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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.

Politics

Mormon Church Faces Potential Lawsuit Over Medical Marijuana Opposition

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One week after Utah voters approved a medical marijuana ballot initiative, a lawyer representing patients and advocates has formally notified the Mormon church to preserve records ahead of a potential lawsuit concerning its alleged attempts to undermine the measure.

It’s no secret that the church opposed the medical cannabis initiative, which ultimately passed by roughly 52-46 percent, with some ballots still left to be counted. Though the organization said it supports medical cannabis reform, it vehemently resisted Proposition 2 and implored church members to vote against it.

Advocates and opponents reached a tentative compromise last month ahead of Election Day to have the Utah state legislature pass legislation during a special session ensuring access to medical marijuana. But not all legalization proponents felt encouraged by the deal, and the new legal notice to the church signals continued battles over exactly how the state’s patients will access legal cannabis.

Several Utah lawmakers, the Utah Patients Coalition and the Utah Medical Association were also named in the notice and asked to maintain records.

The church has “a long history of dominating and interfering with the government of the State of Utah, often dictating to state and municipal legislators what legislative measures or policies they are to support or oppose,” attorney Rocky Anderson, a former mayor of Salt Lake City, wrote in the notice, which was shared with Marijuana Moment.

“That dominance and interference is prohibited by the Utah Constitution.”

Whether or not there will be a lawsuit remains unclear, as Anderson wrote that it was up to the claimants who reached out to him to determine if that was the best course of action. Advocacy groups TRUCE and the Epilepsy Association of Utah, along with several patients, are listed as claimants in the document.

Brian Stoll, a reform advocate who has served as a spokesperson for TRUCE and is also a member of the church, told Marijuana Moment that he does expect a lawsuit to go forward.

“Speaking as myself, not TRUCE, I do believe that they have every intention of going forward with the lawsuit if only to get lawmakers under oath discussing the domination of the political process in Utah of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on record,” he said. “There have been many stories over the years about their undue influence, including some accounts published by lawmakers detailing how intimately involved they are in legislation regarding certain topics.”

“As you know, I’m an active member of The Church, and that will remain true. However, after having worked with the Utah legislature for the better part of three years where I saw this happen, and seeing all their work to thwart Prop 2 including having the ability to call a special session, I feel that it’s unethical and not right for them to have such an influence.”

If there is a lawsuit, the church is being implored to preserve a wide range of records, both physical and electronic. Anderson alleges that the church forced the special session “to radically undermine and alter the new law,” which he claims amounts to a constitutional violation.

“Vastly altering the law mandated by the people is contrary not only to the popular will, but contrary to the intention expressed in the Utah Constitution that the people can, through an initiative, directly exercise their constitutionally guaranteed legislative power,” he wrote.

In a statement provided to Marijuana Moment, a spokesperson for the Mormon church said “we have worked, from the outset, with medical professionals, law enforcement, educators and many other groups and prominent community leaders to seek the best for the people of Utah, to provide relief from human pain and suffering, especially where children are concerned.”

“Broad community engagement was the reason a workable, beneficial and safer medical cannabis program was put together at the direction of state leadership. We stand behind and look forward to the safe, responsible and  compassionate solution that will be considered by the state legislature,” the spokesperson said.

Read the full notice below.

Notice to Maintain Records – LDS Domination – Prop. 2 by Marijuana Moment on Scribd

UPDATE: This story has been updated to include comments from reform advocate and Mormon church member Brian Stoll, as well as a statement from the church. 

Utah Voters Approve Medical Marijuana Legalization Ahead Of Compromise Deal

Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.

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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Colorado Governor Touts Marijuana Legalization’s Benefits

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After the 2012 election, which saw Colorado become the first state to legalize marijuana, Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) said he probably would have reversed the vote if he had a magic wand.

But with the perspective of a few years post-legalization, today he says he’d put that wand “back in the drawer.”

“I’m not quite there to say this is a great success, but the old system was awful,” Hickenlooper said at a forum hosted by the Economic Club of Chicago on Wednesday.

