States voting for legalization in 2018? It’s happening! The 2018 midterm elections are already a white-hot flashpoint, projected to be a referendum both on the nation’s political course and on the divisive cultural forces shaping it. But we’re hoping the upcoming elections — Tuesday, November 6th, in case you’ve forgotten — will also be an opportunity for us to band together around important issues.
One of those issues is — you guessed it — the decriminalization of cannabis. No fewer than six states are facing the issue in some way, with four outright voting for legalization in 2018. Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota, Tennessee, and Utah all have cannabis-legalization initiatives on the ballot this year, although not all of them are prepared to face the question squarely.
We’re betting the current wave of legal reform will continue to roll through the land, and we’re not alone. Many cannabis advocates already celebrate November 6th as “Legalization Day,” a nod to the groundbreaking adult-access laws enacted by Colorado and Washington on Nov. 6, 2012. We sincerely hope you find a moment to celebrate in a legal and thematically appropriate manner once the election results start coming in.
Ballot Measures: States Voting for Legalization 2018
Let’s take a closer look at the individual state ballot measures and what they tell us about the state of the (cannabis) nation.
Michigan’s Proposal 1, which would add recreational use to the state’s medical marijuana (MMJ) law, has become contentious as Election Day nears. According to an exhaustive and informative article in the Detroit Free Press, the fight between supporters and opponents has gained major energy in the last two weeks as large donations infuse advocates’ marketing budgets. That said, polls suggest public opinion is largely on the side of complete legalization.
Further west, Missourians will decide on no fewer than three separate MMJ initiatives, differentiated in large part by their financial implications:
- Proposition C (technically a statutory change rather than a constitutional amendment) would allow MMJ use if a patient has a qualifying condition; the cannabis used as such would incur a 2% sales tax at the retail level.
- Amendment 2 would give physicians more latitude when recommending MMJ and would tax retail sales at 4%. It’s also the only one of the three ballot initiatives that specifically allows home cultivation of MMJ.
- Amendment 3 would allow patients to use MMJ if they have a specific qualifying condition and would tax MMJ sales at 15% to fund research into cancer and other incurable diseases.
At least some form of MMJ is likely to be legalized, according to polls.
In largely conservative North Dakota, the push to add adult-use cannabis to existing MMJ laws may be facing an uphill battle. An August poll showed that only 38% of residents support legalization, with some 6% undecided.
Interestingly, a recent article in Forbes suggested that if adult-use cannabis is legalized in solidly red North Dakota, it could provide political cover for other Republican-dominated states to swing their support behind cannabis as well.
Residents of the Beehive State have shown high support for medical cannabis — no pun intended, of course — through the August announcement of opposition to Proposition 2 by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints put a dent in that figure, bringing it down to 64% as of late August.
That said, the lobbying group registered in support of the proposition — Utah Patients Coalition — has significantly outpaced Drug Safe Utah, an organization registered in opposition, in terms of fundraising.
Utah’s MMJ proposition is fairly limited compared with those in more politically liberal states. But as in North Dakota, the presence of a cannabis ballot initiative, coupled with its healthy chance of passage, are an encouraging sign to conservative-leaning cannabis activists.
Other Legal Fronts for Cannabis Legalization
In Illinois, voters will see a non-binding question regarding recreational marijuana on the ballot. It’s not a vote, but rather a statewide poll collecting Illinoisians’ overall opinion on adult-use cannabis. That said, what the state legislature intends to do with this information is still an open question.
Meanwhile, in Tennessee, Republican Senators Bryan Terry and Steve Dickerson are sponsoring the Tennessee Responsible Use of Medicinal Plants (yes, that’s TRUMP) Act. As the state law stands now, only terminally ill patients can try cannabis-based medicines that are past the first phase of FDA trials. The TRUMP Act would open up more research into the benefits of medical marijuana and expand its use for more patients. The senators anticipate filing the bill pending Terry’s re-election on November 6.
It’s an exciting year at the ballot box, and cannabis enthusiasts are tuned into the states voting for legalization. 2018 is poised to become an even more exciting year!