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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

Where Presidential Candidate Kamala Harris Stands On Marijuana

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On Monday, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) announced that she’s running for president in 2020. The latest in a growing list of candidates hoping to take on President Donald Trump, Harris has made criminal justice reform—including marijuana legalization—a main component of her platform.

Though the former San Francisco district attorney and California attorney general hasn’t always been friendly to cannabis reform, Harris’s evolution on the issue has earned her an A grade from NORML.

Legislation And Policy Actions

Harris came out in support of legalization in 2018, adding her name to a far-reaching marijuana bill introduced by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ). The legislation would remove cannabis from the list of federally banned substances and also penalize states where marijuana laws are enforced disproportionately against people of color.

“Right now in this country people are being arrested, being prosecuted, and end up spending time in jail or prison all because of their use of a drug that otherwise should be considered legal,” she said in a press release. “Making marijuana legal at the federal level is the smart thing to do, it’s the right thing to do. I know this as a former prosecutor and I know it as a senator.”

But beyond the Marijuana Justice Act, Harris has only co-sponsored one other cannabis-related bill: the SAFE Banking Act, which would protect banks that work with marijuana businesses from federal punishment.

Harris also signed a letter alongside Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) that called on the Justice Department to stop blocking federal research into medical cannabis. In a separate sign-on letter, she joined her colleagues in requesting that lawmakers include protections for legal cannabis states in a spending bill.

The limited scope of her legislative track record on cannabis policy contrasts with other Democratic candidates like Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), who have co-sponsored numerous bills to change federal marijuana laws.

Quotes And Social Media Posts

All that said, Harris has talked quite a bit about marijuana in speeches and on social media.

When then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole memo, which provided guidance on federal marijuana enforcement priorities, she said the Justice Department shouldn’t be focused on “going after grandma’s medicinal marijuana.”

“This administration and Jeff Sessions want to take us back to the dark ages,” Harris said at the Center for American Progress Ideas Conference in 2017. “Sessions has threatened that the United States Department of Justice may renew its focus on marijuana use even as states like California, where it is legal.”

“Well, let me tell you what California needs, Jeff Sessions,” she said. “We need support in dealing with transnational criminal organizations, dealing with issues like human trafficking—not going after grandma’s medicinal marijuana. Leave her alone.”

Harris hadn’t signed onto any marijuana reform legislation during the time she was going after Sessions. But she was using the battle to solicit signatures on a petition, a common tactic that politicians use to build email lists that they can later use for fundraising. Several House members pressured her and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to take stronger action by blocking Justice Department nominees until the Cole memo was restored.

The senator has repeatedly called for federal cannabis decriminalization, characterizing existing laws as “regressive policies” that have “ruined” many lives.

“We need to decriminalize marijuana,” she said. “We have a problem of mass incarceration in our country. And let’s be clear, the war on drug was a failed war. It was misdirected.”

She has also criticized the federal government for blocking military veterans’ access to medical cannabis.

“As states moves toward legalizing marijuana, let’s remember how many lives have been ruined because of our regressive policies,” Harris wrote. “We must focus on restorative justice.”

Curiously, however, Harris also has a habit of referring to the war on drugs in the past tense—as if it isn’t the case that hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. are still being arrested for cannabis and other drugs every year.

“The war on drugs was a failure,” she said in 2017. “It criminalized what is a public health matter. It was a war on poor communities more than anything.”

She also accused Sessions of “resuscitating” the drug war.

During her time as a prosecutor, Harris said she “saw the war on drugs up close, and let me tell you, the war on drugs was an abject failure.”

“It offered taxpayers a bad return on investment, it was bad for public safety, it was bad for budgets and our economy, and it was bad for people of color and those struggling to make ends meet,” she said.

“I’ll tell you what standing up for the people also means,” Harris said in 2015. “It means challenging the policy of mass incarceration by recognizing the war on drugs was a failure. And Democrats, on that point, let’s be clear also: now is the time to end the federal ban on medical marijuana. It is.”

Before Harris backed full legalization or federal decriminalization, she was supportive of rescheduling cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act. Asked about the policy in 2016, she said “I would work to remove marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II.”

“We need to reform our criminal justice system and changing the marijuana classification and drug sentencing laws are part of that effort.”

At a debate that year, she predicted that California voters would approve full legalization via a ballot measure (which they did) and reiterated that “we have to do is move [marijuana] from Schedule I to Schedule II.”

“We have incarcerated a large number of predominantly African American and Latino men in this country for possession and use at a very small scale of one of the least dangerous drugs in the schedule,” she said.

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Harris said “I started my career as a baby prosecutor during the height of the crack epidemic—not all drugs are equal.”

“We have over-criminalized so many people, in particular poor youth and men of color, in communities across this country and we need to move it on the schedule,” she said. “Plus we need to start researching the effect of marijuana and we have not been able to do it because of where it is on the schedule.”

Harris congratulated Canada on its national legalization of marijuana.

Harris’s evolution on cannabis can be neatly summed up with two videos. The first shows her being asked about marijuana legalization in 2014 in light of her Republican opponent for attorney general supporting it. She dismissively laughs off the question.

The second shows Harris during a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing pressing President Donald Trump’s attorney general nominee, William Barr, on whether he’d use Justice Department funds to go after marijuana businesses acting in compliance with state law.

Harris even attempted to crack her own marijuana joke during a recent appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, though the late night host didn’t seem especially amused.

In her book, The Truths We Hold, she took her message in support of legalization a step further. Not only should we “legalize marijuana and regulate it,” but we should also “expunge nonviolent marijuana-related offenses from the records of millions of people who have been arrested and incarcerated so they can get on with their lives,” Harris wrote.

“We also need to stop treating drug addiction like a public safety crisis instead of what it is: a public health crisis,” she also wrote, suggesting she may be in favor of broader drug policy reforms. “When someone is suffering from addiction, their situation is made worse, not better, by involvement in the criminal justice system.”

Personal Experience With Marijuana

Harris hasn’t said whether she’s personally experimented with “grandma’s medicinal marijuana.”

Marijuana Under A Harris Presidency

Five years ago, marijuana reform advocates might have felt apprehensive about cannabis policy under a Harris presidency. And they would’ve been reasonably skeptical about the prospect of her administration playing an active role in reform efforts. But the senator’s recent rhetoric and legislative action suggest she would likely be an ally of the legalization movement if elected to the Oval Office.

Where Presidential Candidate Tulsi Gabbard Stands On Marijuana

Photo element courtesy of California Attorney General’s Office.

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Politics

2018 Was A Major Year For Cannabis Legislation And 2019 Is Shaping Up To Be Much Bigger

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Lawmakers across the country are introducing, debating and voting on more marijuana legislation than ever before.

In 2018, Marijuana Moment tracked 915 bills in state legislatures and Congress concerning cannabis, medical marijuana and hemp. According to our legislative analysis platform, a huge majority of states—92 percent—took up cannabis reform bills of some kind during the year.

This year, legislators in state capitols and on Capitol Hill have already filed more than 350 cannabis-related proposals for 2019 sessions that in most cases began only weeks ago. If 2018 is any indication, this year should see a sizable number of those bills making it to governors’ desks for enactment.

In 2018, a significant percentage of filed marijuana legislation moved forward, with at least 147 bills being signed or enacted in 35 states and the District of Columbia.

Those that made it across the finish line ranged from far-reaching proposals such as the legalization of cannabis possession and home cultivation in Vermont to more modest regulatory measures like Colorado bills concerning marijuana waste recycling and water use for hemp cultivation.

Twenty-eight of the bills that were enacted concerned hemp, while 48 were related to medical cannabis or cannabidiol (CBD).

Others had to do with regulating newly legal markets. Not surprisingly, California had the most legislation passed (26 bills), as the state attempted to implement its voter-approved legalization system. Among the enacted legislation in the Golden State were items touching on issues like medical cannabis recommendations by veterinarians, marijuana advertisements and cannabinoid-infused alcoholic beverages. An additional 29 bills died or were vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown.

Colorado was next, with 18 bills signed and three vetoed.

Hawaii, it turns out, dealt with the greatest volume of cannabis bills overall. Six were enacted but an astonishing 103 additional proposals died in committee, failed or were vetoed. That number accounts for 11 percent of all the cannabis bills we tracked across the country in 2018.

While a few states like South Dakota only had one bill, fourteen individual states dealt with 20 or more pieces of legislation each.

New Jersey saw 57 cannabis-related bills, with only one making it all the way to the end of the legislative process: A measure to create a pilot program to research industrial hemp cultivation.

California lawmakers considered 55 bills, New York weighed 48 and Washington State saw 45 pieces of cannabis legislation filed.

States that dealt with 20 or more pieces of cannabis legislation in 2018:

State
Total number
of bills
Hawaii 109
Federal 64
New Jersey 57
California 55
New York 48
Washington 45
Maryland 32
Colorado 31
Tennessee 31
Iowa 28
Michigan 28
Virginia 28
Arizona 22
Maine 20

Justin Strekal, political director for NORML, told Marijuana Moment that the organization’s chapters across the country are seeing “increased interest and increased support from lawmakers from every part of the political spectrum.”

“As politicians see the public moving ahead of them, they are rapidly evolving their stance regarding marijuana.”

There is plenty of political resistance remaining, however. A majority of cannabis-related legislation introduced last year—529 bills—failed, died or were vetoed.

Maine was the only state where legislators overrode a gubernatorial veto in order to implement a regulatory system for the recreational marijuana law that the state’s voters approved in 2016.

Meanwhile, Vermont became the first state to legalize marijuana via an act of lawmakers as opposed to through a ballot measure. Legislators in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. territory, followed by passing a legalization bill of their own.

“Last year’s tremendous amount of legislative activity surrounding cannabis, hemp and CBD legislation reflected that elected officials are increasingly getting the message that the harsh criminalization of marijuana in all its forms is misguided and out of step with the the wishes of voters,” Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, told Marijuana Moment.

At the federal level, 2018 marked the first time stand-alone cannabis bills advanced though congressional committees.

In May, the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee approved legislation encouraging the federal government to study the benefits of medical cannabis for military veterans. Then, in September, the House Judiciary Committee passed a bill that would force the Department of Justice to approve new businesses to cultivate marijuana to be used in scientific research.

Neither proposal ended up getting a floor vote, but their historic committee approvals demonstrated momentum ahead of the new 116th Congress, in which advocates are more hopeful than ever before that marijuana legislation could advance to enactment.

An additional 59 cannabis-related congressional bills stalled without hearings or votes, though it is also worth noting that lawmakers approved, and President Trump signed, a large-scale Farm Bill renewal that included language legalizing industrial hemp and its derivatives.

Back at the state level, O’Keefe is optimistic that efforts made in 2018 will pay off in 2019. “Several states saw committee wins or other progress that will help set the ground for eventual passage,” she said.

In New Jersey, for example, Senate and Assembly committees approved a bill to legalize marijuana in November but, due to an ongoing inability to agree with Gov. Phil Murphy (D) on tax rates and regulatory matters, legislative leaders didn’t bring the proposal to the floor of either chamber by the end of the year. Those negotiations are still underway, with advocates hopeful that agreeable language can be worked out early in 2019.


Marijuana Moment is currently tracking more than 350 key cannabis bills in state legislatures and Congress for 2019 sessions. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

We followed more than 900 pieces of cannabis legislation in 2018. Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

Strekal agrees that this year will be another especially active one for cannabis legislation. “There will be greater numbers of legislation introduced,” he predicts, as well as an increase in those pieces of legislation “receiving hearings, passing committees, being passed by legislative votes and being enacted by governors.”

