November 3rd won’t just decide the future of the presidency; voters nationwide are deciding on smaller-scale representatives, local propositions, amendments to the state constitution, and more. In some states, the future of entire industries and norms could be changed. That includes the future of marijuana in certain areas. Heading into the election, there are 33 states with legal medical marijuana programs, 11 of which also allow recreational adult-use cannabis. There are five states voting on November 3rd to change their laws surrounding cannabis.
New Jersians are hoping to make their state the 12th in the nation and the first in the Mid-Atlantic region to legalize recreational cannabis.
Public Question 1
Public Question 1, the Marijuana Legalization Amendment, is very simple. It would allow people 21 and older to use marijuana. The product would be taxed at the same rate as the state’s sales tax, which is currently 6.625%. The amendment would also let local governments choose whether to add an addition 2% sales tax to the cannabis. Some people fear the language in the amendment does not provide enough specifics. For instance, it doesn’t set limits on possession amounts or how much individuals can grow in their homes, and it does not address how to respond to people who have convictions on their records that would no longer be considered illegal. The Amendment has great support among government officials. The measure that put the question on the ballot in the first place was put in place by New Jersey legislators. Governor Phil Murphy made it a campaign promise to legalize recreational marijuana, and has been a vocal and firm supporter of the amendment. Polls show New Jersey voters supporting the amendment outnumber those against it by a 2:1 margin. One poll said 61% of voters support the ballot question; another showed results closer to 66%.
The Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project was successful in legalizing medical cannabis in the state in 2010. The Arizona Department of Health Services regulates the sale and use of the product, and only qualified patients with specific medical conditions can purchase the product from closely-monitored clinics.
Now, Proposition 207 could allow for legal adult-use marijuana, which would also be regulated by the DHS. People 21 and older would be allowed to have up to one ounce of marijuana, of which up to 5 grams can be cannabis concentrate. They can also grow up to six marijuana plants in their homes. The cannabis would be taxed at 16% on top of the transaction privilege and use taxes. That money would go toward community colleges, local police and fire departments and sheriff’s offices, plus Arizona’s Highway User Revenue Fund. It would also establish a new Justice Reinvestment Fund and would allow people convicted of nonviolent marijuana crimes to petition for expungement. Those against the bill argue that the revenue generated would amount to less than 1% of the state’s current budget, and none of that money would benefit K-12 students. Recent polls show promise for the measure, and it seems support has been steadily growing. In September, one poll found about 45.6% of voters supported the proposition and 19% remained undecided. More recently, researchers have found voters average at 57% support in one poll and another said 51%.
South Dakotans are making history in 2020, becoming the first state to vote on both medical and adult-use marijuana at the same time.
Amendment A is the Marijuana Legalization Initiative. It would legalize recreational marijuana and turn power over to the state legislature to pass laws regarding medical marijuana and hemp sales. With the amendment, people 21 and older could have up to one ounce of marijuana, and could grow up to 3 marijuana plants in their homes. Marijuana sales would be taxed at 15% and the money raised would be distributed between public schools and the state’s general fund. Right now, 51% of voters have shown support for that measure.
Meanwhile, 74% of voters support Measure 26, the Medical Marijuana Initiative, which would create a program for South Dakotans with debilitating medical conditions to use and possess marijuana. Patients approved by a licensed physician could have up to 3 ounces of marijuana, and anyone registered to cultivate marijuana at home could grow amounts prescribed by their physician. The groups New Approach South Dakota, Marijuana Policy Project, and South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws all support both measures. The state’s Governor, Kristi Noem, meanwhile, opposes both.
Medical marijuana has been legal in Montana since 2004, but the battle was hard-fought. Almost 62% of Montana voters supported I-148, which initially approved the use of medical marijuana, but then in 2011, the state’s politicians repealed that initiative and replaced it with Senate Bill 423. That limited dispensaries to 3 users each, banned all advertising of medical marijuana, and put doctors up for review by the state if they prescribed medical marijuana to more than 25 patients in a year. A year after that bill passed, voters tried to repeal it, but failed. Then, in 2016, voters passed the Montana Medical Marijuana Initiative which removed the majority of the limitations put in place by the Senate Bill.
