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Legalization On The Ballot: Live Marijuana Election Results

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Voters in several states are deciding on far-reaching marijuana ballot measures today, and the results of a number of congressional and gubernatorial races could have big consequences for cannabis policy.

Stay tuned here with Marijuana Moment all day for live updates—in reverse chronological order, with times listed in ET—on all the latest marijuana election night news. And follow us on Twitter for even more granular updates as Election Day unfolds and votes are counted.


12:40 AM

Voters in at least 14 counties across Wisconsin have embraced various marijuana reform policies in the form of non-binding advisory questions. A total of 16 counties had questions about legalization or decriminalization on the ballot, but the results of two other questions are still being tracked.

And at last count, a total of five Ohio cities approved local marijuana decriminalization initiatives. Only one of six cities that had similar measures on the ballot rejected decriminalization.

Marijuana Moment is signing off for the night. Thank you for following! Subscribe to our newsletter and stay tuned in the coming days as we analyze all the results and what they mean.


12:25 AM

Utah voters just approved a measure to legalize cannabis for medical use, Fox 13 has projected. Read Marijuana Moment’s breaking news story for more details on the state’s new cannabis law.

Utah Voters Approve Medical Marijuana Legalization Ahead Of Compromise Deal


11:35 PM

Michigan voters just approved a ballot measure to legalize marijuana. Read Marijuana Moment’s breaking news story for more details on the state’s new cannabis law.

Michigan Voters Just Approved Full Marijuana Legalization


11:25 PM

Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM) has been elected governor of New Mexico, the Associated Press has projected. The congresswoman said she was open to signing a bill to fully legalize cannabis in the state, but that it’d be contingent on the legislation. Specifically, she wants to make sure that edibles are regulated, workplace safety is ensured and the state’s existing medical marijuana program isn’t negatively impacted.

Lujan Grisham has backed several amendments in Congress that would protect state legal marijuana programs from federal interference. Her gubernatorial campaign was also endorsed by the pro-reform Drug Policy Alliance.

And Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN) has been elected governor of Minnesota. The sitting congressman has been a decisively pro-legalization politician, and earlier this year his proposal to have the Department of Veterans Affairs study the benefits of medical marijuana for military veterans became the first-ever standalone cannabis bill to get approval from a congressional committee.

The time has come to “replace the current failed policy with one that creates tax revenue, grows jobs, builds opportunities for Minnesotans, protects Minnesota kids, and trusts adults to make personal decisions based on their personal freedoms,” Walz said.


11:20 PM

Democrat Gavin Newsom has been elected governor of California. As lieutenant governor, he became one of the first mainstream Democrats to endorse legalization when he told the New York Times in 2012 that “these laws just don’t make sense anymore” and “it’s time for politicians to come out of the closet on this.”

Newsom then empaneled a blue ribbon commission on cannabis whose report informed the drafting of the state’s successful 2016 legalization ballot measure, for which he actively campaigned. As governor, he is expected to support legislation expanding the state’s marijuana laws and to work to protect them from any moves by the federal government to interfere with them.

He is one of several gubernatorial candidates running this year on platforms that include support for marijuana legalization.


11:10 PM 

North Dakota’s marijuana legalization ballot measure has failed, the Associated Press has projected. Read Marijuana Moment’s breaking news story for more details.

North Dakota Voters Reject Marijuana Legalization Measure


11:02 PM

One of three initiatives seeking to legalize medical marijuana in Missouri has passed, the Associated Press has projected. Two other competing initiatives have failed. Read Marijuana Moment’s breaking news story for more details on the state’s new cannabis law.

Missouri Voters Approve Medical Marijuana Measure


10:48 PM

Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) has lost his senate bid to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), the Associated Press has projected. O’Rourke has been a leading voice for marijuana and drug policy reform since his days as an El Paso city councilman. He’s also cosponsored several marijuana bills in Congress. Cruz, meanwhile, has voiced support for letting states set their own marijuana laws, but he hasn’t ever cosponsored legislation to that effect.


