Today is election day in a few states in America. And while there are a few interesting races happening today, particularly the Virginia governor’s race, most of them will not dramatically affect much of the country. But in 2018 there will be several races that could affect the national picture, particularly when it comes to marijuana.
Here are eight political races in 2018 that could affect marijuana legalization laws in America:
8. Colorado Governor
Current Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has led the state since 2011. So he’s been in charge throughout the state’s entire marijuana saga. His term limit ends next year, meaning someone will have to take the reins over watching the state’s industry. While there’s virtually no chance they could make marijuana illegal again, there’s still the possibility of a less enthusiastic governor coming in and making things a little more difficult.
7. Alaska Governor
Just like in Colorado, incumbent Governor Bill Walker has supported Alaska’s recreational marijuana laws throughout its entire legalization saga. But Walker is seen as a vulnerable candidate, particularly because he’s running as an Independent candidate. Just like in Colorado, there’s no threat of recreational marijuana going away. But a new person in the governor’s seat could impose tighter restrictions that prevent growth.
6. Florida Governor
For a Republican, current Florida Governor Rick Scott hasn’t actually been too harsh on marijuana. Earlier this year, he signed a bill to expand the state’s list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana. However, Scott reaches his term limit next fall, and while there’s no consensus on who the candidates will be, the possibility of getting a pro-marijuana governor in the third largest state could be a big boom for the industry.
5. Maine Governor
It’s possible that the Maine governor’s race could either be entirely inconsequential or extremely important to marijuana in the state. Current Governor Paul LePage just last week vetoed a bill that would implement recreational marijuana in the state. The Maine government now has until February 1st to either pass a new bill, extend the deadline to implement marijuana legalization, or allow recreational cannabis sales without any regulatory frameworks in place. If the legislature decides to extend the deadline another year until LePage is out of office, then whoever takes over as governor could be the person who decides what recreational marijuana looks like in Maine.
Or the legislature could pass a bill in January that LePage begrudgingly signs, and whoever is the next governor won’t have any effect on marijuana.
4. Wisconsin Governor
It seems like current Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is constantly at threat to lose an election, but continues to win. Just a few weeks ago, Walker was trailing in a poll of Wisconsin voters to “Generic Democrat.” Walker has been anti-marijuana throughout his time as governor, but it’s unclear what Generic Democrat’s views are on the issue. But if Walker can actually be unseated, then there’s some hope for marijuana legalization in Wisconsin.
3. Michigan Governor
Of all the races in 2018, the Michigan governor’s race is probably the one marijuana advocates should fear most. The leading Republican candidate is Attorney General Bill Schuette, who has done everything within his power to sabotage the state’s medical marijuana industry. Putting him in office would guarantee that legalization does not occur in Michigan. And while it’s not clear who will be the Democratic candidate, the one leading the polls is former state senator Gretchen Whitmer, who has advocated for legalizing marijuana. But this could be the rare race where a hostile candidate towards marijuana takes office.
2. Connecticut Governor
The current governor of Connecticut Dannel Malloy has strongly expressed his views against recreational marijuana. But the two-term governor has decided not to run for a third term. And while several Republicans are running for a chance to take over the state, the leading candidate for the Democrats is Dan Drew, a Connecticut mayor who supports legalizing recreational marijuana. If he wins, it could mean another state in the Northeast that legalizes cannabis.
1. Illinois Governor
Republican Bruce Rauner, the incumbent governor for Illinois, is no supporter of cannabis. Under his leadership, the state has allowed one of the strictest medical marijuana programs in the country and he seems to have no interest in expanding it. And while it’s not clear who will represent the Democrats next November, the leading candidate J.B. Pritzker has publicly endorsed legalizing marijuana, and another leading candidate Chris Kennedy (son of Robert F. Kennedy) says he supports full-decriminalization and research into legalizing it recreationally. Rauner is also viewed as the most vulnerable incumbent governor, so it would be a big win for both Democrats and marijuana advocates if he loses.