Cannabis Contested in the 2018 Midterm Elections
A year ago
In just a few weeks, Americans will be casting their ballots in the midterm elections. And in four key states, voters will have an opportunity to speak out on the future of marijuana in their region.
Cannabis activists are hoping for a “Midwest Miracle” as Michigan and North Dakota grapple with whether to legalize cannabis for adult use.
Meanwhile, two other states, Utah and Missouri, look to legalize medical marijuana in other hotly contested initiatives.
Utah Voters Get Ready for a Historic Vote on Medical Cannabis
Utah voters are deciding on Proposition 2, the Medical Marijuana Initiative. If passed, Prop 2 would legalize medical marijuana in the state.
Prop 2 would create a state-run distribution system that would grow and distribute cannabis for qualified patients. But there would be restrictions, such as prohibiting people from smoking the plant.
Despite the proposition’s extremely conservative approach to medical marijuana, and in spite of Prop 2’s early, enthusiastic support, recent polls show a substantial dip in approval for the medical marijuana initiative. A last-minute compromise between supporters and opponents of Prop 2, coordinated by Governor Gary Herbert, has taken the wind out of the sails of the initiative. The governor’s compromise deal promises patients some form of a medical cannabis program, regardless of whether Prop 2 passes, which has resulted in some degree of pullback in support.
But cannabis advocates have many questions about the governor’s last-ditch efforts. Of particular interest is whether his compromise program, which would be instigated through a special session of the state legislature, will be designed to serve patients. Or was it merely dangled last minute as a device to shave off support for Proposition 2 on Election Day.
Regardless of how it arrives, medical marijuana is coming to Utah. But it’s voters who will decide how they want cannabis to be regulated: by a proposition they can read and weigh whether to vote for, or to place their trust in the state legislature to craft a medical program that will meet their needs.
Utah Proposition 2 at a Glance
A yes vote on Proposition 2 will:\t
- Allow patients with qualifying medical conditions to obtain medical marijuana cards from doctors.
- Recognize those diagnosed with chronic or debilitating pain as potential qualified patients.
- Enable medical marijuana cardholders to buy and possess up to 2 oz of unprocessed marijuana or products containing no more than 10 g of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or cannabidiol (CBD).
- Limit purchases to once in a 14-day period.
- Prohibit cannabis smoking of any combustion process over 750 degrees F.
- Ban doctors from recommending specific cannabis dosages or to work in dispensaries.
- Change how state law enforcement officials conduct cannabis arrests or seizures, which appear to comply with state medical cannabis laws.
- Limit dispensaries to one per county, except in large cities.
- Create guidelines for marijuana growing, testing, transporting, packaging and selling.
Missouri Headed for a Possible Split Vote on 3 Medical Marijuana Initiatives
Voters in the Show-Me State are about to show America how they feel about medical marijuana. Three separate cannabis initiatives are on next month’s ballot:
- Amendment 2, the Medical Marijuana and Veteran Healthcare Services Initiative
- Amendment 3, the Medical Marijuana and Biomedical Research and Drug Development Institute Initiative
- Proposition C, the Medical Marijuana and Veterans Healthcare Services, Education, Drug Treatment and Public Safety Initiative
Without getting too technical on these three competing initiatives, Missourians should note that two of the three measures, Amendment 2 and Amendment 3, are constitutional amendments. If they pass, like all bills, any future changes to the legislation would have to be voted on by the public.
The third measure, Proposition C, was drafted as a statutory change. This means that if passed, legislators could alter Prop C at a future date.
Missouri Amendment 2 at a Glance
Amendment 2, known as New Approach Missouri, has engendered high-profile support from organizations including the NAACP, Missouri’s Chapter of NORML and the St. Louis American Newspaper.
A yes vote on Amendment 2 vote would create a state program to grow, license and regulate medical marijuana and would:
- Allow patients to register with the state to grow marijuana.
- Levy a 4% sales tax on medical marijuana products.
- Use those tax dollars to fund state licensing programs and help veteran’s programs.