10:37 PM

Incumbent Rep. Scott Taylor (R-VA) has lost to Democratic challenger Elaine Luria. Taylor, a former Navy SEAL, is one of a handful of House Republicans who’ve backed legislation to reform federal marijuana laws. Luria, also a Navy veteran, has challenged the Department of Veterans Affairs over its refusal to recommend medical cannabis to patients.


10:35 PM

Dayton, Ohio, voters appear to have approved a citywide measure to decriminalize marijuana. The measure was leading strongly with 74-26 percent margin, with 83 percent of precincts reporting. Dayton is the sixth most populous city in Ohio. A similar measure also passed in Norwood, Local12 reported.


10:30 PM

CNN is projecting that Republicans will win enough seats to retain control of the Senate.


10:25 PM

NBC News is projecting that Democrats will win enough seats to retake control of the House.

Because Republican leadership has blocked all cannabis amendments from being voted in during the current session of Congress—more than three dozen altogether—many legalization supporters believe that a change in party control will benefit marijuana reform.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) released a step-by-step “blueprint” last month for how Democrats can legalize cannabis federally in 2019, from hearings to votes, all laid out on a timeline.

That said, party leaders haven’t been so enthusiastic when asked about the issue.

Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), for example, said top Democrats “haven’t talked about that” when he was asked about pushing cannabis reform in next year.

And Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), the minority leader who is expected to seek the speakership again, suggested that marijuana bills’ success would largely depend on support from President Trump.

“I don’t know where the president is on any of this,” she said. “So any decision about how we go forward would have to reflect where we can get the result.”


10:22 PM

Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) has been defeated by Democratic challenger Colin Allred, NBC News has projected. As chairman of the House Rules Committee, Sessions is the key reason that his colleagues haven’t been able to vote on any cannabis amendments for the past two years—he has blocked every single one from advancing to the floor for consideration. Regardless of whether the Democrats take control of the House tonight, the fact that Sessions won’t be in Congress next years means that marijuana reform already has a much greater chance of advancing.


10:15 PM

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) lost her reelection bid to challenger Rep. Kevin Cramer (R), NBC News has projected. Both candidates had said that states should be able to implement their own marijuana laws without federal interference, but they also each voted against the legalization measure that appeared on North Dakota’s ballot today. Heitkamp’s loss makes it that much harder for Democrats to gain control of the Senate, already a questionable prospect in light of previous results in other states tonight.

And Rep. David Joyce (R-OH) has been reelected, the Associated Press has projected. This year, he championed marijuana amendments in the House Appropriations Committee—to protect state medical cannabis laws from federal interference and to protect banks that work with marijuana businesses.


10:07 PM

West Virginia State Senator Richard Ojeda (D) has lost a U.S. House race to Republican opponent Carol Miller. The former Army paratrooper campaigned heavily on a pro-legalization platform, and he was the chief sponsor of a bill to legalize medical cannabis in the conservative state. Miller, who serves on the GOP leadership team in the West Virginia House of Delegates, voted in favor of the medical cannabis bill—but she’s also peddled some dubious claims about the impact of consuming cannabis while pregnant.


10:03 PM

Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) has been defeated by Democratic challenger Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, CNN has projected. One of a handful of GOP lawmakers to have taken a leadership role on marijuana issues, Curbelo this Congress was the chief sponsor of legislation to repeal the 280E tax penalty on cannabis businesses and is a lead cosponsor of the Marijuana Data Collection Act, which would require the federal government to study the effects of legalization. His absence from Capitol Hill next year means that cannabis reform supporters will need to work to find other GOP lawmakers to take the lead Republican role on key bills.


10:00 PM

Polls just closed in Utah! We’ll bring you results on the medical marijuana ballot measure as soon as we have them.


9:45 PM

Colorado voters have elected Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) as governor, NBC News has projected. In Congress since 2009, Polis has a consistent record of sponsoring or cosponsoring legislation aimed at reforming federal marijuana laws, including a bill to regulate cannabis like alcohol.