Now, 16 years after marijuana first became legal in any form in Montana, the state could see recreational use approved as well. If passed, Initiative 190 would make it legal for people over 21 to use and possess up to one ounce of marijuana or 8 grams of marijuana concentrate. Those products would be taxed at 20% and the state’s Department of Revenue would regulate cultivation, manufacture, transport, and sale. The bill’s authors expect the product would garner $48 million every year by 2025, which would go to the general fund and local governments, plus special accounts for conservation, veterans’ services, substance abuse treatment, and healthcare. People could also grow up to four marijuana plants and four seedlings inside their homes. Right now, 54% of voters polled by Montana State University Billings said they support I-190; 38% said they oppose it. That divide is largely reflective of party lines – 77% of Democrats supported the measure, along with 63% of Independents, but only 31% of Republicans were on board.
Mississippi has long had a tough stance on substances used for recreation, including alcohol, and is only now considering allowing marijuana for medical use. The state has been slow to change. In fact, Mississippi is still considered a “dry state.” The law allowing possession of alcohol in every county in the state doesn’t go into effect until January 01, 2021. Mississippi was also the very last state in America to end statewide Prohibition; in 1966, a new law allowed counties to decide individually whether to allow liquor sales. Until 2012, beer produced in the state could not have an alcohol by weight (ABW) higher than 5%. Today, the limit is 8% (which translates to about 10% ABV), leaving craft beer producers unable to compete with producers of many varieties of beer, such as barrel aged imperial stouts, porters, and certain IPAs. That resistance to acceptance of recreational products is telling of the state’s views toward cannabis. Mississippi legislators blocked previous proposals to consider medical marijuana. In fact, the state’s politicians took a knife to more than 20 different attempts to vote to legalize medical marijuana. This year, a petition to bring that issue to the table garnered over 228,000 votes, which was enough to get the issue on the ballot. Mississippians have two options to choose from, and they can vote to approve to deny both.
Initiative Measure 65
Initiative Measure 65 would allow patients with certain specified debilitating medical conditions to use medical marijuana if it is prescribed by a licensed physician and provided by a licensed treatment center. It allows patients to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana, which would be taxed at the same sales tax rate as any other product in the state: 7%. The Measure also specifies that the state Department of Health would regulate and enforce the new laws created under the amendment. Smoking in public places would remain illegal, punishable by a $100 fine. The list of medical conditions includes 20 diseases, some of which are specific, and others which are more open to interpretation by the physician. The following medical conditions are included in the list of those approved for medical marijuana use under Initiative Measure 65:
- epilepsy or other seizures
- Parkinson’s’ disease
- Huntington’s disease
- muscular dystrophy
- multiple sclerosis
- human immunodeficiency virus
- acquired immune deficiency syndrome
- chronic or debilitating pain
- amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
- agitation of dementias
- Crohn’s disease
- ulcerative colitis
- sickle-cell anemia
- autism with behavioral attributes considered aggressive or likely to cause self-injury
- “pain refractory to appropriate opioid management”
- spinal cord disease or severe injury
- intractable nausea, severe muscle spasticity
- “or another medical condition of the same kind or class.”
Initiative Measure 65 A
Initiative Measure 65 A is a competing measure put on the ballot by the legislature. It would restrict medical marijuana use to terminally ill patients and would require physicians, nurses, and pharmacists to oversee the treatment and marijuana products, which would have to be pharmaceutical-grade. It also leaves the legislature to decide on details like tax rate and possession limits. The Mississippi ballot first reads, “FOR APPROVAL OF EITHER Initiative measure No. 65 or Alternative Measure No. 65 A” or “Against Both Initiative Measure No. 65 AND Alternative Measure No. 65 A.” From there, voters also choose the specific measure they’d prefer. Support for some form of medical marijuana in Mississippi is strong and widespread, with about 81% of Mississippians in one poll saying they would support it if it’s for someone with a serious medical condition and recommended by a doctor. Polling numbers show about 52% of respondents plan to vote for Initiative 65, and 23% would prefer 65A.