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What to expect when cannabis comes up for a vote this November

At least four states currently have marijuana-related initiatives on the ballot this November: Michigan’s Initiative 1, Utah’s Prop 2, North Dakota’s Measure 3, and Missouri, a state with two cannabis-based constitutional amendments and one statutory initiative.

North Dakota’s measure is newsworthy for the fact that it’s so short — a bare-bones initiative that both advocates and opponents argue make the outcome lean in their favor. Meanwhile, in Missouri, the opposite tactic has been employed, with a number of complicated measures placed in front of voters.

In the middle sit Michigan and Utah, two states which couldn’t be at more polar opposite ends of the spectrum.

Michigan

Michigan is voting to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana as do nine other states and one U.S. commonwealth. Yes on 1 is supported by the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. This Coalition is a committee formed to support Michigan ballot initiative 1.

Earlier this month, the Michigan State Board of Canvassers approved the final ballot language which will appear on the November 6 general election ballot. Proposal 18-1, Proposal 1’s real ballot name, would allow individuals 21 and older to purchase, possess, and use marijuana and marijuana-infused edibles and to grow up to 12 cannabis plants for personal consumption.

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The proposal also imposes carrying limitations and creates a state licensing system. Additionally, individual municipalities may ban or restrict marijuana business licenses.

Michigan will tax retail marijuana sales at 10 percent, and will dedicate these taxes to any costs associated with implementing this legislation, along with schools, roads, clinical trials, and municipalities where marijuana businesses are located will also receive a dedicated portion of these taxes.

Who supports the initiative?

The Coalition spokesperson Josh Hovey issued a statement on the ballot initiative, saying that the Coalition is “Confident that voters will see Proposal 1 for the responsible initiative that it is and vote yes because it builds on the best practices of other states that have come before us.”

The Coalition has raised $1.74 million to support the Proposal 1 campaign. Additionally, the Marijuana Policy Project and their Foundation have contributed more than $633,013 to the Coalition, according to Ballotpedia.

In addition to the MPP, several other organizations have registered their support for this ballot initiative. These organizations include MI Legalize, Michigan Cannabis Coalition, Michigan NORML, the National Patients Rights Association, the ACLU, and the Marijuana Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan.

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Hovey stated that marijuana prohibition has been a failure and that sensible legislation which legalizes recreational marijuana use is the answer.

“Instead of wasting law enforcement resources on a substance that is proven to be less harmful than either alcohol or tobacco, our initiative creates a tightly regulated system that will generate significant revenue for the state that will help fund our roads, public schools, and local governments—three of Mich.’s most under-funded needs,” Hovey said.

Source: Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol

Who’s against it?

Opponents to Proposal 1 include state Representative Eric Leutheuser (Republican), former Senator Randy Richardville (Republican), and the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. Kevin Sabet, president and founder of Smart Approaches to Marijuana issued a statement, calling legalizing marijuana a failed experiment driven by “Big Marijuana.”  

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Regarding fundraising, the Coalition is outstripping its competition. Thus far, Healthy and Productive Michigan, the organization leading the campaign against Proposal 1, along with the Committee to Keep Pot Out of Neighborhoods and Schools PAC, have only received $286,062 in donations. Roughly 16 percent of what the Coalition has raised. $275,000 worth of those donations came from the Smart Approaches to Marijuana Actions.

What the voters have to say

Hovey stated that “Multiple polls show that roughly 60 percent of Mich. voters want to see marijuana legalized and regulated… The fact is that our proposal is carefully written to be a model for responsible cannabis regulations and closely follows the medical marijuana licensing law passed by the state legislature in 2016.”

This same medical marijuana legislation, enacted in 2016, has taken two years to implement and hasn’t been entirely successful.

Ninety-eight medical marijuana dispensaries were forced to close on September 15, and hundreds of dispensary licensing applications have yet to be reviewed by the BMMR.

Regardless of past implementation practices or state pot-policies, Michigan will be voting to implement a statewide recreational cannabis program. Michigan’s general election will be held on November 6.

New poll shows we still have a strong majority of support! Details: https://t.co/3Czp6ItPUP#utpol #patientsnotcriminals #utah #medicalfreedom #freetochoose pic.twitter.com/4oFyNXpSZY

— Utah Patients (@utahpatients) September 4, 2018

Utah

Utah, home to the five “Mighty Park” national parks (Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches, and Canyonlands), is the latest battleground for the medical marijuana legalization effort.

After receiving an overwhelming amount of signatures, the medical cannabis initiative backed by the Utah Patients Coalition was approved for the November ballot by state Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox earlier this year.

If approved by voters, Utah’s Prop 2 would create a statewide medical marijuana program and establish legislative protections and procedures for medical marijuana patients.

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Specifically, Prop 2 would provide those suffering from specific debilitating medical conditions with protection from arrest or prosecution for using marijuana prescribed by their doctor. This protection would extend to caregivers helping patients obtain and administer their medication so long as they pass a background check.

Medical marijuana patients would not be allowed to obtain more than two ounces of cannabis or 10 grams of CBD or tetrahydrocannabinol from a licensed dispensary and would be allowed to grow cannabis without a license after Jan. 2021, but only if there isn’t a dispensary within 300 miles of the patient’s home.

Prop 2 would also provide for the issuance of four types of medical marijuana business licenses for cultivation facilities, processing facilities, independent testing laboratories, and dispensaries.

Finally, medical marijuana would also be exempt from a sales tax, but must also generate enough revenue to offset the expenses of establishing and maintaining the medical marijuana program.

Who supports the initiative?

The Utah Patients Coalition is the organization spearheading the campaign in support of Prop 2. Additionally, the proposition has registered support from MPP, the Libertas Institute, Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera, and an organization called Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education Utah.

In a press conference held for Prop 2, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sam Gill announced that he would be voting in favor of the initiative. “This is not about recreational marijuana, that is not what I support, but I will advocate for not criminalizing the conduct of parents, patients, and family members for an act of compassion.

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As a public prosecutor, the last thing I want to be doing is be in the middle of a conversation between a patient and their physician. They should not have to worry about the specter of criminal prosecution for an act of compassion," Gill stated.

The Utah Patients Coalition has raised $761,700 in contributions thus far.

Source: Utah Patients Coalition

Who’s against it?

Thus far, the following organizations have registered in opposition to Prop 2: The Utah Medical Association, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Utah Narcotics Officers Association, the Utah Eagle Forum, D.A.R.E. Utah, the DEA Salt Lake Metro Narcotics Task Force, and the Utah Sheriff’s Association.

While the governor of Utah Gary Herbert hasn’t registered his opposition outright, he has stated that he would prefer the federal government to remove marijuana as a Schedule I drug before he could endorse a medical marijuana program.

In his monthly news conference, Gov. Herbert stated, “If [Proposition 2] doesn’t pass, we’ll start new. We’ll create, in this upcoming legislative session, a bill that everybody can support. One way or the other, we’re going to get a law on the books that makes some sense for the people of Utah."

Like Michigan, the opposition is lagging behind the support regarding fundraising. According to Ballotpedia, the opposition has raised $167,180 but has only expended $72,120 for their opposition campaign.

What the voters have to say

After the LDS Church announced its opposition in August, political surveys noticed a dip in voter support for Prop 2. In the most recent survey, Dan Jones & Associates interviewed 809 people. 64 percent of those surveyed were in support of Prop 2 while 33 percent were opposed. Another 2 percent were undecided.

Utah is known for being a religious and conservative state. With the LDS Church in opposition, patients hoping for medicinal marijuana will have to wait until November to see if voters can separate the church’s stance from the state’s proposition.

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