And former Michigan lawmaker Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, has won the race for Michigan governor, Fox News has projected. She’s emphasized that, should Michigan voters also choose to fully legalize marijuana on Tuesday, it’s critical to implement the system properly. For her part, Whitmer said she’s a “yes” vote on the state’s legalization proposal.

Separately, a statewide initiative in Ohio to reduce penalties for select drug offenses from felonies to misdemeanors has been rejected, WPCO reported.


9:40 PM

The night is still young, but early returns are showing that marijuana reform measures are enjoying more support than opposition in at least two states and one city.

In Michigan, a measure to fully legalize marijuana has a strong lead, 56-44 percent, with four percent of precincts reporting.

Two out of three initiatives seeking to legalize medical cannabis in Missouri are ahead, as well. Amendment 2, backed by New Approach Missouri, is up 70-30 percent. Proposition C, meanwhile, is ahead 54-46 percent. Less than one percent of precincts are reporting.

But in North Dakota, a measure seeking to fully legalize marijuana is down, 29-71 percent, with about seven percent of precincts reporting.

In Dayton, Ohio—the sixth most populous city in the state—a proposal to decriminalize marijuana is up 75-25 percent, with about 20 percent reporting.

One other drug reform measure—a bid to allow former felons to vote—has been approved, NBC News projected.


9:10 PM

Incumbent New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has won another term in office, CNN projected. Cuomo’s position on marijuana policy has evolved dramatically throughout his campaign, possibly in response to his progressive primary challenger Cynthia Nixon, who offered a full-throated endorsement of legalization early on.


9:05 PM

NBC News projects that in Indiana’s U.S. Senate race, Republican Mike Braun has defeated Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly (D).

In a debate earlier this year, former state representative Braun voiced soft support for medical marijuana, saying that the issue should be seen in terms of “free markets and freedom of choice” for patients.

In a subsequent debate, Braun underscored his support for states’ rights on the medical cannabis issue, asserting that “states are a great laboratory” and “if a state wants to go to medical marijuana, it ought to be their prerogative.”

As a House member, Donnelly voted against a measure to protect state medical cannabis laws from federal interference, but this year he signed onto a Senate bill to encourage more research on the medical benefits of marijuana for military veterans. His loss makes it harder for Democrats to capture the Senate.


9:00 PM

Wisconsin polling places are now closed. Sixteen counties and two cities voted on marijuana advisory questions today. We’ll have the results when they come in…


8:45 PM

Incumbent Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY) won reelection against Democratic challenger Amy McGrath, a former Marine fighter pilot.

Barr has voted against numerous bills and amendments seeking to reform federal marijuana laws. However, he did sponsor an amendment this year that would have at least enabled hemp businesses to access banks. There’s a “proud history in America and in Kentucky [for hemp] as an agriculture product,” he said at the time.

With polls closing in Kentucky before most other states tonight, the race was seen as an early bellwether of Democrats’ chances of taking control of the House. That said, the party has already flipped several other GOP-held seats this evening.


8:40 PM 

Democrat Ben Jealous, a former NAACP president, has lost his race for governor of Maryland, NBC News is projecting. Jealous campaigned on a platform to legalize marijuana and use revenue from cannabis sales to fund a universal pre-kindergarten program. Incumbent Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has said that legalization is “worth taking a look at.


8:30 PM

Early returns show that a measure to fully legalize marijuana in Michigan is ahead 53-47 percent, with less than one percent reporting.


8:20 PM

Venture capitalist J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, has beat out incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) to become the next governor of Illinois, NBC News projected. Marijuana legalization was a primary campaign promise from Pritzker, and he’s emphasized both the economic benefits of legalization as well as the racial injustice of prohibition.

“Criminalizing marijuana hasn’t made our communities safer, but has disproportionately impacted black and brown communities,” he said. “The criminalization of cannabis never has been and never will be enforced fairly, and it’s time to bring that to an end. To right past wrongs, we also have to commute sentences of people in prison who are there for marijuana offenses.”


