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These States Will Probably Vote On Marijuana In 2018

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In November 2016, nine statewide marijuana ballot initiatives went before voters, and eight were approved.

In 2018, voters in a number of additional states are likely to see cannabis questions when they go to their polling places.

Here’s an in-depth look at those states that have the best chance of qualifying marijuana initiatives, followed by some brief info on a few that seem like longer shots…

(Note: Additional states that don’t allow voter initiatives or referenda could see legalization or medical cannabis measures approved by legislatures. A future post will examine those opportunities.)

MICHIGAN

The Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act would allow adults over 21 to possess, grow and use small amounts of marijuana legally.

Specifically, they could grow up to 12 total marijuana plants in a single residence,Ā possess 2.5 ounces outside their homes and store 10 ounces at home (in addition to what they grow legally).

State regulators would grant business licenses for cultivators, processors, testing facilities, secure transporters, retail stores and microbusinesses (i.e. small businesses cultivating a low number of plants from which they would sell product directly to consumers).

Municipalities would be empowered to regulate or ban cannabis businesses.

Retail sales would be subject to a 10 percent excise tax in addition to the state’s regular six percent sales tax. Revenues would cover the cost of regulation and additionally fund schools, roads, local governments and FDA-approved research on medical marijuana’s role in helping military veterans struggling with PTSD and other conditions.

Path to ballot: Organizers need to collectĀ 252,523 valid signatures from registered voters to qualify the measure but, because voters sometimes sign petitions incorrectly and signatures are disqualified, organizers turned in more than 360,000 in late November. State officials will now verify that a sufficient number are valid.

Who is behind the campaign: TheĀ Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol is organized by Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), which has spearheaded many previously successful cannabis initiatives. MPP worked to garner buy-in for the effort from grassroots activists with MI Legalize who narrowly failed to qualify a legalization measure for the state’s 2016 ballot.

Polling: Several surveys have shown majority support for legalization, including one this May that found likely voters back ending prohibition by a margin of 58 percent to 36 percent.

Another Michigan measure: A second legalization campaign is also collecting signatures but the team behind it doesn’t appear to have the funding it will likely take to qualify their measure for the ballot.

MISSOURI

AĀ proposed constitutional amendment would allow doctors to recommend medical cannabis for any condition.

Qualified patients, after getting physician approval, would receive identification cards from the state that last for one year, subject to renewal.Ā Patients and their primary caregivers would be allowed to cultivate up to six marijuana plants and purchase at least four ounces of cannabis from dispensaries on a monthly basis.

The state would issue licenses for medical cannabis cultivation, testing, infused products manufacturing and dispensing businesses.

The measure sets up a four percent retail tax on medical cannabis sales, with all revenue going toward services for military veterans after implementation and regulations costs are covered.

Path to ballot:Ā Organizers need to collect 160,199 valid signatures from registered voters to qualify the measure. As of late September, the campaign had collected nearly 75,000 raw signatures.

Who is behind the campaign:Ā New Approach Missouri is working to put the measure before voters. The organization narrowly failed to qualify a similar measure for 2016’s ballot.

Polling:Ā A number of polls have found majority support for medical cannabis, including a July 2016 survey showing votersĀ favored an earlier proposed ballot measure by a margin of 62 percent to 27 percent.

Other Missouri Measures: A second medical cannabis constitutional initiative being organized by physician, lawyer and former lieutenant governor candidate Brad Bradshaw appears that it may qualify as well. His campaign says that it has already collected nearly 150,000 signatures. A third measure, a statutory one involving former House Speaker Steve Tilley, is also in play. And there are also a number of other competing marijuana initiativesĀ seeking ballot access, including several that would legalize recreational marijuana in addition to medical cannabis, but there is no indication that these measures have enough funding to qualify.

OKLAHOMA

A proposed statutory initiative would allow would allow doctors to recommend medical cannabis for any condition.