What’s more, “the things that we most feared—a spike in teenage consumption, a spike in overall consumption, people driving while high—we haven’t seen them,” he said.

“We had a little increase in teenage consumption, but then it went down. We do think that some of the teenage consumers are using it a little more frequently than they were five years ago before legalization. We have in many ways seen no demographic where there’s an increase in consumption, with one exception: senior citizens. I leave you to draw your own conclusions.”

Hickenlooper, who’s been floated as a potential 2020 presidential candidate, described the challenges his administration faced when Colorado voters approved an adult-use legalization measure. Elected officials and advisors were opposed to it, he said, and plus, “it’s no fun to be in conflict with federal law.”

But he pushed forward with implementation, recruiting the “smartest people” he could find to figure out the best approach to regulation and taxation. And Illinois, which recently elected pro-legalization J.B. Pritzker for governor, will likely be better off if they pursue reform because they can learn from the successes and failures of Colorado’s system, Hickenlooper said.

“Ultimately, I haven’t come to a final conclusion yet, but I think it’s looking like this is going to be—for all of the flaws and challenges we have—a better system than what we had. You guys are going to benefit, I think, having let us make a bunch of the mistakes and deal with it, I think you’re going to be able to have a much better system if indeed that is the direction that the state wants to go.”

Asked what advice he’d give to Pritzker if Illinois does elect to fully legalize cannabis, Hickenlooper offered three tips: 1) don’t overtax marijuana, or else the illicit marketplace will persist, 2) get data from law enforcement on the presence of cannabis metabolites in the blood after highway fatalities to establish “good baselines” for comparison and 3) set limits on THC concentrations in edibles.

“What they’re selling now, they tell me it’s 10-to-12 times more intense than what allegedly I smoked in high school,” Hickenlooper said, pausing before conceding, “I smoked pot in high school and I inhaled, but it was a fraction of the intensity of what these kids are getting now.”

Legal Marijuana Would Generate Hundreds Of Millions For Illinois, New Analysis Finds

Photo courtesy of YouTube/Economic Club of Chicago.

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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The DEA Just Got Scolded Over Its Marijuana Eradication Program

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The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) got a slap on the wrist from a federal watchdog agency over its management of a multi-million dollar marijuana eradication program.

In a report released on Wednesday, the non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) said the DEA had failed to adequately collect documentation from state and local law enforcement partners that received funds through the federal program. And that lapse could prevent the agency from being able to accurately assess “program performance.”

What’s more, the DEA “has not clearly documented all of its program goals or developed performance measures to assess progress toward those goals,” according to the report.

In other words, the agency expends about $17 million in funds to partners across the U.S. each year to help them get rid of illegal cannabis grows. That includes fully legal states like California, where enforcement efforts are generally limited to public lands—namely national forests. But due to inadequate record keeping, the DEA doesn’t really know if that money is serving its purpose.

To fix the problems, the GAO issued four recommendations:

1. The DEA Administrator should develop and implement a plan with specific actions and time frames to ensure that regional contractors are implementing DEA’s requirement for collecting documentation supporting participating agencies’ Domestic Cannabis Eradication And Suppression Program (DCE/SP) program expenditures in the intended manner.

2. The DEA Administrator should clarify DCE/SP guidance on the eradication and suppression activities that participating agencies are required to report, and communicate it to participating agencies and DEA officials responsible for implementing DCE/SP.

3. The DEA Administrator should clearly document all DCE/SP program goals.

4. The DEA Administrator should develop DCE/SP performance measures with baselines, targets, and linkage to program goals.

The DEA was able to review a draft of the GAO report ahead of its release and, in an October 17 letter, a Justice Department official said the agency concurred with all four of the recommendations and would take steps to address them.

You can listen to a podcast about the GAO report here:

Just because it’s the DEA’s program doesn’t mean it’s the only agency dropping the ball on marijuana eradication efforts. In April, a report from the inspector general for the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that agents weren’t adequately cleaning up public lands after cannabis busts, which can pose threats to humans, animals and the environment.

Feds Don’t Properly Clean Up After Marijuana Raids, Report Finds

Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.

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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