8:15 PM

Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX)—a staunch prohibitionist who has systematically blocked votes on marijuana-related legislation—is trailing behind Democratic challenger Colin Allred, with less than one percent of precincts reporting.


8:00 PM

Missouri polls are now closed. We’ll be watching for the results of the three separate medical marijuana ballot measures.

Polls also just closed in most of Michigan. Stay tuned to see if voters approved the marijuana legalization ballot measure. (Small portions of the state are still voting for another hour.)


7:30 PM

Polling places just closed in Ohio. We’ll be watching to see how voters in six cities decided on local marijuana decriminalization ballot measures.


7:15 PM

The Associated Press projects that Rep. James Comer (R-KY) has been reelected by a large margin. Comer is the chief sponsor of hemp legalization legislation in the U.S. House, provisions of which are likely to be included in the Farm Bill—with the support of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).


6:05 PM

Marijuana Moment asked our Twitter followers how they felt about voting on marijuana measures on their ballots today. Here are a few particularly interesting responses:


5:30 PM

Another sign that voter turnout is surging in Missouri: “The Boone County Clerk, which is home to the University of Missouri, is now saying that voter turnout in the county might reach 80 percent,” Jack Cardetti, spokesperson for the pro-legalization New Approach Missouri, told Marijuana Moment. “Unheard of in a midterm.”


5:10 PM

Josh Hovey, spokesperson for the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, told Marijuana Moment that the group is “cautiously optimistic at this point” about the prospect of Michigan passing the full legalization measure, Proposal 1.

“Polling has consistently shown the percentage of support for Proposal 1 to be in the high 50s to low 60s, but it’s important that every single one of our supporters get to the polls and have their vote counted,” he said.


4:45 PM

Registering to vote is important, as this dispatch from Michigan shows:


4:10 PM

There are more signs that voter turnout in Utah, where medical cannabis is on the ballot, is especially strong this election. The state’s election office told reporter Ben Winslow that mail-in ballot turnout alone is over 50 percent at this point, which equates to about 725,000 ballots. That means mail-in turnout is higher than the total voter turnout in 2014 (557,973 ballots) and 2010 (653,274 ballots).

Long lines to vote are being observed at the Salt Lake County Government Center and at a courthouse in Utah County, where the wait time is reportedly hovering around three hours.


3:50 PM

Here’s a look at some of the pro- and anti-legalization ads that blanketed the airwaves in recent weeks in states with marijuana measures on the ballot.

Watch more marijuana campaign ads here.


3:40 PM

Former Michigan police office Howard Wooldridge, who now lobbies for cannabis and drug policy reform in Washington, D.C. with the group Citizens Opposing Prohibition, is on the ground in his former state and told Marijuana Moment that he has a good feeling about the marijuana legalization ballot measure.

“My thoughts from the streets of [Michigan]… feels much like [Colorado] in 2012,” he said in a email. “That, plus the polls hanging very steady for 9 months… I feel very good that Prop One will pass, most of the credit going to the MI activists over the past 10 years + the last 10 months.”

Detroit News reporter Jonathan Oosting is also on the ground in Michigan. He’s been asking voters which candidates or issues motivated them to hit the polls and wrote that he’s “hearing a lot about marijuana legalization Proposal 1, both from supporters and opponents.”


2:35 PM

Voter turnout is way up in North Dakota, where marijuana legalization is on the ballot.

According to the secretary of state’s office, more than 144,000 people filed their ballots early in the midterm election, a number that exceeded those for two previous presidential elections in 2012 and 2016.

Meanwhile, election day turnout seems robust as well, according to reports from local journalists. One reporter cited a Republican election observer who said the legalization measure itself is driving “strong turnout.”

And columnist Rob Port, who predicted on his blog this morning that voters will approve legal cannabis, also documented big lines at his polling place.


2:20 PM

Here’s a look at the actual ballot language of the cannabis initiatives that voters in seven states will be deciding on today.

