The 2016 elections were very good to marijuana. Although there won’t be as many cannabis-related issues on state ballots this November, it still looks to be a good year for cannabis supporters. That is according to Dr. Lloyd Covens, publisher of West420 Newsweekly.
This fall, with 13 outgoing incumbents, many of whom slowed the progress of cannabis legislation in their state, there are expected to be gains in California, Colorado, and Florida. Polls suggest that somewhere between ten to 16 strong cannabis supporters will gain entry to Governor’s mansions for the first time. It potentially includes the end of governor-aided delays in Massachusetts, Ohio and Maine, and likely wins for pro-legalization and decriminalization candidates in Illinois, Colorado, California, Michigan, New Mexico, and Maine.
In With The Old
States which may retain old less supportive governors include New York, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Arizona, and Massachusetts. Also in Florida and Ohio, neither candidate has planned to do more than just let the current policy play out. And Florida’s GOP nominee Ron DeSantis is opposed to recreational marijuana expansion.
In Nevada, Maryland, and Minnesota, a new Democratic governor would be helpful to legal marijuana advocates, but all those races remain too close to call.
A Look At Medical Marijuana
Of 12 governor races in medical marijuana-only states, as of early August, polling would suggest that seven or eight new governors will be marijuana supporters, with another three to five new governors taking office with a more restrictive attitude toward cannabis.
In California, the entry of seasoned cannabis knowledge will arrive with current Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, who is the past mayor of San Francisco. In 2015-2016 he led a blue-ribbon committee that set up the framework for legal cannabis implementation in support of Initiative 64 passage.
Where It All Started
In Congress, Boulder Congressman Jared Polis worked diligently in support of every marijuana bill introduced, and also took personal leadership on attempting to put recreational cannabis protections in place, similar to the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer language for medical marijuana. Now as the nominee for Colorado governor, Polis is again expected to spend millions from his software fortune, as well as to receive significant support from Colorado marijuana professionals who also supported him in the primary.
Outgoing Colorado governor John Hickenlooper opposed cannabis legalization in 2012, and ended his second term in 2016, with vetoes that bitterly disappointed the state’s $1.52 billion industry. He used his veto pen (one-third of all his vetoes in 2018) to kill the medical marijuana for autism bill, plus a measure to allow public companies to buy into Colorado marijuana firms, and he killed a third bill aiming at starting a modest social consumption system at dispensaries.
In Arizona, pot-hating Governor Doug Ducey will face a tough re-election fight from either Democrat Steve Farley, who is graded by NORML as a "C" on marijuana support, or from Democrat David Garcia, who NORML gives “B” rating on his support. Garcia was leading over Farley in late July polling.
Looking Out West
In Nevada, the state’s conservative attorney general Paul Laxalt will bring his unsupportive position on marijuana to the governor’s race, where he will seek to replace the term-limited Brian Sandoval who worked hard along with cannabis firms to get retail cannabis establishments working a full six months ahead of their required start. The Democratic pro-cannabis candidate (and former Las Vegas area County Commissioner) Steve Sisolak will fight Laxalt for the Governor’s spot, seeking to be the first state Democratic elected governor in two decades.
In New Mexico, strong marijuana supporter and current Democratic Representative Michelle Lujan Grisham is expected to win the governor’s race. She will replace the virulent anti-pot Republican (Susanna Martinez) who fought any plans for legalization and even vetoed a state industrial hemp growing bill three times.
Big Money May Help Cannabis
Illinois Republican Governor Bruce Rauner has tip-toed around letting that state’s medical marijuana program grow slowly, even as he remained staunchly against recreational cannabis consideration. Now with marijuana legalization supporter and billionaire Democratic opponent J.B. Pritzker, the unpopular Rauner may be another loser come November 7th.
In Texas (Greg Abbott), Massachusetts (Charlie Baker) and New Hampshire (John Sununu) all three prohibitionists are poised to be re-elected. In Vermont, the popular Republican governor who signed this year’s first legislature-passed legalization bill, Phil Scott, will likely be elected to a second term as well.
In the U.S. Senate, turnout by pro-cannabis voters will likely help Senator Claire McCaskill in Missouri, Senate Democratic challenger Jacky Rosen in Nevada, and Senator Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota.