A number of states are expected to vote on far-reaching marijuana ballot measures this year, and recent polling shows that all of them are poised to pass by substantial margins.
A survey released on Thursday, for example, found that 61% of Michigan adults said they favor legalizing cannabis, while only 34% are opposed.
Michigan officials determined last month that activists collected enough signatures to place a marijuana legalization measure on the general election ballot. Unless state lawmakers decide to enact legalization themselves in the next few weeks, voters will see the cannabis question when they go to the polls in November. And the new survey data from Michigan State University indicates they are likely to approve it overwhelmingly.
Elsewhere, during next month’s June 26 primary election, Oklahoma voters will consider a measure to allow medical cannabis. A January poll found that 62% of likely voters support the proposal, while only 31% are opposed.
In Utah, county officials determined last month that activists collected enough signatures to qualify a medical marijuana measure for the November ballot. A March survey showed that 77% of Utah adults support legalizing medical cannabis.
(Opponents led by the Utah Medical Association and a local task force of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration are currently trying to kick the measure off the ballot by convincing voters who signed petitions to remove their signatures.)
In Missouri, competing campaigns filed signatures in support of three separate medical cannabis ballot measures this month. State officials will now count the signatures to determine which, if any, will qualify to go before voters in November. In any case, while there haven’t been recent public surveys on the issue, previous state polling shows that voters would be poised to approve a marijuana measure.
A July 2016 survey, for example, found that 62% of Missouri voters supported an earlier potential medical cannabis ballot question, with just 27% against. If the broader growth in public support for marijuana law reform in the U.S. is any indication, the state is likely even more poised to vote yes on medical marijuana this year.
Nationally, a growing majority of voters favors outright legalization. Quinnipiac University found last month, for example, that 63% are on board with ending marijuana prohibition. An even greater supermajority of 93% back medical cannabis.
And politicians are starting to take note. A number of potential 2020 presidential candidates are lining up to endorse legalization.
On Thursday, for example, Sen. Kamala Harris became the latest cosponsor of the Marijuana Justice Act, which would end federal cannabis prohibition and punish states with discriminatory criminal enforcement. The bill was introduced by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), himself an expected presidential contender, and it already has the support of other potential candidates like Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), another possible presidential candidate, is expected to file separate far-reaching legislation to shield state marijuana laws from federal interference later this month.
Hemp Legalization Is Officially Headed to President Trump’s Desk For Signature
The 2018 Farm Bill, which would legalize industrial hemp, is officially headed to President Donald Trump’s desk. The House passed the legislation on Wednesday, one day after the Senate approved it.
It’s been decades since the ban on hemp was imposed—a byproduct of the federal government’s war on marijuana and other drugs. The ban, it seems, will be lifted in a matter of days.
The House passed the bill, 369-47.
The votes come after months of debate over other aspects of the wide-ranging agriculture bill. But the hemp legalization provision, shepherded by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), has received bipartisan support at every step of the legislative process.
Hemp legalization made it through a conference committee where the Senate and House Agriculture Committees reconciled their respective versions of the bill. McConnell marked the occasion this week by signing the conference report with a hemp pen, which he said on Wednesday that the president was free to use to sign the bill into law.
The hemp provision would allow U.S. farmers to grow, process and sell the crop. The Justice Department would no longer have jurisdiction over hemp under the legislation; rather, the U.S. Department of Agriculture would lightly regulate it.
One element of the hemp language created tension between lawmakers and advocates. The original Senate-passed bill prohibited people with felony drug convictions from participating in the hemp industry, but a compromise was reached last week that limited that ban in the final version to 10 years after the last offense.
House Democrats in the Agriculture Committee listed hemp legalization as one of several reasons they were calling for a “yes” vote on the legislation.
The farm bill conference report legalizes industrial hemp. pic.twitter.com/2u5xxtKwaS
— House Agriculture Committee Democrats (@HouseAgDems) December 12, 2018
According to VoteHemp, if the president signs the bill before the year’s end, it will take effect on January 1, 2019.
Marijuana Industry Border Issues Would Be Solved Under New Congressional Bill
Marijuana can really mess up border and immigration issues for people who partake in consumption or participate in the industry, but that would change if a new bill being introduced in Congress this week is enacted.
Under current U.S. laws, people who admit to past cannabis use or who work for or invest in marijuana businesses can be barred from visiting the country under certain circumstances. And marijuana consumption, even if it is legal under state law, can lead to an immigrant being deported.
The new legislation, the Maintaining Appropriate Protections For Legal Entry Act, would provide exceptions for conduct that “was lawful in the State, Indian Tribe, or foreign country in which the conduct occurred” or that was “subsequently made lawful under the law or regulation of such jurisdiction,” according to a draft obtained by Marijuana Moment.
The bill, known as the MAPLE Act for short—surely a nod to the leaf on Canada’s flag—is being filed on Wednesday by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).
U.S. border policies on entry by marijuana industry participants were slightly loosened just ahead of the launch of Canada’s legal marijuana market in October to clarify that people working for cannabis businesses are generally admissible to the U.S., with the caveat that “if a traveler is found to be coming to the U.S. for reason related to the marijuana industry, they may be deemed inadmissible.”
And that’s a key exception. Several Canadians traveling to a cannabis industry conference in Las Vegas last month were detained for hours, with one investor being given a lifetime ban from visiting the U.S.
While there is almost certainly not enough time for Blumenauer’s proposal to be considered and voted on by the end of the year, its language could easily be adopted into new legislation after the 116th Congress is seated in January.
In October, the congressman laid out a plan for a step-by-step approach to federally legalizing marijuana in 2019 in a memo to fellow House Democrats.
Marijuana Moment supporters on Patreon can read the full text of the new MAPLE Act below:
Chicago Mayor Wants Legal Marijuana Revenue To Fund Pensions
Tax revenue from legal marijuana sales should be earmarked to fund pension programs, the mayor of Chicago said on Wednesday.
“Illinois legislators will be taking a serious look next year at legalizing recreational marijuana,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) said in a speech to the City Council. “Should they follow that course, a portion of that revenue could go toward strengthening our pension funds and securing the retirement of the workers who depend on them.”
(Marijuana Moment’s editor provides some content to Forbes via a temporary exclusive publishing license arrangement.)
Photo courtesy of Daniel X. O’Neil.