Fun fact: Voters in Racine, Wisconsin will see six separate marijuana measures on their ballots today because the city and county each approved three nonbinding cannabis questions.


2:00 PM

Utah voter turnout is exceptionally high so far. A Salt Lake Tribune columnist predicted that, at this rate, 800,000 residents will be casting their ballot this election. That would represent a 39 percent increase from the 2014 election.

Big turnout and a surge of newly registered voters participating in the election could help give Utah’s medical cannabis measure a boost.

But a reminder: even if Proposition 2 fails, advocates and opponents reached a compromise earlier this year that effectively guarantees Utah patients will have access to medical cannabis down the line. Lawmakers are working on a bill to achieve just that, and an updated draft of the legislation was released on Monday.

While most of the language of the initial draft remained intact, the new draft strikes a provision that would have required criminal background checks for patients and increases protections for pharmacists and physicians who become involved in dispensing cannabis.


1:20 PM

Michigan residents shouldn’t be deterred from voting if they see reports about power outages due to strong winds at their polling location, a spokesperson for the Michigan Secretary of State told MLive. Tabulators have backup batteries, and poll workers should be prepared in the event of an outage.

One area that doesn’t need to be reminded of that fact is Lansing, Michigan, where several precincts are reporting strong turnout in spite of the bad weather.

That said, other precincts—particularly those around Detroit—are experiencing problems with malfunctioning voting machines that have left voters waiting in “seemingly interminable lines.”


12:20 PM

Good morning, California! Time to vote. Statewide, there are 78 jurisdictions—10 counties and 68 cities—voting on a total of 94 ballot measures concerning marijuana tax rates and the licensing of cannabis businesses.


12:00 PM

Cannabis enthusiast celebs are urging their supporters to get out to the polls.


11:50 AM

Marijuana Moment took a final pre-election look at campaign finance reports for and against cannabis ballot measures. We found that the opposition outraised marijuana reform supporters almost everywhere.

Read our full report here.


11:40 AM

Missouri voters are hitting the polls in seemingly record numbers this morning—but not without a few hitches. One voting machine went down at Lee’s Summit City Hall, others were on the fritz at the Don Bosco Senior Center. And election monitors have reportedly received complaints that poll workers at locations across the state are “wrongly telling voters they need to present photo ID.”

What’s more, at least five polling locations in St. Louis “are inaccessible to people with disabilities,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Blyth Bernhard wrote. That could prove especially onerous for patients with disabilities who want to vote on one of the cannabis measures on the ballot.

The good news is that, by all accounts, voters are turning out in high numbers.


11:00 AM

Kevin Sabet, president of the prohibitionist group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, has already signaled that he anticipates at least some defeats after the group spent millions funding anti-legalization campaigns in states with marijuana on the ballot. In a tweet, he wrote that success “doesn’t hang on a ballot measure, a vote, a fleeting day.”

Similarly, Sabet downplayed the significance of a “yes” vote for California’s 2016 adult-use legalization measure—four days before Election Day.


9:00 AM

Polling places just opened in Utah, where voters will see a medical marijuana measure on their ballots.


8:45 AM

Local journalists are reporting that electricity is out in parts of Michigan as a result of high winds, with a restoration of power not estimated until later this afternoon.

For what it’s worth, executives for the local power company, DTE Energy, as well as its affiliates, have donated significant funds against the state’s marijuana legalization ballot measure.


8:05 AM

Jack Cardetti, spokesman for New Approach Missouri, released an Election Day statement urging voters to support his group’s medical cannabis measure over that of another competing campaign, which he called “self-centered and nonsensical.”

“Today is a big day for Missouri patients and veterans. Voters finally have the opportunity to decide whether Missouri will become the 31st state to allow doctors to recommend medical marijuana to patients and veterans with serious and debilitating illnesses.

We believe Missouri voters are ready to have this safe, compassionate option available to suffering patients through Amendment 2.

We also believe Missourians will reject Amendment 3, Brad Bradshaw’s self-centered and nonsensical attempt to become Missouri’s medical marijuana czar. Missouri patients and veterans deserve a common-sense medical marijuana law designed for them, not to benefit one individual.

We feel confident Missourians today will pass Amendment 2 to help patients and veterans, and also give it more votes than Amendment 3.”


8:00 AM

Polls just opened in much of North Dakota, where voters will have a chance to enact a marijuana legalization measure.

People in Wisconsin can now head to their voting booths as well, where counties and cities representing roughly half the state’s population will have nonbinding cannabis questions on the ballot.


7:00 AM

Polls are now open in most of Michigan, where voters will decide whether to make the state the next to legalize marijuana.

Election day also just began in Missouri, where there are three separate medical cannabis measures on the ballot.


6:30 AM

Marijuana election day has officially begun! Voters in Ohio can now head to the polls, with those in six cities having the chance to approve cannabis decriminalization measures.


Photo courtesy of Jurassic Blueberries.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

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Nine Members Of Congress Tell DEA To Revise Proposed Hemp Rule On THC Content

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Nine members of Congress sent a letter to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on Tuesday, urging the agency to revise its proposed hemp regulations.

DEA released an interim final rule (IFR) for the crop in August, and it said the regulations were simply meant to comply with the 2018 Farm Bill that legalized hemp and its derivatives. But stakeholders and advocates have expressed serious concerns about certain proposals, arguing that they could put processors at risk of violating federal law and hamper the industry’s growth.

Reps. David Joyce (R-OH) and Denver Riggleman (R-VA) led the letter and pointed specifically to a provision of DEA’s IFR that could impact processing hemp extracts. The agency stipulated that “any such material that contains greater than 0.3% of Δ9-THC on a dry weight basis remains controlled in schedule I.”

That’s problematic, the lawmakers said, because in many cases the process of extracting cannabinoids from hemp temporarily causes THC levels to increase beyond that threshold. And so while Congress intended to legalize those extracts, businesses that produce the materials could find themselves inadvertently breaking the law.

“Our offices have received countless calls from constituents involved in the hemp industry who are extremely fearful that simply following the provisions of the Farm Bill will result in criminal liability under the IFR,” the lawmakers’ letter states. “The IFR will likely have the effect of inhibiting these nascent state hemp programs thereby harming those American companies and workers who chose to pursue careers in the hemp industry and made significant investments to effectuate those aspirations.”

Therefore, the lawmakers are “requesting a resolution to this issue as quickly as possible,” adding that “DEA must revise the IFR to eliminate the ambiguities set forth above and provide peace of mind to all Americans who have chosen to pursue a career in the hemp industry.”

Reps. Rodney Davis (R-IL), Morgan Griffith (R-VA), Glenn Grothman (R-WI), Don Young (R-AK), Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Matt Gaetz (R-FL) also signed the letter.

A public comment period on DEA’s proposed rules closed on Tuesday. It saw more than 3,300 submissions, many of which focused on issues with the “work in progress” hemp THC issue.

“This IFR’s criminalizes work in progress hemp extract, a fundamental component of any consumer hemp/CBD product, and will negatively impact the hemp/CBD industry at a time when financial pressure is already high,” one commenter wrote. “Hemp and subsequent extracts are not controlled substances.”

Another issue identified by more than 1,000 commenters concerns delta-8 THC. The most widely known cannabinoid is delta-9 THC, the main component responsible for creating an intoxicating effect, but delta-8 THC from hemp is also psychoactive and is an object of growing interest within the market.

Because DEA’s proposed regulations state that all “synthetically derived tetrahydrocannabinols remain schedule I controlled substances,” some feel that would directly impact the burgeoning cannabinoid, as its converted from CBD through the use of a catalyst—and that could be interpreted as a synthetic production process.

In any case, it’s not clear whether DEA deliberately crafted either of these rules with the intent of criminalizing certain hemp producers—but stakeholders and advocates aren’t taking any chances.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has faced separate criticism over its own proposed hemp rules, though it has been more proactive in addressing them. Following significant pushback from the industry over certain regulations it views as excessively restrictive, the agency reopened a public comment period, which also closed this month.

