Thirty-one states, plus the District of Columbia, have already legalized marijuana in some form, but that could soon change come Nov. 6.
Voters across four states, including North Dakota, Missouri and Utah, will head to the polls on Tuesday to vote on initiatives that could make weed more accessible. The highly anticipated midterm elections arrive at a time when more Americans than ever before support marijuana’s legalization, according to a recent Gallup poll.
“Now we’re seeing the reform movement reaching into some of the most traditionally oppositional areas of this country.”
Justin Strekal, national political director at NORML
North Dakota will vote on “Measure 3,” which would not only legalize the recreational use of marijuana for those over 21, but also put in place a robust criminal justice reform initiative, removing all criminal and civil penalties for the possession, consumption and cultivation of marijuana. It would direct the attorney general to automatically expunge all non-violent records within 60 days of enactment, which could impact up to 117,000 people in the state.ADVERTISEMENT
“It would be the most comprehensive restorative justice ballot initiative ever passed,” said Strekal.
The measure, however, faces challenges in a state with a strong Republican hold. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a vulnerable Democrat up for re-election, noted her opposition to the marijuana ballot initiative during early voting.
The Show Me State is handling its marijuana initiatives differently than others. Voters will have the opportunity to cast their ballots on three proposals — two constitutional amendments and one statutory amendment — that would legalize medical marijuana. Missourians are permitted to vote either “Yes” or “No” on each ballot, raising concerns echoed by marijuana advocates that the vote could split.
Each amendment varies in its implementation of a state-run medical marijuana program.
Though all proposals would legalize medical marijuana, they differ in who would manage the program’s roll-out in addition to how much tax would be placed on sales, according to the Kansas Star.
“Amendment 2” would change the state constitution to allow doctors to prescribe cannabis for 10 medical conditions.
“Amendment 3” would also alter the state constitution but would place a much higher tax on marijuana sales — 15 percent. The estimated billions of dollars in annual revenue would be used to create a new biomedical research facility headed by local physician and lawyer Brad Bradshaw, who raised substantial funds for the political action committee closely tied to the proposal.
Bradshaw defended the high sales tax written into “Amendment 3” in an op-ed, saying the 4-percent sales tax included in “Amendment 2” wouldn’t account for other general state use and local taxes.
“The total taxes will be well over 4%,” Bradshaw wrote in an op-ed. “Amendment 3 is a fixed flat tax of 15% with no other taxes, period.”
The last initiative, “Proposition C,” would change state law similar to “Amendment 2,” but with different taxation levels. But because it’s a statutory amendment and not a constitutional one, the legislature would be able to change it.
The proposal with the most “Yes” votes will be implemented. If one of the constitutional amendments in addition to “Proposition C” is passed, then the constitutional initiative takes precedence.ADVERTISEMENT
More than half of Utahns are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — wielding a powerful influence over the state’s political and social affairs. That includes the marijuana reform movement sweeping across the country.
For the past several months, religious leaders and marijuana advocates have been engaging in a fierce debate over the state’s stance on medical marijuana. However, the opposing groups were able to broker a last-minute compromise that paved the way for medical marijuana to be included on the 2018 ballot.
“Proposition 2” would legalize medical marijuana use for patients with qualifying conditions. However, those with medical marijuana cards would not be permitted to smoke or use a device that would facilitate the smoking of marijuana.
Though Strekal admits the initiative isn’t as robust as others, “it is a big step forward.”
State Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake, drew attention to the marijuana movement in late October when he traveled to neighboring Nevada, where weed is legalized, to try it for the first time.ADVERTISEMENT
“Here it goes, I am going to try it,” Dabakis said as he held an edible gummy bear for the test.
Dabakis explained in a following interview that he found it necessary to try marijuana before a final vote on “Proposition 2” hit the Senate floor.
“I think if the legislature would actually try it, they would find it and realize this is no big deal, and at least let those who are suffering have the help that they need,” he said.
Michiganders voted to legalize medical marijuana a decade ago, but now the state will vote on “Proposal 1,” which would regulate recreational cannabis in a manner similar to alcohol.
“It would include aspects for commercialization through micro-licensing to incentivize small businesses and entrepreneurs to be able to share in the economic benefits of the legislation,” said Strekal.
If Michigan approves the ballot measure, it would become the first state in the Midwest to legalize recreational weed.
The legislation would permit individuals to grow up to 12 plants in their residences and implement a 10-percent tax. The revenue would be allocated to local governments, education and road maintenance.
Though Michigan is recognized for its high percentage of smokers, not everyone is on board with recreational use. Scott Greelee, president of Healthy and Productive Michigan, says it’ll do more harm than good.
“Why not take a look at what’s really going to happen if this were passed and that is a lot more people, a lot more folks on those roads are going to be in danger and are going to need to help them long-term,” he told Circa affiliate WPBN-TV.
Current polling suggests the measure will pass, but opposition groups are contributing large sums of money in the final days leading up to the midterms.