Marijuana might be illegal at the federal level, but you wouldn't know it by following its expansion at the state level.
Back in 1995, not a single U.S. state allowed cannabis to be prescribed medically or sold and used recreationally. That changed in 1996, when California became the first state to allow medical marijuana to be prescribed by physicians to compassionate-use patients. Since then, 29 additional states have followed suit, with the traditionally Republican-leaning state of Oklahoma becoming the 30th to pass broad-based medical weed laws a few months ago.
Of these legalized states, nine have passed legislation allowing the use of recreational marijuana. Eight states have OK'd the sale of adult-use pot, with the ninth, Vermont, allowing its use but not the retail sale of recreational weed. Vermont was also the very first state to approve recreational cannabis entirely through the legislative process (i.e., without putting the initiative on a ballot for vote).
As we barrel toward midterm elections in November, four more states are primed to vote on a marijuana initiative.
Residents of the Great Lake State will cast ballots in one of two states voting on whether to legalize recreational marijuana in November. In Michigan, 252,523 valid signatures were required to get the initiative on the ballot, with more than 277,300 confirmed as valid in April.
Michigan's Marijuana Legalization Initiative, also known as Proposal 1, would allow adults aged 21 and over to purchase and possess marijuana. Retail sales would be hit with a 10% excise tax, much of which would be disbursed to local governments and the state's kindergarten-through-12th-grade education system. Residents would also be allowed to grow up to 12 marijuana plants at their residence. However, as with other legalization initiatives in already-legalized states, municipalities would be allowed to ban or limit pot establishments within their boundaries.
Will Michigan become the 10th state to OK recreational weed? Well, that just depends on which poll you prefer. As reported by ClickOnDetroit.com, one of the groups opposing Prop 1 conducted a poll showing that 47% of residents are against the measure, compared to 44% in favor. Meanwhile, the State of the State survey from Michigan State University found 61% of voters are in favor of legalization, with just 34% opposed. It could be more of a toss-up than anyone expected.
Surprisingly, the traditionally conservative state of North Dakota is the only other state aside from Michigan to be voting on a recreational weed initiative this November. A total of 13,452 valid signatures were required to get the measure on the ballot, with more than 14,600 collected found to be valid by the Office of the Secretary of State.
The Marijuana Legalization and Automatic Expungement Initiative, which is known as Measure 3, would legalize the recreational use and sale of adult-use weed within the state. Perhaps even more interesting, if Measure 3 passes, it would expunge the records of persons convicted of a drug violation where the drug in question is now legal (which in this case would include marijuana). It would also treat cannabis offenses, such as trying to sell or distribute marijuana to a person younger than the age of 21, with the same penalty as if the individual or minor were in possession of alcohol. We haven't yet seen a state get this aggressive with regard to rolling back prior convictions, so this will definitely be a vote to monitor.
Not surprisingly, there's some bifurcation in support for Measure 3, depending on your polling source. According to the Bismarck Tribune, just 38% of the state's residents it polled on Aug. 31 favored the idea of legalization. Comparatively, an online poll from the Bismarck Tribune on Aug. 16 -- younger individuals are more likely to take online polls -- finds that 82% are in favor of recreational legalization. Given the state's Republican-leaning tendencies and the GOP's more adverse view of cannabis, this could be a nail-biter come November.
Another traditionally conservative state whose residents will be voting on a medical marijuana initiative in two months is Utah. To qualify, 113,143 valid signatures needed to be collected, with proponents of the measure submitting nearly 154,000 valid signatures, as verified by the state's lieutenant governor on May 29, 2018.
The Utah Medical Cannabis Act, or as it's also known, Proposition 2, supports the legalization of medical cannabis for patients with qualifying illnesses. Qualifying patients would receive a medical cannabis card from their physician, which would allow the patient to purchase either two ounces of unprocessed marijuana or up to 10 grams of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or cannabidiol (CBD) within a two-week period. THC is the psychoactive component responsible for marijuana's "high," whereas CBD is the nonpsychoactive component best known for its perceived medical benefits. Smoking marijuana or using vape devices that would aid in smoking marijuana won't be permitted.
If there is a pot measure with a good chance of passage, it's Prop 2 in Utah. A February survey from UtahPolicy.com found that 77% of Utahns either strongly or somewhat favor the legalization of medical weed. In a more recent survey from the Salt Lake Tribune–Hinckley Institute of Politics, 66% of residents supported the measure. While nothing is ever a certainty when it comes to politics, Utah appears ready to legalize medical weed.
Last but not least, there's Missouri, which has not one...not two...but three separate medical marijuana initiatives vying for residents' votes on the November ballot. All three initiatives easily surpassed the number of signatures needed for inclusion on the ballot.
Missouri Amendment 2 would legalize state-licensed physicians to recommend medical cannabis to patients with qualifying conditions. Medical weed sales would carry a 4% tax rate, with the proceeds from this tax being directed at providing healthcare services for veterans. Of the three amendments, this one is expected to bring in the second-highest annual revenue at $24 million, as well as boast the second-highest annual state operating cost of $7 million.
Missouri Amendment 3 would legalize cannabis for medical purposes but would slap a hefty 15% tax on sales of the drug. This 15% tax is estimated to raise $66 million a year and cost the state only $500,000. Unlike Amendment 2, which dedicates its revenue to military veterans, this Amendment would establish a Biomedical Research and Drug Development Institute that would be responsible for using the money to find cures for cancer and other currently incurable diseases.
Lastly, Proposition C, the only one of the three that wouldn't require a constitutional amendment, would allow medical marijuana to be prescribed by state-licensed physicians to patients with qualifying conditions. A low tax of 2% would be tacked onto each sale, leading to the collection of approximately $10 million in annual revenue. However, it should be noted that this is also the costliest of the three programs to implement, with expenses expected to hit $10 million a year. All revenue raised with Prop C would be funneled toward veteran healthcare services, drug treatment, law enforcement, and education.
With 93% of the nation backing medical cannabis in an April 2018 poll from the independent Quinnipiac University, the chance of Missouri approving one of its medical cannabis measures seems high (pun fully intended).
In short, by November, we could have as many as 32 medical marijuana–legal and 11 recreational weed–legal states.