Cannabis won big in Tuesday's election. Three out of four cannabis ballot initiatives were passed by voters, making Michigan the tenth state to legalize pot and the first state in the Midwest to repeal prohibition. Meanwhile, Utah and Missouri upped the number of states that have legalized some degree of medical cannabis to a grand total of 33.
Here's a recap of another big day for marijuana reform.
Recreational Marijuana Wins in Michigan
With the success of Proposal 1, Michigan became the first state in the Midwest to legalize, regulate, and tax cannabis for adults over 21. Passed by 56 percent of voters, Prop 1 permits adults to have up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis and to cultivate up to 12 plants for personal use.
But Michiganders will have to wait a bit longer before they can enjoy their first puff of legal pot.
“The initiative will likely take effect late this month or early next month,” Mason Tvert - Media Relations Director for the Marijuana Policy Project - told Civilized. “Once the initiative takes effect, possession and home cultivation will become legal for adults 21 and older, as state officials begin the process of developing licensing rules and the application process. According to our campaign leaders on the ground, adult sales will likely begin in 2020.”
The proposal will put a large dent in Michigan's drug arrest rate, as nearly 85 percent of the state's 200,000 marijuana arrests between 2007 and 2016 were on account of personal possession, alone.
A report from the Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency projects that legalization will generate more than $287 million in annual sales and excise taxes by 2023, while any extra tax money, beyond the $20 million put aside for veterans' research, will go toward the state's school aid and transportation fund, and to municipalities and counties where cannabis businesses operate.
The passage of proposal 1 could also force Congress to finally repeal federal cannabis prohibition.
“Now that one in five states has made marijuana legal for adult use, we hope there will be a heightened sense of urgency in Congress to address the tension between state and federal laws,” Tvert said.
Missouri Approves Medical Marijuana
Joining the wave of cannabis reform in the Midwest, Missouri voters passed Amendment 2 - one of three medical marijuana initiatives that made the 2018 ballot. The other two were rejected by voters, but the success of Amendment 2 is enough to make Missouri the 32nd state to legalize medical cannabis.
Qualifying patients who suffer from any of the state's approved list of conditions will soon be able to access cannabis through the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. The new program is projected to generate up to $18 million in tax revenue for the state and $6 million for local governments per year.
But for the advocates who fought hard over the last four years to make marijuana reform a reality, the biggest win is helping patients who need medical cannabis.
“Bringing safe medical options to MO is the best collective decision we have ever made as a state and I look forward to watching our community grow stronger, healthier, and more educated for a prosperous future,” Alycia Mundell - Community Outreach Director for New Approach MO - told Civilized. “Education is key to changing a law, thanks to our veterans, I now fully understand the meaning of learning as we teach. We strongly encourage every illegal state to take action and save each other from unnecessary suffering.”
A Symbolic Victory in Utah
Utah technically became the 33rd state to legalize medical marijuana, but the victory is largely symbolic since advocates, opponents and lawmakers have already agreed to work on their own legalization bill and pass it through the state legislature. That means the parameters of the ballot initiative passed yesterday won't come into effect despite the measure's success.
So the fight for medical marijuana in Utah isn’t over yet, but advocates still have cause to celebrate an unlikely victory.
“The simple fact that medical marijuana will be made available in this deeply conservative state is further evidence of the strength and momentum of the legalization movement,” Peter Murphy - an attorney and cannabis consultant for the firm Eckert Seamans - told Civilized.
A No-Go in North Dakota
The lone disappointment on Election Day was in North Dakota, where voters shot down Measure 3 - a ballot initiative to legalize recreational cannabis.
That outcome isn't entirely surprising since the chances of this ballot initiative passing looked unlikely in the lead up to the vote. This was a grassroots effort that shot high by putting together an ambitious ballot initiative that simply did not win over enough voters.
But the same thing happened in Oregon back in 2012, and they managed to bounce back and legalize cannabis through a 2014 ballot initiative. So this isn't the last we've heard from North Dakota. If anything, this is a test run for the next push.
A Longtime Advocate Leaves Congress
In terms of individual races, one disappointing development is the result of Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher's reelection bid.
The California representative was one of the most outspoken advocates for cannabis legalization in Congress, and definitely the strongest Republican supporter of marijuana reform in the House. But he's currently trailing in the polls. We won't have the final results until Friday, but if the current trend holds, then we will lose Rohrabacher and his support for marijuana reform.
A Longtime Opponent Leaves Congress
On the bright side, Republican Congressman Pete Sessions also lost his re-election bid. As Chairman of the Rules Committee, the Texas representative blocked numerous attempts to advance cannabis legislation through the House. With Sessions gone, there is a better chance to see Congress finally address the federal government's outdated cannabis policy.