Whereas many eyes were on the tight presidential race heading into Election Day, tens of millions of Americans were also keeping a close eye on the marijuana vote in nine states. It's an industry that's hard to ignore when 60% of the American public, per Gallup, wants to see pot legalized nationally, and where ArcView Market Research expects compounded growth of 30% per year through the end of the decade.
Residents in five states -- California, Nevada, Maine, Massachusetts, and Arizona -- voted on whether to legalize recreational marijuana for adults ages 21 and up, while four states -- Florida, Arkansas, North Dakota, and Montana -- voted on legalizing medical cannabis.
President Obama has previously opined that having more states legalize cannabis could force Congress to take a hard look at rescheduling the drug; thus, the votes in these states were considered crucial to furthering the marijuana movement.
How did each state fare? Let's look at the latest polling results.
All results are current as of 1:30 a.m. ET.
Prop 64, the crown jewel of all marijuana initiatives this election season, aimed to place a 15% tax on consumers at the retail level and would slap a cultivation tax on growers to the tune of $9.25 per ounce for flowers and $2.75 per ounce for leaves. Pundits have suggested that it would add $1 billion in annual tax revenue to California's coffers.
With 31% of precincts reporting, Prop 64 has passed with 56% of the vote. The Secretary of the State claimed victory for Prop 64 just 30 minutes after the polls closed in California, demonstrating what a landslide victory it was for the measure.
Question 2 in Nevada looked to impose a 15% excise tax on consumers at the retail level, with the tax revenue generated from recreational marijuana sales covering the regulatory costs to enforce the measure, as well as heading to schools within the state.
With 51% of the votes accounted for, Nevadans have passed Question 2 with 54% of the voters in favor, compared with just 46% opposed. Nevada was the first state to get a marijuana initiative on the ballot for the 2016 election cycle, so this isn't too shocking.
Question 1 in Maine is designed to legalize marijuana for adults ages 21 and up and imposes a 10% tax at the retail level on consumers, which should eventually lead to an annual collection of $10.7 million. The vast majority of tax revenue generated would wind up in the state's general fund, with about 2% heading back to cities and towns.
With 80% of precincts reporting, Question 1's "yes" vote has a 1% lead over the "no" vote, but this race is really too close to call at this point. It would be a major disappointment for the marijuana industry if Maine failed to pass a recreational-marijuana initiative, given that the initiative made it onto the ballot so early in the election cycle.
Question 4 in Massachusetts would add a 3.25% tax on top of the existing 6.75% tax at the retail level, with individual municipalities having the option to tack on another 2% tax. In total, this measure would lead to a 10% to 12% tax at the retail level, and some pundits have suggested as much as $100 million in annual revenue would be collected.
With 91% of all votes accounted for, Massachusetts voters have passed Question 4 with a 54%-to-46% margin, or about 178,000 votes. This was expected to be a close call, but it turned out to be a decisive victory for marijuana supporters.
Prop 205 in Arizona, like most of the initiatives mentioned, would legalize recreational marijuana for adults ages 21 and up and impose a 15% tax at the retail level. Revenue generated was expected to be channeled to public and charter schools, the Arizona Department of Health Services, and the Department of Marijuana Licenses and Control, which is in charge of regulating the industry.
With 71% of precincts reporting, Prop 205 in Arizona appears to have failed, with 52% voting no and 48% in favor of the measure. While the race hasn't been officially called yet, it's unlikely we'll see a dramatic comeback.
Florida, which narrowly rejected a medical-marijuana amendment in 2014 by a hair over 2%, was seeking to legalize medical cannabis with Amendment 2 and become the 26th state to do so. Unlike other states, a simple majority doesn't cut it. Since the vote requires an amendment to the state's constitution, a 60% "yes" vote is required for passage.
This time there will be no disappointment -- Amendment 2 passed after securing 71.2% of the vote, with 99% of all precincts reporting. Despite its older relative population (older Americans typically have a negative view of marijuana), medical cannabis is heading to Florida.
Issue 6 in Arkansas offers the same purpose as in Florida: to legalize medical cannabis for select ailments. Like Florida, a similar measure also previously failed (though Arkansas' vote was back in 2012). Sales tax generated from Issue 6 is expected to be used to cover the costs of regulating the industry, as well as be channeled into vocational and technical training and workforce programs.
With 95% of precincts reporting, Arkansas' voters have passed Issue 6, with nearly 53% of the vote. As in Florida, there will be no disappointment on the second go-around of medical-cannabis voting within the state.
Though it may be a forgotten state during this election process, North Dakota's Measure 5 looked to legalize medical marijuana for a host of ailments, including HIV/AIDS, cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, and post-traumatic stress disorder. However, in an ironic twist, the revenue generated from taxing medical marijuana probably won't be enough to cover the cost of regulating the program, based on an initial analysis.
With 96% of precincts having reported, North Dakota has joined a long list of states that have passed a marijuana initiative. Measure 5 won in a veritable landslide, with 64% of the vote in favor of the measure.
Finally, Initiative 182 in Montana aimed to decide the fate of a previously passed medical marijuana law. Senate Bill 423 in 2011 placed a number of restrictions on the industry, including reviews for doctors that prescribed marijuana to more than 25 patients annually, and limited the number of users for dispensaries. Initiative 182 would roll back the measures Senate Bill 423 enforced.
With 37% of precincts reporting, Montana also appears to have passed Initiative 182, with 56% of the votes currently in favor of the measure.
At the end of this chaotic evening, we could be looking at as many has eight states that allow the sale of recreational marijuana, as well as seeing medical marijuana becoming legal in more than half of all U.S. states.
Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong.
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