USDA is also planning to distribute a national survey to gain insights from thousands of hemp businesses that could inform its approach to regulating the market.

Read the congressional coalition’s letter to DEA on its hemp rule below: 

DEA IFR Letter by Marijuana Moment

State And Local Marijuana Regulators Demand Congress Prioritize Federal Legalization Bill

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Pennsylvania House Votes To Protect Medical Marijuana Patients From DUI Charges

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The Pennsylvania House of Representatives approved an amendment on Tuesday that would protect medical marijuana patients from being penalized under the state’s DUI laws for using their legal medicine.

The proposal cleared the chamber as an amendment to a broader piece of legislation concerning motor vehicle policies. It passed in a 109-93 vote.

As it stands, registered medical cannabis patients can be convicted of driving under the influence of a controlled substance if THC metabolites are detected in their blood. That’s despite the fact that marijuana can remain present in the body well after someone is considered impaired.

The House-approved amendment, which is now attached to a bill previously passed by the Senate, exempts “marijuana used lawfully in accordance with” the state’s medical cannabis law from DUI statutes.

“I think that you can ask any veteran or anybody that’s using medical cannabis right now, if they took the prescription on Monday, [on] Wednesday, they’re not high,” Rep. Ed Gainey (D) said in a floor speech before the vote. “And if they got pulled over, they darned shouldn’t be charged for being intoxicated or under the influence of medical marijuana.”

“I think we’re putting an undue burden on the people of Pennsylvania if we’re saying this is what we want to do after we fought so hard to pass medical marijuana and we know what it’s done to help the people of Pennsylvania,” he said.

The amendment is similar in intent to separate standalone legislation introduced by Sen. Camera Bartolotta (R) in June to end the “zero tolerance” DUI policy for medical marijuana.

While Pennsylvania legalized medical cannabis in 2016, with the first dispensaries opening two years later, the law has not caught up as it concerns impaired driving. A person can test positive for THC for weeks after last consuming marijuana, rendering traditional roadside tests incapable of determining active impairment.

Several legal cannabis states have enacted per se THC limits in blood, similar to blood alcohol requirements. However, evidence isn’t clear on the relationship between THC concentrations in blood and impairment.

A study published last year, for example, concluded that those who drive at the legal THC limit—which is typically between two to five nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood—were not statistically more likely to be involved in an accident compared to people who haven’t used marijuana.

Separately, the Congressional Research Service in 2019 determined that while “marijuana consumption can affect a person’s response times and motor performance… studies of the impact of marijuana consumption on a driver’s risk of being involved in a crash have produced conflicting results, with some studies finding little or no increased risk of a crash from marijuana usage.”

The modest cannabis DUI reform approved by the Pennsylvania House comes amid repeated calls from the state’s leaders to more broadly legalize marijuana for adult use.

Last week, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) in a speech stressed that marijuana reform could generate tax revenue to support the state’s economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and that ending criminalization is necessary for social justice.

That marked the third time in three months that the governor has held events focused on making the case for legalization. Last month, he took a dig at the Republican-controlled legislature for failing to act on reform in the previous session. And in August, he suggested that the state itself could potentially control marijuana sales rather than just license private retailers as other legalized jurisdictions have done.

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D), a longstanding legalization advocate, has been similarly vocal about his position. In speeches and on social media, the official has expressed frustration that Pennsylvania has yet to enact the policy change, especially as neighboring like New Jersey are moving in that direction.

He said last month that farmers in his state can grow better marijuana than people in New Jersey—and that’s one reason why Pennsylvania should expeditiously legalize cannabis before voters next door in the Garden State enact the policy change this November.

Fetterman also recently hosted a virtual forum where he got advice on how to effectively implement a cannabis system from the lieutenant governors of Illinois and Michigan, which have enacted legalization.

