Marijuana Initiatives 2016

With Election Day finally in sight just under a month away, most voters have their eyes on the obvious issue-Hillary and Trump. But don’t forget that when you get to the booth, you are also voting for other issues affecting your state. One of the big ones in many states is marijuana reform. Nine states currently have marijuana initiatives on the ballot. That’s a lot of states, almost 20% of the country will be voting on the issue come November 8th, so here is a breakdown of what to expect.

The states with marijuana on the ballot are Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada and North Dakota. Five of those - Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada – are considering full recreational use of marijuana.

Arizona has Prop 205, which would legalize marijuana for recreational use, allow home cultivation and sharing, and authorize production and distribution by state-licensed businesses, some of which eventually could allow on-site consumption. Under current state law possession of any amount of marijuana is a felony, meaning people could go from felons to law-abiding citizens overnight if it passes. This will be a close call; support for the proposition is currently at 44% with opposition at 47% and 9% undecided.

Arkansas has Issues 6 and 7 which both focus on medical marijuana. Issue 7 seems to be the more expansive measure, allowing patients to grow their own marijuana, whereas Issue 6 does not. Issue 7 also covers more treatable diseases and conditions, allowing more patients to be treated with medical marijuana. One key difference also comes with thought given to the option to make marijuana illegal again further down the line. Issue 6 comes with a provision saying it may not be made illegal again without voter approval whereas Issue 7 requires only a 2/3 vote in each legislative chamber of the Arkansas Legislature. The last voted measure to legalize marijuana in 2012 fell short by only half a point. Passing this year’s bill seems much more likely – with support estimated as high as 63%.

California is voting on Prop 64 which legalizes marijuana for recreational use, allows home cultivation and sharing, authorizes production and distribution by state-licensed businesses, which can make deliveries to consumers and allow on-site consumption if licensed for that purpose. Support averages about 60% across the board, so it’s most likely that this bill will pass. With as long as California has been in our minds as a sort of “marijuana capital”, it seems like this is a long time coming but keep in mind that past attempts to legalize recreational marijuana in California have failed by very narrow margins (Prop 19 in 2010).

Florida will be voting on Amendment 2 which allows treatment for eight diseases and includes language allowing for treatment of other similar diseases to those eight. As a constitutional amendment, the initiative needs approval from 60 percent of voters to pass. Support for the measure in 10 different polls conducted this year averages 69 percent. Looks like Florida may very well be on its way to joining the states that support medical marijuana. It is important to note, however, that they have also failed in the past, like California, by narrow margins (also called Amendment 2 in 2014).

Maine and Massachusetts have Question 1 and Question 4, respectively, which both have very similar language. They would each legalize marijuana for recreational use, allow home cultivation and sharing, and authorize production and distribution by state-licensed businesses, which can allow on-site consumption with a special license. The Maine initiative has support at 53% with opposition at 40% and undecided voters at 7%. Massachusetts has support at 49%, opposition at 42% and undecided voters making up the remaining 9%. While Maine seems like it should pass and would be an easier call to make than Massachusetts whose supporters already don’t quite make it to the 50% mark, both could be considered on the fence. Considering their proximity to each other and relatively similar political climate of the New England states, it will be interesting to see what happens.

Montana is considering I-182 which allows production and distribution of marijuana by state-licensed providers for treatment of specified medical conditions and any others added by the legislature in the future. Now, medical marijuana has been an option in Montana since 2004 but because of a recent crackdown in 2011 it has been increasingly difficult for patients to have access to it. This current initiative would be a huge stepping stone in the right direction in terms of actuating their existing system.

Nevada has Question 2 which legalizes marijuana for recreational use, allows home cultivation and sharing, and authorizes production and distribution by state-licensed businesses. On-site consumption, however, will not be allowed without further legislative approval. Support for this initiative at the moment is barely at passing with 51% in favor, 40% opposed and a relatively large base of undecided voters at 9%. Nevada has a favorable history when dealing with marijuana, having started their first medical marijuana initiatives back in 1999, so even with a tight existing margin and a potentially huge swing with the undecided voters possible we think Nevada will be joining the recreational states by next year.

North Dakota is looking at Initiated Statutory Measure 5 which would allow the use of marijuana for treatment of specified "debilitating medical conditions" as well as others added by the legislature upon approval. It also authorizes production and distribution of medical marijuana by state-registered, nonprofit "compassion centers." North Dakota doesn’t have much at all in terms of a history with marijuana so the outcome of this vote is too hard to say with any certainty. The most recent polling data from 2014 which didn’t reference this measure, but questioned participants about general support for any future initiative, had marijuana supporters only making up 47% of the vote, opposition at 41% and undecided at 7%.

It seems like we’re about to see a new wave of “marijuana states” pop up here in the near future. 25 states and the District of Columbia currently have legal marijuana laws in some form. Adding 9 more to that would be quite significant, especially considering 5 of those 9 would legalize marijuana for recreational use. That would double the current number and round out the states at 20% which support the recreational use of marijuana. This election is just the beginning. The margins in these elections are lowering, i.e. more support for at least medical use and I have a feeling we’ll be seeing many more of the same initiatives added to ballots throughout the next few election seasons.