A Full Legalization Win and an Expected Loss
Michigan became the 10th state in the U.S. and first in the Midwest to fully legalize recreational cannabis. The ballot initiative passed with 56% of the vote. The processes to buy, sell, and set up shops in Michigan are expected to arrive throughout the next year. Possession, growth, and use of cannabis should be taking effect within 10 days of the measure passing.
Recreational legalization was also on the ballot in deep-red North Dakota and failed, only garnering 41% support. However, this loss was fairly expected: the ballot was introduced into a conservative state without any regulations or rules, which would have forced lawmakers to scramble to enact them. All successful legalization efforts have had frameworks in place before the votes because on-the-fence voters are scared away from legalization without them.
Medical Legalization Marches on
Two very traditionally conservative states legalized medical marijuana on November 6th: Utah and Missouri.
That brings the count of states with medical cannabis up to 32. This is also indicative of the ongoing trend of Americans becoming more and more comfortable with the idea of legal cannabis: a recent Gallup poll reported that over 66% of Americans support legal cannabis, and, perhaps more importantly, a majority of Republicans do as well.
Two States to Keep a Close Eye on
While cannabis was not officially on the ballot in either Illinois or New Mexico, these two states’ Democratic gubernatorial winners made it clear that cannabis legalization was a priority during their campaigns.
Illinois’s newly-elected governor JB Pritzker hopes to work with the Illinois legislature to introduce cannabis legalization as early as January 2019. With new state legislative seats turned blue, this looks very likely to succeed. Legalization in Illinois would open up another large market for cannabis companies: Illinois is the 5th-largest state and holds the 3rd-largest city in America (Chicago).
New Mexico’s newly-elected governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has also been firmly pro-legalization, though the moves to enact legislation in New Mexico do not seem as immediate as in Illinois.
Something important to note about both these states: they are hoping to enact legalization measures through the state legislature, instead of by voter referendums. So far only Vermont has successfully legalized cannabis this way. These states would pave the way for future legislative legalization efforts in other states.
Some Interesting Developments
There were quite a few behind-the-scenes developments in the cannabis world that haven’t made as many headlines but are still very noteworthy:
- Five out of six decriminalization ballot measures in Ohio cities passed.
- The incoming Wisconsin governor Tony Evers (D) has expressed support for decriminalization measures, medical cannabis, and full legalization through ballot measures.
- Washington, D.C., had previously been barred from setting up a taxable cannabis structure due to very specific budget riders to various House bills, leading to a years-long grey-area non-taxable cannabis “gifting economy.” Now that Democrats have taken control of the House, they have vowed to remove those riders and allow dispensaries to sell cannabis.
- Jeff Sessions, one of the cannabis industry’s staunchest opponents, is out as Attorney General. The news caused an immediate spike in cannabis stocks.
And Finally…Let’s Talk About Florida
It’s an age-old philosophical question: if there isn’t drama in Florida, has America even had an election?
It seems vastly unlikely at this point either the Senate or gubernatorial races in question will turn out favorable results for the Democrats from the recounts. This is, of course, disappointing for cannabis advocates as Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum is unabashedly pro-legalization.
However, Florida cannabis advocates still shouldn’t despair. Here’s why.
Florida voters overwhelmingly (64%) approved Amendment 4, which restores the voting rights of over one million felons previously barred from taking place in elections. Before this amendment, Florida had the strictest felon voter rights in the country, disproportionately affecting populations of color.
This amendment will undoubtedly have a ripple effect in the next election cycles, notably in 2020, when this population of voters can officially come to the polls in the next major election cycle.
John Morgan, an attorney and legalization advocate greatly responsible for Florida’s medical cannabis success, has already indicated he intends to put his wealth and advocacy powers toward full legalization ballot measures in 2020. And while Florida is notoriously unpredictable, over one million previously disenfranchised voters, many of whom were disenfranchised due to drug-related charges, will suddenly have a say in the matter.
There is no reason to suspect that cannot play a huge role in the future of cannabis in the U.S.’s 3rd-largest state.