Next month, voters in seven states will get the chance to approve or reject a number of far-reaching marijuana proposals. But one thing many people don’t realize is that you don’t have to wait until November 6 to make your voice heard: many states allow for early or absentee voting, and people across the country are already voting on cannabis initiatives today, as you read this.
Before getting into the specifics, an important aside about voter registration deadlines: They’re coming up hot. You can check your state’s registration deadline here.
OK, back to early voting on cannabis. Marijuana Moment compiled a list of each major state and local marijuana-related initiative that will appear on ballots. They range widely—from proposals to fully legalize cannabis in Michigan to amending the definition of industrial hemp in Colorado—and some will only go before voters in specific cities or counties.
There’s a lot of information to review before heading to the polls, but fortunately, there’s still about a month to go.
But for those who are eager to make their votes count sooner rather than later, many places with cannabis questions provide ways to cast your ballot early via mail or in-person before Election Day.
Here’s when early or absentee voting starts in states where marijuana will be on the ballot:
A proposal to amend the definition of industrial hemp under the Colorado constitution.
Ballots handed out to voters who request them: October 5*
*A county clerk “must begin issuing mail ballots to any eligible elector who requests one in person at the county clerk’s office” by this date. Otherwise, mail ballots will be sent to voters between October 15 and 22.
A proposal to fully legalize marijuana for adult-use.
Absentee voting begins: County clerks begin sending out mail-in ballots* September 22
*Non-military Michigan voters must qualify for absentee voting. Individuals must either be over 60 years old, unable to vote without assistance, planning to be out of town on Election Day, in jail awaiting trial, have a conflicting religious event or have been appointed to work “as an election inspector in a precinct outside of your precinct of residence.”
Three competing proposals to legalize medical cannabis.
Absentee voting begins: September 25*
*Missouri voters must qualify for absentee voting. Individuals must either be physically incapable to vote due to illness or disability, planning to be out of town on Election Day, in jail awaiting trial, have a conflicting religious event, have been appointed to work an election official or currently involved in a confidentiality program due to safety concerns.
A proposal to fully legalize marijuana for adult-use.
Absentee voting begins: September 27
Early voting begins: Counties may begin offering early voting as soon as October 22. Consult your county’s election office, as start dates vary.
Proposals in six municipalities across Ohio to locally decriminalize cannabis.
Early voting begins: October 10
Absentee voting begins: October 10
A proposal to legalize medical cannabis.
Absentee voting begins: For military and oversees residents, mail-in ballots will be sent out by September 22. Other mail-in ballots will be sent out by October 16. Absentee ballot applications must be submitted by October 30.
Early voting begins: October 23*
*Be sure to check your county’s early voting poll dates here.
Non-binding advisory questions in 16 counties asking voters to weigh in on medical or adult-use cannabis legalization.
Absentee voting: Requests for an absentee ballot must be submitted by November 1
Early voting begins: September 22*
*The bulk of Wisconsin municipalities allow for early voting starting September 22, but there’s no statewide timeline so check with your municipal clerk to confirm. The University of Wisconsin maintains a list of updated early voting dates here.
Photo courtesy of Democracy Chronicles.
People With Marijuana Convictions Should Know About National Expungement Week
Marijuana legalization is a solid first step, but there’s still a lot of work to be done to resolve socioeconomic and racial inequities brought about by the war on drugs.
Hence, we now have National Expungement Week. The first-of-its-kind campaign, supported by a coalition of cannabis and social justice organizations called the Equity First Alliance, is taking place from October 20-27.
The organizations will offer “expungement and other forms of legal relief to some of the 77 million Americans with convictions on their records,” according to the campaign website. “These convictions can restrict access to housing, employment, education, public assistance, and voting rights long after sentences have been served.”
In an open letter, the alliance also said it was “largely unsupported by the cannabis industry and by the traditional funders of equity work.” While a main argument in support of legalization is that it would help to repair drug war damages, which have disproportionately affected communities of color, the laws and markets created by the successful movement haven’t necessarily lived up to its name, the alliance wrote.
To that end, the campaign has organized events across the country—from Los Angeles to Boston—to provide legal services to those whose criminal records are able to be reduced or expunged. You can check out the full list of events here.
The alliance’s agenda touches on numerous reform policies, including using marijuana tax revenue to fund communities that have been impacted by prohibition, implementing social equity programs, ensuring corporate responsibility for businesses that profit off cannabis and providing affordable medical cannabis for low-income patients, among other policies.
“We believe that we have a short but vital window of opportunity to change the course of the cannabis industry—and by doing so, we can prevent further harms to the most impacted communities and create a model of reparative economic and criminal justice.”
Adam Vine, co-founder of Cafe-Free Cannabis and an organizer with the campaign, told Marijuana Moment that the campaign is necessary “because millions of Americans have been harmed by the war on drugs and continue to face collateral consequences for convictions that may have happened years ago.”
“These consequences restrict people’s access to employment, housing, education, and social services, so our coalition decided to do something about it,” he said. “We are coordinating these events to provide free legal relief and to say that as states move towards cannabis legalization, expungement needs to be the first priority.”
Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.
Chris Christie Finally Recognizes Marijuana Legalization As States’ Rights Issue
Famously anti-marijuana former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) isn’t jumping on the pro-legalization train any time soon—but new comments suggest he might be softening his opposition a smidge, recognizing marijuana reform as a states’ rights issue.
Speaking at Politicon on Saturday, Christie took a question about his cannabis stance from YouTuber Kyle Kulinski, who asked him to weigh in on studies showing that states with legal marijuana programs experience lower rates of opioid addiction and overdoses compared to non-legal states. He was quick to dismiss the research, contending that other studies show the “exact opposite.”
“I just don’t believe when we’re in the midst of a drug addiction crisis that we need to legalize another drug,” Christie said, echoing comments he’s made as chair of President Donald Trump’s opioids committee.
Then he pivoted, acknowledging that some will push back on his anti-legalization position by pointing out that alcohol is legal. “I get that,” he said, “but I wasn’t here when we legalized alcohol.”
Kulinski seized on that point and asked the former governor if he’d vote to ban alcohol.
“No, I wouldn’t ban it. You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube, and that’s a big, important argument about marijuana because once you legalize this, that toothpaste never goes back in the tube.”
Christie stood out among other Republican and Democratic contenders during his 2016 presidential run by maintaining that in addition to personally opposing legalization, he’d crack down on legal cannabis states and enforce federal laws nationwide if elected.
“If you’re getting high in Colorado today, enjoy it,” Christie said in 2015. “As of January 2017, I will enforce the federal laws.”
So it came as something of a surprise when the former governor went on to say in the Politicon appearance that “states have the right to do what they want to do on this,” signaling a modest shift in his anti-marijuana rhetoric. States should have that right even though, as Christie put it, “broad legalization of marijuana won’t, in my view, alleviate or even minimize the opioid crisis.”
It’s unclear what’s behind the apparent shift from hardline prohibitionist to wary federalist, but who knows… maybe Christie experienced an epiphany at a Melissa Etheridge concert he attended earlier this month.
Etheridge, who recently spoke with Marijuana Moment about her cannabis advocacy and use of the drug for medicinal purposes, reacted to a tweet showing Christie at one of her recent performances, where he reportedly knew every word of her songs and sang along.
— Melissa Etheridge (@metheridge) October 6, 2018
Christie, for his part, replied that he “enjoyed every minute of a great performance and a truly wonderful group of fans.”
And enjoyed every minute of a great performance and a truly wonderful group of fans https://t.co/TQdJ8fzkTM
— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) October 6, 2018
Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore.
Marijuana Support Grows: Two Out Of Three Americans Back Legalization, Gallup Says
Two-thirds of Americans now support legalizing marijuana, the highest percentage ever in Gallup’s ongoing decades-long series of national polls on the topic.
The new survey released on Monday shows that U.S. adults back ending cannabis prohibition by a supermajority margin of 66 percent to 32 percent. That’s more than a two-to-one ratio.
(Marijuana Moment’s editor provides some content to Forbes via a temporary exclusive publishing license arrangement.)
Photo courtesy of Jurassic Blueberries.