- Cost the state an estimated $7 million a year, but make $18 million annually, with $6 million of that earmarked for local governments.
Missouri Amendment 3 at a Glance
Amendment 3, backed by Find the Cures, also known as the Bradshaw Amendment, is funded almost solely by Dr. Brad Bradshaw, a Missouri lawyer and physician. Dr. Bradshaw made headlines for unsuccessfully filing lawsuits to attempt to remove the other two marijuana initiatives from the ballot.
A yes vote on Amendment 3 would allow for medical marijuana and create a medical marijuana research center headed by Dr. Bradshaw. Amendment 3 would:
- Not let medical marijuana patients grow their own cannabis.
- Introduce a sales tax of 15% on marijuana products.
- Use the sales tax revenue to fund Dr. Bradshaw’s medical marijuana research center.
- Cost the state an estimated $500,000 a year.
- Raise an estimated $66 million a year.
Missouri Proposition C at a Glance
Proposition C, known as The Missouri Patient Care Act, is sponsored by Missourians for Patient Care. It would allow state lawmakers, as opposed to voters, to change the program. Supporters of Prop C feel it would provide flexibility and quicker response to change.
A yes vote on Proposition C would allow the Missouri Department of Health to regulate medical marijuana alongside the Department of Public Safety’s Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control. It would also:
- Prohibit medical marijuana patients from cultivating their own cannabis.
- Set the sales tax on cannabis products at 2%.
- Earmark the sales tax revenue for organizations supporting veterans, drug treatment, early childhood education and public safety.
- Cost the state an estimated $10 million annually
- Estimate that the state could make back that $10 million, with $162,000 going to local governments.
To make matters more confusing, Missourians may vote for more than one of the measures. If Prop C and either one of the Amendments passes, prepare to head to the courts to determine which measure will become law. Senator Clare McCaskill is endorsing both Proposition C and Amendment 2.
Will Michigan Be State Number 10 to Legalize Adult-Use Cannabis?
Michiganders are about to cast a very significant vote, which could have resounding impacts on the cannabis industry nationwide. If passed, Proposal 1, the Marijuana Legalization Initiative would make Michigan the 10th state to legalize recreational cannabis.
Michigan Proposal 1 at a Glance
A yes vote on Proposal 1 would:
- Allow adults to buy, possess and consume marijuana and marijuana-infused edibles.
- Allow adults to grow up to 12 cannabis plants for personal consumption.
- Impose a 10 oz limit for marijuana stored at home, with applicable storage rules.
- Create a state licensing system, allowing municipalities to ban or restrict cannabis businesses.
- Tax retail cannabis sales at 10%.
- Use tax revenues to fund implementation costs, clinical trials, schools, roads and municipalities where marijuana businesses are located.
- Change several current marijuana violations from crimes to civil infractions.
North Dakota Will Vote on Legalizing Cannabis & Expunging Past Marijuana Convictions
North Dakota residents will be voting on one issue: Measure 3, the Marijuana Legalization and Automatic Expungement Initiative. This atypical measure, sponsored by Legalize ND has created a stir in the state. This is in part because if the measure passes, along with legalizing cannabis, prior marijuana-related convictions would be expunged. Future marijuana convictions would resemble sentences for alcohol-related offenses.
The supporters of Measure 3 have raised just a few thousand dollars, while the opponents of Measure 3 are dipping into a war chest of over $100,000. But it appears the success of this measure will be based on getting young people to the polls. Recent online polling by the Bismarck Tribune estimates that 82% of young people polled in North Dakota support the initiative.
North Dakota Measure 3 at a Glance
If passed, Measure 3 would:
- End cannabis prohibition in North Dakota.
- Remove criminal and civil penalties for adults over 21 to possess, privately consume and privately cultivate cannabis for personal use.
- Allow for future industrial cannabis growing.
- Green-light cannabis sales in the future.
- Legalize all forms of cannabis products including hash and cannabis oils.
- Allow for lawmakers to enact specific regulatory measures for licensing and taxation of cannabis in the future.
Photo credit: Parker Johnson
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