Thursday July 12, 2018
Though lacking a playground for litigious cartoon mice or the school of a fictional wizard, Colorado has a tourism trade that rivals Florida, meaning the people who live in The Centennial State encounter a massive amount of tourists – cannabis tourists to be exact. Time and again, the locals laugh or sigh as visitors gape in awe at the state’s many marijuana dispensaries. “You mean you can just go buy it?” For locals, after a few years among the Rockies it starts to sound like someone encountering a light switch for the first time.
Inevitably, visitors lament, “if only we could have this at home!” Well, good news! The residents of Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada and California have discovered this one weird trick to get a dispensary in their hometown: vote.
In the past six years, eight states and the District of Columbia proposed and passed recreational cannabis reform through ballot measures. Vermont has been the only one to do so through state legislature thus far. Though vows for legislative action towards legalization are likely to pick up momentum in the coming elections (Jersey seems a likely candidate before 2018 is up), ballot measures remain the most effective avenue towards marijuana reform.
While the federal government has remained resolute in its defiance of the people’s wishes, here is a list of the places that are exercising their democratic right to put cannabis on the ballot this year:
Cannabis will be in the voting booth in Michigan after Republican lawmakers failed to take action on passing a measure through state legislature. One even openly lamented letting the people have a say on it (referring to it now being left to the “wild, wild west,” in case you were wondering what level of reverence he held for his constituents).
Despite the waffling of state lawmakers, the measure will thankfully go to the public for decision, where polls have shown a majority support. The Michigan Marijuana Legalization Initiative aims to bring legal marijuana to those 21 and over in the state while allowing for home cultivation and imposing a 10% excise tax on sales.
As of July 9th, enough signatures were turned in to get the North Dakota Marijuana Legalization and Automatic Expungement Initiative on the ballot. Similar to Missouri’s comprehensive reform vote, the North Dakota changes are less ambitious only by degree (North Dakota already allows for medical cannabis use). The ballot measure would legalize cannabis use for anyone over 21. Under the new law, possession by anyone under 21 is still prohibited, but the initiative sets up a similar automatic expungement process for individuals with cannabis convictions. As a Canadian border state, success seems likely.
The Cowboy State recently legalized medical cannabis through a ballot measure in June, though infrastructure and final regulations surrounding the initiative are still being debated. Two weeks after approving the measure, the Oklahoma State Board of Health issued a series of amendments, the most notable of which was a ban on smokable cannabis, to which an appeal is already expected. Signatures are still being gathered to put both an expanded medical program and recreational legalization on the ballot, but as of July 4th, they will need to almost double by the August 8th deadline.
One of the most surprising medical legalization initiatives is in Utah, where Proposition 2 aims to create a legalized medical cannabis market similar to ones seen in other standardized safe-access states. Medical patients will have to obtain a medical cannabis card from the state, issued upon a physician’s recommendation.
The major difference from other states is that there is a purchasing limit of 2-ounces (or the equivalent) within a 2-week period. Likely aimed at limiting resale to the black market, these types of regulations will affect some medical patients with severe afflictions. Regardless, this would constitute a major step for such a traditionally conservative state.
Don’t fret, no one is trying to overturn cannabis laws in the Mile High, but there will be a vote on the definitions of industrial hemp, an attempt to get ahead of new federal guidelines.
Your Vote Matters
California wasn’t the first state to legalize recreational use, but it was the first state to reject it. The first cannabis legalization measure, Proposition 19, was put to a vote California in 1972, and was rejected by voters. Between 1972 and the end of 2017, 16 states voted on 60 cannabis-related ballot measures.
The history of cannabis in America, and the world, reminds us that progress is not linear, and that change has only been made through strenuous effort and unflagging support for our beloved plant. Even as cannabis becomes a popular bi-partisan topic, ballot measures remain the best way for communities to effect change, so get out there and vote!
Which state(s) are you hoping to see marijuana reform in this year? Comment below!