In such an unprecedented (read: batshit insane) election year, it’s easy to forget that there are issues to vote for other than Commander in Chief. Cannabis legalization in particular has surged forward in several states as a ballot initiative that will be put to the popular vote.
These are the 9 states that will be voting on legalizing recreational and medical cannabis tomorrow:
California was the first state in the union to legalize medical cannabis in 1996, largely pioneered by AIDS activism “buyers’ clubs” who sought to ease the symptoms of HIV and AIDS patients. Since then, the state has had relatively broad qualifying conditions for acquisition of a medical cannabis card; recreational cannabis, however, remains illegal. A 2010 midterm ballot initiative for recreational legalization was struck down. Proposition 64 will be included on the 2016 ballot —
If approved, it will legalize all use for residents 21 and older, and levy states sales taxes
The measure is largely expected to pass, and enjoys the support of Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom. Due to the state’s wealth and cultural influence, possible legalization in California may be a “game changer” for the cannabis legalization movement.
Like California, Arizona legalized medical cannabis in 1996. Arizona’s provisions were much more stringent, though, and only allowed doctors to prescribe the drug in cases of serious or terminal illness. This measure was nullified less than a year after its passage, when the state senate suspended newly-legalized prescriptions until the FDA could approve cannabis for medical use; then, in 2012, voters flipped the law yet again, narrowly passing a measure to treat patients with medical cannabis via a state-regulated system of dispensaries.
2016’s Proposition 205 seeks to legalize recreational use and possession for residents 21 and older.
Polls have been very tight, with support and opposition both clocking in at about 46%. One major opponent of Prop 205 has been Insys, the Chandler, Arizona-based manufacturer of opiate Fentanyl; Insys has spent $500,000 in the fight against recreational legalization.
Portland, Maine was the first East Coast community to pass a local, city-wide cannabis legalization measure in 2013. Although entirely symbolic (state and federal prohibition still outweigh any local laws), the measure has proven to be an accurate barometer for public favor regarding statewide legalization: organizers collected 100,000 signatures for inclusion of the ballot initiative, and the support campaign has raised $1.2 million. The initiative, called Question 1, has polled with an average majority approval of 52%.
Massachusetts has shown increasing tolerance for cannabis in the last decade: a 2008 measure, passed with large majority support, decriminalizing possession of less than an ounce; a 2012 medical legalization measure passed with similar enthusiasm. Now, if passed, the 2016 recreational legalization ballot initiative (a.k.a. Question 4) will allow
Possession of less than 10 ounces at home and less than one ounce in public and cultivation of up to six plants per household
Massachusetts’ governor and attorney general and Boston’s mayor have all spoke out against legalization, citing adolescent health and public safety concerns. Nevertheless, Question 4 has been polling with average majority approval of 51%.
Nevada residents have twice voted to legalize medical cannabis: first in 1998 with overwhelming 59% support, and — because Nevada state law requires its constitutional amendments to be voted on and approved twice — again in 2000, with over 65% support.
In 2014, cannabis activists collected twice the amount of necessary signatures to include a recreational legalization measure on the ballot
If approved, Question 2 will legalize possession and use of less than an ounce of cannabis or less than ⅛ of an ounce of cannabis concentrate, as well as the cultivation of up to six plants for personal use. Question 2 has polled with an average 51% majority support; an average of 41% of voters oppose the measure, with about 9% still undecided.
Cannabis is currently illegal in Arkansas, in any form. Residents voted on medical legalization in 2012 and the measure was rejected, with 51% voting to oppose and 48% voting in support. There will be two separate ballot initiatives for medical legalization in 2016, although only one will have any bearing on state policy. Issue 6 proposes a state constitutional amendment that would legalize cannabis for 17 serious and fatal medical conditions and allocate cannabis tax revenue for education and workforce training.
Issue 7 proposes a state statute that would legalize cannabis for 56 medical conditions, including ADD/ADHD, anorexia and bulimia, insomnia, and generalized anxiety disorder
however, Issue 7 has been invalidated on the basis of 8,000 supporting signatures that were collected without background checks. Although Issue 7 will still be included on the ballot, votes will not be counted. Although Issue 7 would have treated a wider range of conditions, Issue 6 has the advantage of proposing a constitutional amendment, which cannot be overturned by the state legislature without a public vote. Early polls for Issue 6 indicated a large 63% majority support, but that support seems to have since waned, with a smaller 50% majority supporting the measure in September and October.
Florida residents voted to legalize medical cannabis in the 2014 midterm elections. However, since Florida law requires a supermajority of 60% for the passage of a new amendment, the measure effectively failed. 2016’s “Amendment 2,” drafted by the same activists behind 2014’s “Amendment 1,” again seeks to legalize medical cannabis — the text of the proposed Amendment 2 has been changed to require parental consent for minors to consume medical cannabis, and has enumerated the specific conditions that constitute “debilitating” diseases — including HIV/AIDS, cancer, Crohn’s disease, and PTSD. The measure is poised to exceed the required 60% supermajority: polls since January 2015 have indicated average majority support of 71%.
Although Montana voters legalized medical cannabis as far back as 2004, in 2011 the state legislature severely restricted this legalization, banning medical cannabis advertisements, requiring dispensaries to have no more than three patients, and mandating state review of any doctors who prescribe cannabis for more than 25 patients per year. Montana residents will vote on Initiative 182 in November 2016, which seeks to overturn all of these restrictions and to repeal unannounced inspections of medical cannabis dispensaries by local law enforcement;
182 would also include PTSD as a qualifying conditions for medical cannabis
The campaign to oppose Initiative 182 has outspent the Initiative’s supporters by $80 million; the measure has polled at a majority 51% opposition.
Cannabis is illegal in North Dakota. Although two bills for medical cannabis were put to the state legislature in 2015, both were rejected — one which would have legalized the drug for certain conditions, and another that would have required the legislature to study the potential benefits of medical legalization. Drafted in response to the failure of these bills, Statutory Measure 5 will be on the November 2016 ballot and seeks to legalize cannabis for debilitating and terminal medical conditions. Although no polls have been conducted specifically tailored to Measure 5, a more general 2014 poll indicated 47% majority support for medical legalization.