Qualified patients, after getting physician approval, would receive identification cards from the state, and would be allowed to possess three ounces of marijuana on their person and eight ounces at home. They could also cultivate six mature plants and six seedlings. And they would be allowed to possess oneĀ ounce of cannabis concentrates andĀ 72 ounces of marijuana edibles.

Homebound patients could designate a caregiver who could purchase, grow or possess marijuana for them.

People who are caught with 1.5 ounces or less of cannabis and who don’t have medical marijuana cards but can state a medical condition would be met with misdemeanor offenses punishable by no more than a $400 fine.

The state would issue licenses for medical cannabis cultivation, processing, transportation and dispensing businesses.

A seven percent retail tax on medical cannabis sales would be levied. After covering implementation and regulation costs, additional revenue would fund education and drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs.

Path to ballot:Ā The measure has already qualified. There was a chance it could have appeared before voters in 2016 but, because a dispute over the measure’s official ballot title with then-Attorney General Scott Pruitt (now U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator) was not resolved by the state Supreme Court in time, its consideration was delayed until the next election. Gov. Mary Fallin (R) placed the measure on theĀ June 26 primary ballot.

Who is behind the campaign:Ā Oklahomans for Health qualified the measure and is running the campaign to pass it.

Polling:Ā A Sooner Poll found that 62 percent of Oklahomans support the ballot initiative.

UTAH

The Utah Medical Cannabis Act would allow doctors to recommend medical marijuana to patients with cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, PTSD, chronic pain and other specifically enumerated conditions.

Qualified patients, after getting physician approval, would be issued state identification cards and be allowed to purchase two ounces of cannabis or products containing 10 grams of cannabidiol or tetrahydrocannabinol from a dispensary during any 14-day period. Patients who do not live within 100 miles of a dispensary would be allowed to grow six plants.Ā The measure would create an affirmative defense that could be used by patients before identification cards become available.

Smoking medical cannabis would not be allowed. Patients could designate caregivers who would help grow, obtain and administer cannabis.

The state would issue licenses for medical cannabis cultivation, processing, testing and dispensing businesses.

Municipalities would be allowed to regulate, but not ban, marijuana businesses.

Medical cannabis would be exempt from sales taxes. Revenues generated by licensing fees are expected to offset implementation and regulation costs.

Path to ballot:Ā Organizers need to collect 113,143 valid signatures from registered voters to qualify the measure. As of October, they had turned in roughly 20,000 signatures.

Who is behind the campaign: TheĀ Utah Patients CoalitionĀ is the driving force behind the measure, and is primarily funded by the Marijuana Policy Project.

Polling:Ā Numerous polls have shown strong majority support for medical cannabis. An October Salt Lake Tribune surveyĀ found that 75 percent of the state’s registered voters back medical marijuana.

OTHER POSSIBILITIES

Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands: Lawmakers in the U.S territory are considering legislation that would place a measure legalizing marijuana and allowing medical cannabis before voters in 2018.

Maryland: State legislators are considering putting a marijuana referendum on the ballot so that voters can decide to enact legalization.

Rhode Island: Some lawmakers in the state have in years past floated the idea of placing a nonbinding legalization referendum on the state ballot so that voters could weigh in on the issue. Activists prefer for the legislature to simply pass a bill to end prohibition, but if that doesn’t seem possible as the 2018 session goes on, they may pursue the referendum approach. If a referendum were to pass, lawmakers would likely feel increased pressure to enact a bill in 2019.

South Dakota:Ā Activists with New Approach South Dakota are circulating petitions for two ballot measures: One to allow medical cannabis and one to legalize recreational marijuana.

Photo courtesy of Democracy Chronicles.

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.

Tom Angell is the editor of Marijuana Moment. A 20-year veteran in the cannabis law reform movement, he covers the policy and politics of marijuana. Separately, he founded the nonprofit Marijuana Majority. Previously he reported for Marijuana.com and MassRoots, and handled media relations and campaigns for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. (Organization citations are for identification only and do not constitute an endorsement or partnership.)

Politics

Massachusetts Governor Defends Closing Recreational Marijuana Shops To Prevent Out-Of-State Shoppers

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The governor of Massachusetts doubled down on the state’s temporary closure of recreational marijuana shops during the coronavirus outbreak on Tuesday, telling reporters that allowing them to reopen could exacerbate the health crisis by attracting visitors from states where cannabis remains illegal.

During a press conference, Gov. Charlie Baker (R) was asked about the state’s decision to exclude adult-use stores from the list of “essential businesses” that can continue to operate during the pandemic. He stressed that medical cannabis dispensaries can continue to serve patients but seemed to argue that the lack of regulated marijuana markets in surrounding states is forcing the state’s hand on recreational retailers.

“We are doing a lot of things to try to get people to stay at home,” he said, adding that travel advisories currently instruct out-of-state visitors to self-quarantine for 14 days.

“There is tons of evidence that because Massachusetts is one of the few states in the Northeast that has legalized recreational marijuana, that if we make recreational marijuana available as an essential businessā€”remember, medical marijuana is available as an essential businessā€”if we make recreational marijuana available, we are going to have to deal with the fact that people are going to come here from all over the place across the Northeast and create issues for us with respect to the fundamental issue we are trying to solve for here, which is to stop the spread,” Baker said. “For that reason and that reason alone, I think this is just a non-starter with us.”

Asked whether the state could make it so only Massachusetts residents could access adult-use shops, the governor said “I donā€™t know if you can do that legally,” though it’s “certainly something that some folks have talked about.”

Baker is facing pressure from regulators and industry stakeholders to allow recreational stores to stay open. Layoffs and furloughs have already started occurring in the market in response to his order.

In a letter to the governor on Monday, dozens of marijuana operators in the state argued that while they appreciate the need to protect public health during this pandemic, shuttering their businesses means people will turn to the illicit, unregulated market for cannabis, and that poses its own set of risks.

Shaleen Title, who serves as a commissioner on the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission, told Marijuana Moment that public safety “must remain our top priority as Massachusetts confronts the coronavirus pandemic” and she appreciates the governor “for recognizing that even as we strive to minimize unnecessary interactions, access to medical cannabis is essential to the health of tens of thousands of patients in Massachusetts.”

“And I welcome and share his confidence in the ability of the Commission and its medical licensees to operate safely amid the unprecedented challenges posed by COVID-19, including by enhancing sanitation procedures, limiting the number of patrons, and allowing curbside pickup,” she said.

But she parted with the governor when it comes to recreational businesses.

“I believe those same measures, potentially along with a restriction on out-of-state customers, could be applied to adult-use facilities to allow for resumed operations,” she said. “Reopening these businesses would provide access to the many adult-use consumers who rely on cannabis for medical purposes.ā€

As the U.S. grapples with the COVID-19 outbreak, numerous states are having to decide where to draw the line for cannabis businesses. Many allow both adult-use and medical cannabis dispensaries to operate, with some recommending social distancing measures such as curbside pickup for marijuana products to mitigate the spread of the virus.

According to a recent poll, a majority of Americans agree that medical cannabis dispensaries are “essential services” that should remain open.

Marijuana Legalization ‘Not Likely’ In New York Budget, Governor Says On Eve Of Deadline

Photo courtesy of WeedPornDaily.

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Marijuana Legalization ‘Not Likely’ In New York Budget, Governor Says On Eve Of Deadline

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Marijuana legalization is “not likely” to be included in the final budget in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said on Tuesday, explaining that the issue proved too complicated as the state grapples with the coronavirus.

Another sign that the policy change isn’t happening as Cuomo and advocates had planned comes from a pair of newly revised budget bills that exclude the proposal, making it all but certain that legalization won’t make the final cut.

“Too much, too little time,” the governor said of the proposal during a press conference.

Wednesday is the deadline to deliver a budget, and so the identical Senate and Assembly spending bills that were freshly amended on Tuesday are unlikely to substantially change before they get a vote and sent to the governor’s desk. A provision in Cuomo’s original proposal that would implement an adult-use cannabis market was “intentionally omitted,” text of the legislation states. That phrase is used repeatedly throughout the legislation for policies that missed the cut.

That’s not to say that there’s no appetite for the reform move within the legislature. It was expected to make it into the budget, but the coronavirus outbreak shifted legislative priorities and legalization evidently proved too complicated an issue to work out ahead of the deadline. Top lawmakers have said there’s no reason that they can’t develop a comprehensive reform plan outside of the budget.

However, Cuomo said earlier this month that his preference would be to address legalization through the budget because, outside of that process, “the easiest thing for a legislative body to do is to do nothing.”

The release of the budget bills seems to confirm details included on a draft budget report that was shared with Marijuana Moment on Monday. It similarly said that the “Adopted Budget omits the Executive proposal to legalize adult use cannabis.”

A revised standalone legalization bill was recently introduced in the Senate, and advocates hoped the language would be inserted into the budget, but that didn’t pan out. However, it’s possible that legislators could still take it up separately after the budget is handled. That said, it remains to be seen when the legislature, which has scaled down other activity amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, will be able to tackle the issue.

A spokesperson for the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Liz Krueger (D), told Marijuana Moment on Monday that “nothing is done until it is done, but the Senator has said previously that the Governor’s staff essentially took marijuana off the table weeks ago” in budget talks.

The senator still believes that “if it can’t get done the right way in the budget right in the middle of overlapping public health and fiscal crises, that there is no reason it can’t get done right later.”

Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D), who has also sponsored a legalization bill, told Politico that “I wish that it was [included in the budget], but I donā€™t believe that it is.”

Marijuana Moment reached out to Senate and Assembly leadership for comment about the budget bills, but representatives were not immediately available.

ā€œWhile legalizing cannabis is necessary to reduce the decades of unjust, racist targeting of communities of color in New York, our state faces a public health crisis right now and efforts to contain COVID-19 demand legislators’ full attention,” Kassandra Frederique or the Drug Policy Alliance said. “We remain committed to seeing legalization passed in New York at a time when critical components of equity and community reinvestment can be thoroughly addressed.”

“The regulation of marijuana in our state must be centered in economic and racial justice now more than ever, because we know the same communities targeted by drug enforcement are the ones with the least access to healthcare right now, the ones grappling with decades of the economic toll from criminalization, with low wages, unstable housing, and the ones losing jobs and loved ones at the same time,” she added. “The creation of a diversified and equitable industry that supports New York-based small businesses and farmers will be imperative coming out of this crisis. When the dust settles and New York has survived this pandemic, these communities that are on the frontlines of this crisisā€”in addition to the legacy of harmful enforcementā€”must be the center of our rebuilding effort.ā€

Prohibitionist group Smart Approaches To Marijuana celebrated reports that legalization would not be included in the budget, stating that “the consideration of marijuana legalization and commercialization during this outbreak is unconscionable and extremely shortsighted.”

Cuomo also originally planned to tour legal cannabis states to learn from their experiences and take lessons back home, but that plan was also derailed due to the coronavirus.

The governor pitched legalization in his budget proposal last year as well. But following months of negotiation, the legislatureĀ failed to produce a passable billā€”with disagreements centering on issues such as how tax revenue would be allocatedā€”and so the effort carried over to this year.

Cuomo seemed optimistic that 2020 would be the year for legal cannabis in New York, and he touted the proposal in his State of the State address in January. Just last week, he indicated the effort was still alive, though he also recognized that it may prove too complicated an issue to ultimately deliver through the budget this round.

Meanwhile, drug policy reform efforts across the country are struggling amid the pandemic.

