow marijuana sales
15 percent to local governments that allow sales
Those local taxes are interesting because they create incentive for local officials to allow marijuana sales in their communities. A number of officials have said they won’t allow sales, but we’ll see how that holds up with revenue available to pay for services or lower taxes.
Michigan’s tax would not be the highest in the nation. Organizers say it’s to put a dent in the unregulated black market, driving people to buy regulated and taxed drugs. Charging too much for marijuana could encourage people to continue illicit buying.
The proposal says, “Change several current violations from crimes to civil infractions.” What are civil infractions and what are the consequences for civil infractions?
Michigan’s proposal does not allow public consumption of marijuana. Using in public would be a civil infraction carrying a fine of up to $500. The proposal would allow communities to approve businesses for marijuana consumption — like a bar or tasting room for pot — as long as the business is not accessible to people under 21.
What other taxes, license fees, insurance costs, etc. will increase if this proposal passes?
Interesting question that was hard to track down. Here’s one take on associated costs of legalizing marijuana, and another take on the net-positives of marijuana legalization. There’s a lot of noise on this issue. Legalization will bring in more tax revenue, but likely also higher law enforcement and social services costs.
Proposal 1 will establish a responsible regulatory system to ensure the safety of all marijuana products. Before being made available for sale, items must be tested for potency and possible contamination. Products that do not meet regulatory standards set by state officials will not allowed on the shelves of retail marijuana businesses. Oversight will also ensure that products are properly packaged and labeled so that consumers are informed about what they are purchasing.
(e) testing, packaging, and labeling standards, procedures, and requirements for marihuana, including a maximum tetrahydrocannabinol level for marihuana-infused products, a requirement that a representative sample of marihuana be tested by a marihuana safety compliance facility, and a requirement that the amount of marihuana or marihuana concentrate contained within a marihuana-infused product be specified on the product label;
Will there be certain strains of marijuana which will still be illegal?
It seems likely there will be limits on potency determined by state legislators.
Will this include the CBD products?
Yes. The ballot proposal specifically allows for possession, processing, cultivating, transporting and transferring of industrial hemp, which is used to produce CBD. Listen to Michigan Radio’s interview with Brady Madden, director of e-commerce for MHR Brands, for more information about CBD.
Would you be able to cross back and forth into Canada with marijuana on your person?
Nope. US Customs and Border Patrol made that clear after Canada legalized the recreational use of marijuana in November that nothing changed in the federal law. “Although medical and recreational marijuana may be legal in some U.S. states and Canada, the sale, possession, production, and distribution of marijuana or the facilitation of the aforementioned remain illegal under U.S. federal law,” Director of Field Operations Christopher Perry told WDIV in October.
The legalization of cannabis is new in Canada. The rules are different depending on where you live, and there is a lot that still remains to be seen as far as how the law will develop. If you have questions about the legalities of cannabis use, consult a lawyer. The following is not legal advice and does not take the place of speaking to a licensed lawyer in your area.
Cannabis has been getting a lot of air time recently, but despite all of the discussion, there are still some unanswered questions. What we know for sure is that the government intended to regulate cannabis use, and has done exactly that. This is why there are so many rules around who, how and where Canadians can use cannabis.
WHAT IS LEGAL?
One of the complicating factors is that, although cannabis is legal federally, each province and territory has the ability to make its own rules with respect to many of the ways cannabis is used (such as who can sell it, who can buy it, etc.). In most of the country you have to be 19 years old to buy cannabis, though the age is 18 in Quebec and Alberta. In terms of where to buy it and where you can use it, the rules are different province by province. The good news is that each province and territory has made this information very easily available, and a quick online search for your province will bring up the rules you need to be aware of.
The issue gets even more interesting, though, when we consider the fact that there are other sources of rules regarding cannabis besides the federal and provincial governments. For example, your employer or your condo building may have rules that mean you can’t use cannabis even though it is legal.
Employers typically have drug and alcohol policies in effect for their workplaces. Just as an employer would not want you to show up to work if you were drunk, many also don’t want you to be under the influence of cannabis while working. Many employers updated their drug and alcohol policies in anticipation of legalization, and you would have to abide by these rules. The failure to follow the rules could lead to being fired or, depending on the type of work you do, to criminal charges. You should always make sure to understand your employer’s policies and, if you are the employer, to make sure there is clear communication about the rules.
