Slowly, but surely cannabis is winning across the United States, and November could see more victories. Two states, Michigan and Utah, have cannabis-related measures on their upcoming ballots while advocates in other states are working to make some form of marijuana legalization in the hands of voters. The timing is less than coincidental considering the high-stakes midterm elections occurring this year.
Some pundits speculate that the popularity of lifting marijuana bans combined with Canada’s move to legalize recreational pot could benefit Democrats during the next election cycle, in turn creating a push for cannabis legalization. With states like Missouri, Oklahoma, Nebraska and North Dakota circulating petitions to place marijuana legalization questions on the ballot, November could be a significant month for the cannabis industry. Here is an overview of states with ballot initiatives this upcoming fall:
Recreational Cannabis In Michigan
On November 6 Michigan voters will go the polls to vote on a measure which would legalize marijuana. The proposed law would allow individuals 21 or older to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana. It also includes various taxes which could generate an estimated $100 million in revenue for the state, according to the Detroit Free Press.
Their proximity to Canada is important, as well as their own medical marijuana program. In fact, with nearly 290,000 patients registered in the state’s medical marijuana program, Michigan has the second highest medical marijuana patient count, coming in just behind California. The patient count is expected to grow since the state approved 11 new conditions earlier this week that can be treated with medical marijuana.
With nearly 60 percent of the state in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana, many believe it is all but a foregone conclusion. But there will be a battle. Organizations like Healthy and Productive Michigan are heavily campaigning against the ballot measure.
Medical Marijuana In Utah
Utah’s medical marijuana ballot initiative saw a big win last week when The Coalition for a Safe and Healthy Utah decided to drop their lawsuit blocking the measure. It means that Utah voters will be able to vote on Proposition 2 to make cannabis available for a variety of conditions such as chronic pain, epilepsy, HIV and AIDS, and post-traumatic stress disorder, to name a few according to the Salt Lake Tribune. Patients can use cannabis balms, oils, and edibles but are not allowed to smoke the cannabis flower for treatment under the proposed law.
Medical marijuana legalization faces an uphill battle in the state. According to The Salt Lake Tribune, 66 percent of voters support medical marijuana, but laws have been slow to come to fruition due to concerns from the very influential Mormon church and Republican leaders. Voter’s opinions on the matter have swayed. In fact, support has dropped from 76 percent in January to 66 percent in June, as a result of campaigns against legalization.
Nonetheless, there has been a lot of movement for legalization over the last six months in Utah. Earlier this year the Utah State Legislature passed “right to try” legislation which gives terminally ill patients in the state the right to use medical grade cannabis that is grown and distributed by the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.
While the church has not formally come out against medical marijuana, their concern is seen as a roadblock to legalization. It has led to calls asking the church to step away from the issue due to the strong support it is receiving from Mormons. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Matthew Bowman, a professor who wrote a book on Mormon faith, said “[t]his is not a hill they want to die on” when explaining how the church weighed in on the issue but has not taken a true stance.
The Other States Petitioning For Pot
Oklahoma is moving at rapid speed towards cannabis legalization. The state just passed some of the most progressive medical marijuana laws in the country and is now pursuing a recreational ballot initiative for November. Supporters of recreational marijuana in the state are working to get Question 797 added to the November ballot. According to NewsOk, “Green the Vote has amassed more than 80,000 signatures” of the 123,725 needed by the August 8th deadline.
Missouri found inspiration to legalize medical marijuana based on Oklahoma’s success. The Joplin Globe reports that “groups in Missouri hailed the decision and said it could give the state the momentum it needs to pass something this year." Missouri appears to be on the road to legalizing marijuana for medical treatment. A state cannabis advocacy group, New Approach Missouri, claims to have enough signatures to put the measure on the ballot, according to the Joplin Globe.
The group Nebraska Right to Cannabis Initiative is fighting that state’s restrictive laws. The Motley Fool reports that the group is working to make it a right for anyone over the age of 21 to use cannabis. They are also focusing on ensuring that medical cannabis is available for individuals under 21 with a guardian’s consent and a medical recommendation. The group must submit its signatures this month to be included in November.
Supporters of fully legalizing marijuana in North Dakota are waiting for the secretary of state to certify the over 18,000 signatures of individuals who signed their petition. The group only needed 13,452 signatures to make the November ballot. The bill would not only legalize recreational pot for users over 21 but would also expunge criminal convictions according to The Washington Post.