Alex Halperin writes a weekly newsletter called 'Weed Week' which is a Saturday morning newsletter on America's fastest growing and most interesting industry. Leading cannabis executives and advocates appreciate its credibility and evenhanded perspective on the latest in cannabis politics, business, health, criminal justice and culture You can subscribe to Weed Week here.
Voters in California, Massachusetts and Nevada legalized REC. About 25 percent of Americans now live in states that have legalized marijuana for adult use.
The results will put unprecedented pressure on the federal government to reform cannabis laws. As President Obama said in a recent interview with comedian Bill Maher, multiple states legalizing could make the federal prohibition “untenable.”
In a night that was a stunning repudiation of the pollsters' art, the nine marijuana initiatives on state ballots performed more or less as predicted. So far, of the five states that voted on REC, only Arizona, which has a thriving MED market, rejected it, by about four points. As of this writing, with 94% of votes in, Maine’s REC initiative appears to have the lead in a very close race.
All four states voting on MED approved it. In Florida, voters legalized MED with 71% in favor. In Arkansas, a MED initiative has a comfortable lead with most precincts reporting. North Dakota’s MED initiative passed with about 64% of the vote and Montana’s Initiative to expand MED access also passed comfortably.
Each of the MED states also voted for Donald Trump, who is now president-elect.
Trump is a teetotaler who claims to have never drank or used drugs. He has been consistent in his support for MED, and somewhat less consistent, in his support for states’ rights to regulate the plant as they choose.
Most directly worrisome to the cannabis world is that Trump has surrounded himself with anti-drug hardliners, who are out of step with the country’s, and the Republican Party’s, gradual acceptance of the plant.
Vice-president elect Mike Pence has voted to escalate the war on drugs in Mexico and in 2014, called for tougher sentences for possession, “I think we need to focus on reducing crime, not reducing penalties,” he said.
Trump’s closeness to Chris Christie, the New Jersey governor who was the only major Republican candidate to vocally endorse federal marijuana prohibition was also a source of alarm in the marijuana world.
Of late, Christie has been sidelined due to the “Bridgegate” trial in which two of his former aides were convicted, and Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor and prosecutor, has emerged as another candidate for attorney general. The last time Giuliani’s position on marijuana has been through much scrutiny was in 2007 during his short-lived presidential campaign. "I believe the effort to try and make marijuana available for medical uses is really a way to legalize it,” he said at the time. “ There's no reason for it."
Throughout the campaign, neither Donald Trump nor Hilary Clinton wanted to talk much about pot, but Trump’s election creates the possibility of tensions between a newly emboldened industry and an administration filled with anti-drug hawks. Whether this stand-off will transpire, and what forms it could take, is anyone’s guess.