The 2018 elections are less than three months away and cannabis policy reform is heavy on the radar for at least four states. North Dakota, Michigan, Utah and Missouri voters will have the chance to approve or reject various cannabis initiatives that have succeeded in getting on this year’s ballot.
“Those ballot initiatives, combined with the Vermont Legislature’s passage of a non-commercial legalization bill in January, Oklahoma’s passage of a medical marijuana ballot initiative in June, and the potential for New Jersey to become the first state to legalize adult-use sales and production through a state legislature, could make 2018 of the biggest years for cannabis reform yet,” writes Kris Kane in an article published by Forbes earlier this week.
Here’s a closer look at what’s going on in each of these four states:
North Dakota legalized medical cannabis in 2016 and should the initiative to legalize adult-use pass. the state would set a record for the shortest time-span between legalizing medical cannabis and adult-use cannabis.
There are plans for two cultivators and eight dispensaries in the state to open, but currently patients do not have access to legal, medical cannabis while the laws are still being implemented.
A survey taken in June found 46% of voters in favor of legalization, 39% against and 15% undecided on the issue. If North Dakota legalizes recreational cannabis in November, it will be the most conservative state to fully legalize the plant.
Michigan has an established medical cannabis industry thanks to an initiative that was approved by voters in 2008. The industry in the state has improved even further since lawmakers fixed the bill to regulate the market and has added protections for the patients and public.
Now, Michigan voters will see a question on their ballot this November about legal, adult-use recreational cannabis. Recent polls show a whopping 61% in favor of legalizing recreational cannabis in the state, not far below the national approval of 64%.
Utah is one of twenty states who are still pushing for medical cannabis. The Utah Patients Coalition has been able to qualify an initiative that if passed this fall, will allow patients with certain conditions access to medical marijuana.
As Utah is a more conservative state, the medical market would be highly regulated – “patients would only be allowed to grow their own cannabis if they live more than 100 miles from a dispensary. Smoking marijuana would still be banned, meaning patients would need to rely on edibles, tinctures, vaporizers, or other means of administration,” writes Kane.
Recent polls show a strong support of the initiative at 77% and another at 72%.
Missouri is also vying for legal medical cannabis but November’s vote could create some complications.
Three separate initiatives were approved to appear on the ballot for November’s election and voters will be able to vote “yes” or “no” to each one. It’s possible that voters may only vote “yes” to the initiative they support, potentially splitting the vote without any of them passing.
If voters say “yes” to all three, more than a single initiative may pass and lawmakers will have to decide what actually becomes the law.
Organizations in other states have been working diligently to have their initiatives placed on the ballot but have possibly missed the mark for 2018. An Ohio group has switched gears and is aiming for a November 2019 vote.
In a more dramatic turn of events, the president of the Oklahoma group, Green the Vote, resigned from his position after the public learned he had inflated the number of signatures the group had on their petition. They failed to obtain the necessary number of signatures required for their petition to get recreational cannabis on the ballot this fall.