Status of cannabis bills considered in 2018, by state:

Photo elements courtesy of rawpixel and Philip Steffan.

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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Politics

Governor Signs Bill Legalizing Medical Marijuana In The U.S. Virgin Islands

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Medical cannabis was legalized in another U.S. territory on Saturday after the governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands signed a long-awaited bill into law.

“I have approved the Virgin Islands Medicinal Cannabis Care Act because it is a step in the right direction toward assisting Virgin Islanders suffering from autoimmune and other debilitating medical conditions,” newly sworn-in Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. (D) said in a press release.

The Virgin Islands Medical Cannabis Patient Care Act allows qualified patients to obtain, possess and consume marijuana for therapeutic purposes. It also establishes legal dispensaries and facilities to cultivate, test and manufacture cannabis products.

“After such a prolonged beating, I don’t know how to feel, except relieved for the people who will finally have access to healthy, effective, and affordable medicinal cannabis,” Senator Terrence ‘Positive’ Nelson, who for several legislative sessions in a row has sponsored medical cannabis bills that were ultimately defeated, said in a text message to Marijuana Moment.

“I feel redeemed and excited that the effort went from ‘laughable’ to law!”

Photo courtesy of Gov. Albert Bryan’s office.

Patients suffering from a list of serious medical conditions including cancer, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease and chronic pain will be able to receive a recommendation for medical marijuana from a licensed medical practitioner. Qualifying residents can possess up to four ounces of cannabis at a time and possession for non-residents will be capped at three ounces.

The legislation was approved by lawmakers last month.

In an interview with The St. Thomas Source last year, Bryan said he supports legalizing medical cannabis “based on the proven health benefits in the relief of pain and treatment of symptoms for many serious ailments including cancer.”

“I believe a properly regulated medicinal cannabis industry can provide relief to those seeking alternatives to conventional medicine and can also be an economic driver attracting new revenues for the Virgin Islands,” he said.

Revenue from the territory’s medical cannabis program will be used to fund drug rehabilitation, tourism projects, agriculture investments, work training and infrastructure.

While reform efforts in mainland U.S. have been receiving significant attention, advocates are also scoring wins in various U.S. territories. For example, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands fully legalized cannabis last year, before even implementing a medical cannabis system.

“This legislation also gives effect to a Virgin Islands community-wide Referendum held in 2014 that approved the introduction of the medical-use sale of cannabis products by a majority of the voters,” Bryan said. “Since the Referendum, it is clear that marijuana-use policy in the United States has been changing rapidly in favor of medicinal and recreational use and will continue, even potentially on the federal level.”

The governor also suggested that the new medical cannabis policy may be tweaked going forward.

“The Legislature recognized that the Bill, as passed, is not perfect and needs more refinement and amendment and provides for an implementation period that we must aggressively pursue,” he said. It is part of the process of implementation of the regulatory and operational system. And therefore it will be essential that further revisions be developed, with professional guidance, in the implementation process, including preparation of Regulations, forms, fees, and procedures; and to undertake necessary amendments to the Bill with the Legislature.”

Nelson, the bill’s sponsor, said that he is looking forward to staying involved in the medical cannabis implementation process but that he is also ready to begin pushing for broader marijuana policy reforms.

“I am ready to assist with the establishment of rules and regulations which will be the next step,” Nelson said. “However, each jurisdiction cannot be satisfied with our own success in getting local law changed, but must continue the charge until there are changes to federal government law.”

“This is just another small victory on the rugged road to full legalization.”

Read the full text of the Virgin Islands Medical Cannabis Patient Care Act below:

USVI medical marijuana bill by on Scribd

UPDATE: A previous version of this story reported that the legislation was signed on Thursday as told to Marijuana Moment by the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Nelson. The governor signed the bill on Saturday.

Legal Marijuana Advocates Rank The Best And Worst Governors On Cannabis

Photo element courtesy of Wikimedia.

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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