Marijuana Media: Several States Passed Ballot Initiatives Legalizing Cannabis

Marijuana, not politics, is the winner of the 2016 election

Jay Lauren

2016 Election summary: voters overwhelmingly support patients’ rights in medical states; recreational marijuana passes in 4 states

Medical Marijuana Ballot Measures in the 2016 Election

Florida, Amendment 2

The Florida vote on Amendment 2, passed with 71% in favor of introducing medical marijuana in the Sunshine State. Florida state law requires a minimum 60% voter approval for ballot amendments – this had fallen just short during the previous vote in 2014, when it only achieved 57% in support.

The 2016 election’s huge swing in voter sentiment is a strong measure of how much the dialogue concerning marijuana has changed since 2014, as well as perceptions about medical acceptance and need for patient access. The vote in the 2014 election was drowned out by fear-mongering and anti-marijuana hype, rather than being focused on patients’ rights and choice.

North Dakota, Measure 5

Voters in North Dakota passed Measure 5 by a wide margin, with 64% voting YES in favor of allowing medical marijuana access. Measure 5 will allow residents buy up to 3 ounces through a state-regulated system of dispensaries. The list of qualifying conditions will include cancer, HIV/AIDS, epilepsy, glaucoma, and post-traumatic stress disorders, to name a few. The North Dakota Department of Health will be responsible for providing identification cards for eligible patients and will also be tasked with governing and regulating the state’s cannabis industry.

Arkansas, Issue 6

Voters in Arkansas passed Issue 6, allowing medical marijuana access, with 53% voting FOR the ballot measure. The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment covers 12 medical conditions, including cancer, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Tourette’s syndrome, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), severe arthritis, fibromyalgia and Alzheimer’s disease. But the amendment also allows exemptions for other medical conditions if approved by the state Department of Health.

Those able to obtain a Registry Identification Card will be able to buy marijuana from licensed dispensaries. The Department of Health will regulate all patient care aspects. Inspection of facilities will be done by the Alcoholic Beverage Control. The measure will establish the Medical Marijuana Commission to administer and regulate the licensing of cultivation and dispensary facilities. The measure prohibits anyone other than a licensed dispensary or cultivation facility from growing marijuana for medical purposes.

Along with Florida, this vote is significant for the extension of medical marijuana in the South, which has remained a no-fly zone for marijuana.

Montana, Initiative 182

Montana’s initiative was the second time the state has voted on introducing medical marijuana. Voters initially approved medical marijuana in 2004, but this was curtailed by state laws that limited dispensary sales, enforced a review of doctors who prescribed marijuana, and restricted the setup of marijuana businesses in a series of laws passed in 2011. The ballot initiative the 2016 election was intended to roll back those restrictions, allowing doctors to determine if ailments qualify as a “debilitating condition”, and removes dispensary patient limits.

57% of voters supported the ballot measure. The Montana vote has sent a clear message to state legislators about voters’ intentions and the desire to allow medical marijuana access. The state will now need to set up a regulated system, rather than create workarounds to prevent access.

Recreational Ballot Measures in the 2016 Election

Massachusetts Legalization, Regulation, and Taxation of Marijuana Initiative

53% of voters supported adult use, recreational, marijuana in Massachusetts. State legislators, for the most part, were not in favor of this ballot initiative, issuing recommendations from committees that pointed toward the negatives. But voters during the election in this state saw things differently.

Legal marijuana in Massachusetts will put pressure on neighboring states, as it did with Oregon. The state borders New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Rhode Island, and Connecticut (all medical states), and the movement of legal marijuana across fluid borders may in the end force these states into action. There is some irony in this: New Hampshire’s tax-free alcohol siphoned off sales from neighboring states for years. (Take heed, NH: it’s coming back at you now.)

We expect some of these states to follow with recreational ballot measures in 2 years, and move to tax and regulate, rather than police what can’t be enforced.

Maine, Question 1

This is not the first time this issue has come up in this state and voters remain divided. The vote in Maine on recreational marijuana was decided by a few thousand voters (under 6,000). It’s something to keep in mind if you’re considering opening a business in this state: this vote was so close, it would not be surprising to see an anti-recreational measure on the next ballot.

In the meantime, congrats goes to all who put effort into supporting this measure (travel guru Rick Steves was the biggest supporter and advocate): every vote counted. Squeaking by at just over 50%, the YES vote carried the day in the state.

California, Proposition 64

The 6th largest economy in the world legalized the adult use of marijuana. What this means:

  • Economic projections for legal sales will go through the roof. The legal market is expected to triple in size from the CA vote alone. 2018 will be the first full year of accounting for this, but expect the legal market in CA to be over $6 billion in sales annually.
  • The state will have its hands full over the next 13 months. Look ahead for a review of licensing for the medical regulations that were expected to come into effect on January 1, 2018. State officials have already been planning for this possibility.
  • The battle against the black market will begin. Taxes raised on recreational sales will fund enforcement. Illegal grows that feed non-legal states will either become licensed and embrace regulations, or will “move on” to states where marijuana is still illegal. Growers have not seen what licensing will cost in the state, so there is fear and uncertainty ahead.
  • Prop 64 included provisions to allow people with previous marijuana convictions to apply to have their records expunged. Non-violent prisoners serving marijuana sentences will also be able to apply to have their sentences reviewed and/commuted.
  • The Federal Government will need to do some soul-searching now that 25% of the US population will have access to marijuana, like alcohol. They’ve sat on the fence for too long with re-scheduling (or de-scheduling), banking, and taxation. The 2016 election will (some day) be looked upon as the tipping point.

Nevada, Question 2

Get ready for a wild ride, Nevada! The world awaits legal cannabis in Las Vegas: over 42 million people each year, from around the country and the world, visit Las Vegas for tourism and convention business. Chances are, the first place the world will encounter LEGAL marijuana is in Las Vegas. The marijuana market in Las Vegas will offer a booming trade in “canna-tourism”. (Can you say cannabis-infused treatments at spas? Yes.) And, like Las Vegas does with other vices, nobody will regulate, control, tax, and manage the industry as effectively.

The market potential for NV’s legal trade is estimated at $1.5 billion annually.

Arizona, Proposition 205

It would be oversimplifying things to state that Arizona’s vote on recreational marijuana was defeated by a wall of money from pharmaceutical companies (Insys Therapeutics) and the liquor industry. This did in fact happen, but Arizonans remain deeply committed to, and focused on, patients and medical access. Competing ballot measures and lawsuits also plagued the effort, and some pro-marijuana groups actively opposed regulations contained in the Proposition on the ballot.

Unlike the states neighboring MA, Arizona may not have as much trouble controlling its borders with the CA and NV recreational measures passing. Most of the Nevada-side border is desert and Grand Canyon country, with a few state highways. On the California border, we expect a significant law enforcement presence along the I-10, I-40, and I-8, the main corridors into AZ.

In Summary

While the country was divided in politics during this election, voters in each state united on this issue. Marijuana was the real winner of the 2016 election.

Here is the NEW marijuana map of the US, with the lighter states representing opportunities ahead!


This article was originally published by Marijuana Media.

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