Activists in California recently released a video asking California officials toĀ allow digital signatures for a petition to revise the stateā€™s adult-use marijuana program. In Washington, D.C., advocates for a measure to decriminalize psychedelics similarly wrote to the mayor and local lawmakers,Ā imploring them to accept online signatures for their ballot petition.

Another California campaign toĀ legalize psilocybin mushroomsĀ is struggling and asking for electronic signature gathering to qualify for the ballot. An effort toĀ legalize medical cannabisĀ in Nebraska is facing similar signature gathering challenges. A campaign to legalize cannabis in MissouriĀ is also in jeopardy.

In Oregon, advocates forĀ a measure to decriminalize drug possessionĀ and a separateĀ initiative to legalize psilocybin for therapeutic purposesĀ have suspended in-person campaign events amid the pandemic.

Arizona activists shared some more positive news last week, however, announcing that they haveĀ collected more than enough signatures to qualifyĀ for the stateā€™s November ballotā€”though they have not yet been submitted to or verified by the state.

Coronavirus Upends Marijuana, Psychedelics And Drug Reform Ballot Measures

This story was updated to include comment from Drug Policy Alliance.

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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DC Activists Have A New Plan To Get Psychedelics Decriminalization On The Ballot Despite Coronavirus

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Activists in Washington, D.C. are considering a new strategy to get a measure to decriminalize psychedelics on the November ballot, with the coronavirus outbreak having forced them to suspend in-person signature gathering.

While Decriminalize Nature D.C. hoped that officials would pass emergency legislation allowing the digital collection of signatures, they aren’t actively considering that option. And the District Council’s chairman said he would not simply place the initiative on the ballot for voters to decide regardless of the signature count.

That’s left the group in a challenging position. But they’re not out of ideas yet.

Now the campaign is exploring the possibility of conducting “micro-scale petition signature collection” to make the ballot. The plan would involve having petitions mailed to supporters, who would circulate it and collect signatures from “registered DC voters in their immediate vicinity, such as family, roommates, friends and close-by neighbors” and then return the signed petitions to the campaign headquarters.

They’ve launched an online survey to determine the feasibility of the option. It asks prospective volunteers to estimate how many signatures they could theoretically collect under that limited scope and provide their mailing information should the campaign decide to move forward with the plan.

This is one of the last remaining options for the 2020 effort, which is working to make a wide range of psychedelics among the district’s lowest law enforcement priorities.

Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) said during a press conference on Friday that he “would not say that weā€™re looking for legislative action to put [the initiative] on the ballot” outside of the conventional process.

Board of Elections Chairman Michael Bennett also took a question about the prospect of allow electronic signature collection. He said his panel is not considering the possibility “at this point.”

Watch the comments below, starting around 22:15:

Decriminalize Nature D.C. is one of numerous groups working to change local and state drug policy laws. And it’s not alone in its struggle amid the current pandemic.

A California campaign to legalize psilocybin mushroomsĀ is struggling and asking for electronic signature gathering to qualify for the ballot.

In Oregon, advocates forĀ a measure to decriminalize drug possessionĀ and a separateĀ initiative to legalize psilocybin for therapeutic purposesĀ have suspended in-person campaign events amid the pandemic.

Activists in California recently released a video asking California officials toĀ allow digital signatures for a petition to revise the stateā€™s adult-use marijuana program. An effort toĀ legalize medical cannabisĀ in Nebraska is facing similar signature gathering challenges. A campaign to legalize cannabis in MissouriĀ is also in jeopardy.

Arizona activists shared some more positive news last week, however, announcing that they haveĀ collected more than enough signatures to qualifyĀ for the stateā€™s November ballotā€”though they have not yet been submitted to or verified by the state.

Marijuana Legalization Left Out Of New York Budget, According To Draft Summary Document

Photo elements courtesy of carlosemmaskype and Apollo.

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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