While Wolf initially opposed adult-use legalization, he came out in support of the reform last year after Fetterman led a statewide listening tour last year to solicit public input on the issue.

Shortly after the governor announced that he was embracing the policy change, a lawmaker filed a bill to legalize marijuana through a state-run model.

A majority of Senate Democrats sent Wolf a letter in July arguing that legislators should pursue the policy change in order to generate revenue to make up for losses resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

State And Local Marijuana Regulators Demand Congress Prioritize Federal Legalization Bill

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Montana Supreme Court Rejects Challenge To Marijuana Legalization Initiative

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The Montana Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected a lawsuit seeking to invalidate a marijuana legalization initiative that will appear on the state’s November ballot.

With weeks before the election, opponents asked the court to quash the measure, arguing that because it involves appropriating funds, it violates state statute on citizen initiatives.

The court didn’t weigh in on the merits of the challenge; rather, it said the petitioners with the campaign Wrong for Montana (WFM) failed to demonstrate “urgency or emergency factors” that would justify moving the case into its jurisdiction instead of going through trial and appeals courts first.

It left the door open for the opponents to take its challenge through the traditional process. Brian Thompson, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, told Marijuana Moment that they now intend to file the suit in district court “soon,” but he wasn’t able to provide an exact timeline.

“We express no opinion on the merits of WFM’s constitutional challenge, nor to its right to pursue this challenge in district court,” the justices wrote. “However, WFM’s claim does not present an appropriate basis on which to invoke this Court’s original jurisdiction. Even if it did, WFM has wholly failed to establish that urgency or emergency factors make litigation in the trial courts and the normal appeal process inadequate.”

Dave Lewis, policy advisor to the pro-legalization New Approach Montana, said in a press release that this “was an easy decision for the Montana Supreme Court.”

“At best, this lawsuit was a frivolous longshot,” he said. “At worst, it was an intentional effort to create confusion right before the election.”

The measure in question would establish that adult-use marijuana system. The lawsuit did not target a separate, complementary initiative that would specify that only those 21 and older could participate in the legal market.

It is the case that state statute says citizens “may enact laws by initiative on all matters except appropriations of money and local or special laws” and that the initiative does allocate cannabis tax revenue to certain programs. But prior measures that have appeared on the state’s ballot have done so as well.

Under the proposal, half of the public revenue generated from marijuana sales would go toward environmental conservation programs—a provision that earned the campaign key endorsements last month.

The initiative is already on the ballot and voting has started, so presumably if the court had sided with the plaintiffs, the votes simply wouldn’t have been counted or implementation would have been prevented. It is also possible that a court could rule that monies raised by legal cannabis sales under the initiative would simply into the state’s general fund instead of toward the specific programs delineated in its current text.

“We’re receiving strong support from voters across the state,” Lewis, who is a former Republican state senator and former budget director for three Montana governors, said. “Instead of making a coherent argument against the initiatives, our opponents tried to deprive Montanans of their constitutional right to a citizen initiative process.”

“Our opponents are desperately throwing everything at the wall in the hope that something sticks,” he added. “They’re resorting to fear tactics and misinformation because they know that a majority of Montana voters are ready to vote yes on legalizing, regulating, and taxing marijuana for adults 21 and over.”

In neighboring Nebraska, the state Supreme Court did rule last month that a measure to legalize medical cannabis that had qualified for the November ballot could not proceed because it violated the state’s single-subject rule for ballot initiatives.

Recent polling indicates that Montana voters are positioned to approve the legalization proposal. Forty-nine percent of respondents in a survey released last week said they support the policy change, with 39 percent opposed and 10 percent remaining undecided.

This story has been updated to include comment from Thompson.

Read the Montana Supreme Court’s ruling on the marijuana challenge and the original lawsuit below:

Montana Marijuana Lawsuit by Marijuana Moment

Colorado Governor Tells Texas Not To Legalize Marijuana So His Own State Can Get More Tourists

Photo elements courtesy of rawpixel and Philip Steffan.

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