This November is a major election as Democrats try to re-take control of Congress from Republicans. But at the state level, there are also major gubernatorial races that could have major impacts on affairs, particularly as they relate to cannabis.
Here are six states where voters can elect pro-marijuana governors this November:
Democrats in Maryland recently nominated Ben Jealous, the former NAACP president who’s run as a progressive, pro-legalization candidate. He even received the endorsement of comedian Dave Chappelle. However, Jealous is expected to lose to Republican incumbent Governor Larry Hogan, which isn’t the worst news in the world since Hogan has said he might take a look at legalizing recreational marijuana. So Maryland may be in a win-win situation this November, at least when it comes to cannabis.
Unsurprisingly, the state that legalized marijuana first could also receive a pro-cannabis governor. Incumbent Governor John Hickenlooper cannot run for re-election, and Democrats have nominated Congressman Jared Polis to take his place. Polis has been one of marijuana’s biggest advocates while serving in Congress and says he will protect the state’s laws no matter what. Meanwhile Republican nominee Walker Stapleton has been lukewarm towards legalization. While he disagrees with other Republicans about repealing the state’s legalized marijuana laws, he also believes that there are problems with legalization and seems intent on instituting new restrictions.
The Oklahoma governor’s race should be called the race of lukewarm cannabis candidates. Democratic nominee Drew Edmondson said he supported the state’s recent referendum to legalize medical marijuana, and that he wants to see how recreational cannabis succeeds in other states before pursuing it in Oklahoma. Meanwhile the two Republicans in a runoff for their party’s nomination, Mick Cornett and Kevin Stitt, have both basically avoided the question of marijuana in the race. So you have two guys who won’t talk about cannabis and one guy who is ok with medicinal but possibly not with recreational. Still would rather take the lukewarm candidate.
Michigan’s primary is still a few months away, but there are frontrunners for each party. Democratic frontrunner Gretchen Whitmer says she supports legalizing marijuana, while Republican frontrunner Bill Schuette does not, although Schuette has also said in the past he supports states choosing their own cannabis laws. Luckily the state of Michigan is likely going to pass a marijuana legalization ballot initiative this November, so the results of this election may not be relevant.
5. New Mexico
Colorado’s neighbor to the south could potentially elect a pro-marijuana governor this November. Democratic nominee Michelle Lujan Grisham says she supports legalizing recreational marijuana, but wants to do a thorough analysis of other legalized states before doing so. But that’s a lot better than Republican nominee Steve Pearce who opposes legalization.
The state of Illinois will perhaps be the biggest state where the governor’s race will decide legalization. Voters in Cook County, the state’s largest county, passed a referendum calling on the state to legalize cannabis. Illinois Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker supports legalizing recreational marijuana, while Republican incumbent Governor Bruce Rauner says he will not allow it while in office. If Illinois wants legal cannabis, they’ll need to vote Pritzker this November.