IN YOUR CONDO AND APARTMENT
When it comes to apartment or condo living, this is another case where you may not be able to do something that is legally permitted. Many buildings pre-emptively updated their smoking policies to include a ban on cannabis that was formerly applied only to smoking tobacco. In condos and apartments, people are living so close together that it is nearly impossible to prevent smells from traveling. When you factor in different residents’ allergies, health issues, personal sensitivities, etc., the easiest rule is often that tobacco and now cannabis are outright banned. Sometimes medical marijuana users are exempt from the rules and, depending on when the policy came into effect, sometimes existing users are grandfathered until they move out of their unit. But more and more we are seeing complete bans of tobacco, and the rules for cannabis have followed suit.
A note on growing cannabis plants. According to the law in most provinces (not Manitoba or Quebec), recreational cannabis users can have up to four plants per household. However, here again many condos and apartment buildings have disallowed this. Growing can cause flooding, fires and the growth of mould. Many condo insurance policies require a ban on growing, so it is often an easy decision for condo boards. When buying a condo, it is really important to make sure you understand all of the condo rules. If you care about an issue like cannabis use one way or another, you want to make sure you understand if this is something that is permitted or not.
TRAVELING TO THE U.S.
Another major issue with legalization is travel to the United States. Federally, the U.S. does not permit the use of cannabis. And since border agents have to try to make sure nothing illegal is going to happen within the U.S., they’re given broad discretion to turn people away if they think there’s a chance that those people will do something illegal (in this case, using cannabis). There’s no hard and fast rule because of the discretion involved, but we’re told a few things that may help to set expectations.
Firstly, if you admit to using cannabis or having used cannabis, you may be denied entry. You could also be banned from entering in the future. This has always been the case, but the issue has been brought to the forefront of people’s minds because of legalization. You shouldn’t lie at the border – doing so could get you in more trouble – but if you’re concerned you should speak to a lawyer in advance of your trip or simply choose your travel destinations accordingly.
If you work for a cannabis company, there may be a difference between traveling on business and traveling for personal reasons. If you are traveling on business, chances are you’ll be denied entry. For personal reasons, you may be admitted to the U.S., but then again you may not. It really is impossible to say with certainty, and we’re going to have to let a bit of time pass to see the data on admission, rejection and bans. We’ve been warned that even owning shares in a cannabis company could raise alarm bells at the border, and again we’ll have to wait and see how this plays out.
It goes without saying that you should never travel to the U.S. (or anywhere) with cannabis on you. Just because it’s legal in Canada doesn’t mean that you can have it on you when you go to another country. You could get in lots of trouble, and you would be subject to the rules of whatever country you’re visiting.
Legalization in Canada has brought with it a number of questions that we still can’t answer. Always make sure you know the rules where you live, and follow them. There are tough penalties in place for people who break the rules, and not being aware of the rules does not excuse you. When it comes to living in condos and apartments, be prepared for bans because of the nature of those buildings and how close everyone lives to their neighbours. And when it comes to travel, consider your destinations carefully. You shouldn’t lie at the border (and remember that border agents can look you up online or on social media!). If you use cannabis or are involved in the industry, there’s no guarantee that you will be allowed into another country. Just do your diligence about the places you are going to visit, and consider whether you’re prepared to risk being turned away.
Announcing it had found in favour of two legal challenges filed against prohibition of recreational marijuana use, Mexico’s top court crossed the threshold needed to create jurisprudence: five similar rulings on the matter.
That creates a precedent other Mexican courts will have to follow.
“This is a historic day,” Fernando Belaunzaran, an advocate of drug reform and member of the opposition leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), said.
The Supreme Court made its first ruling to allow a group of people to grow marijuana for personal use in November 2015.
In a statement, the court said the ruling did not create an absolute right to use marijuana and that consumption of certain substances could still be subject to regulation.
“But the effects caused by marijuana do not justify an absolute prohibition on its consumption,” it said.
The court ordered federal health regulator COFEPRIS to authorize people seeking the right to use marijuana to do so personally, “albeit without allowing them to market it, or use other narcotics or psychotropic drugs.”
Congress would now have to act to regulate the use of marijuana in Mexico, Belaunzaran said.
Officials in the incoming government of President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador have indicated they could take steps to legalize marijuana quickly as part of a broader strategy to fight poverty and crime.