The big day is right around the corner. In just 10 days, Americans across the country will head to their local voting booths or mail in their ballots to determine what direction the U.S. will head in the years to come. At stake is the big chair in the White House, a third of all Senate seats, and all 435 seats in the House of Representatives.
While there's no question folks are going to be laser-focused on the presidential race and key Senate battles, you shouldn't overlook the vote on marijuana legalization, which will be occurring in five states.
If 2016 has taught us anything, it's that polling isn't always accurate and anything can happen on Election Day. But that's not going to stop me from laying out my prediction for each of the following five states when it comes to legalizing cannabis. Here's what I believe will happen when the votes are tallied on election night.
Maybe it's poetic that the Garden State was the first state guaranteed to be voting on a marijuana legalization initiative in the 2020 election. When residents cast their vote a week from this coming Tuesday, they'll be deciding whether or not to wave the green flag on adult-use marijuana.
Public Question 1 would legalize adult-use weed cultivation, processing, and sale for those 21 and over, and would apply the state's sales tax (but no additional excise tax) to retail weed sales. Local governments would have the authority to tack on up to an additional 2% tax rate.
A survey released in mid-October from law firm Brach Eichler LLC found that just shy of two-thirds (65%) of the roughly 500 polled New Jersey residents favored legalization, compared to 29% who opposed it. Should adult-use cannabis be legalized, we'd see the trio of Curaleaf (OTC:CURLF), TerrAscend, and Green Thumb Industries (OTC:GTBIF) jump for joy. Green Thumb and Curaleaf both have a significant presence beyond New Jersey, but the Garden State is nevertheless expected to yield more than $1 billion in eventual annual sales.
Prediction: Public Question 1 passes with ease.
For the Grand Canyon State, this is the second time residents will be voting on a recreational marijuana measure. Proposition 205, which aimed to legalize adult-use cannabis, was the only failed marijuana measure nationwide in the 2016 election. Four years later, Arizonans get a second chance.
Proposition 207 would allow for the possession and use of recreational pot for persons aged 21 and older, and would assign a 16% tax on marijuana sales, which comes on top of existing use and privilege taxes.
The interesting thing here is that states that have failed to legalize adult-use weed on the first try have always been successful on the second attempt. California and Oregon both flopped on their first try to legalize adult-use pot but had little issue gaining enough votes the second time around. According to pollster OH Predictive Insights, 55% of the more than 600 Arizonans surveyed said they support Prop 207, compared to 37% opposed.
If this streak continues with Arizona, struggling U.S. multistate operator Harvest Health & Recreation (OTC:HRVSF) might receive a sympathy boost. After all, Harvest Health is headquartered in Arizona, and the Grand Canyon State happens to be its largest market.
Prediction: Proposition 207 comfortably passes with around 54%-55% of the vote.
Residents in the remaining three states, including Montana, will be voting on two measures tied to cannabis. In the Treasure State, Montanans will be voting on CI-118 and I-190 come Nov. 3.
CI-118 is a constitutional amendment that'll allow the Montana State Legislature to establish a legal age of 21 for cannabis. Meanwhile, I-190 is the meat-and-potatoes initiative that would legalize adult-use pot and establish a whopping 20% tax rate on retail sales. Montana's Department of Revenue would be responsible for developing rules and regulations that pot businesses would be required to follow.
Furthermore, I-190 is similar to legislation passed in Illinois in that it would allow people currently serving cannabis-related offenses to request a resentencing, as well as allow prior marijuana-related convictions to be potentially expunged.
A recently released poll from Montana State University backs the likelihood of marijuana legalization in 10 days. The poll, which asked nearly 1,800 likely and active registered voters how they feel about I-190, found 49% supported the measure, compared to 39% who opposed it.
Prediction: I-190 passes by a slim margin (think 51%-49% or 52%-48%).
The Mount Rushmore State is set to make history in 10 more days because its residents will be voting on separate recreational and medical marijuana measures. With cannabis completely illicit at the moment in South Dakota, it's looking to be the first state to go from totally illegal to completely legal overnight.
South Dakotans will first vote on Measure 26, which would create a medical marijuana program in the state for patients who meet a predetermined list of debilitating medical conditions. They'll also be voting on Constitutional Amendment A, which would legalize recreational marijuana and establish a 15% tax on retail weed sales. If Amendment A passes, South Dakota's State Legislature would have until April 1, 2022 to create guidelines for a medical marijuana program and the hemp industry.
Polling in South Dakota on cannabis measures is hard to come by. However, the anti-legalization group, No Way on A Committee, released a survey conducted in late June that showed approximately 60% of survey-takers supported Amendment A, while more than 70% were in favor of Measure 26. However, I remain unconvinced that a state where pot is entirely illegal can all of a sudden stomp on the gas. I expect South Dakota to be the only hiccup on election night.
Prediction: Measure 26 passes in a landslide, while Amendment A is narrowly defeated.
Finally, there's the Magnolia State, which is looking to legalize medical marijuana. Mississippians heading to the polls on Nov. 3 will see two questions about cannabis on their ballots.
They'll first answer Measure 1, which is essentially a "Do you want to see medical cannabis legalized?" question. It asks residents to choose "either measure" (i.e., they want some level of legalization) or "neither measure" (i.e., no legalization) for the two-part initiative they're voting on in the second question.
No matter their selection for Measure 1, voters will choose between Initiative 65 and Alternative 65A in the second question. Without digging too far into the weeds, Initiative 65 allows cannabis to be prescribed for more than 20 qualifying medical conditions. Meanwhile, 65A restricts cannabis smoking to terminally ill patients and adds extra oversight.
A survey released in early September by FM3 Research asked roughly 600 Mississippians by phone if they supported the idea of doctors being able to prescribe medical marijuana to their patients. A whopping 81% favored the initiative.
Prediction: Measure 1 and Initiative 65A pass in a landslide.