All over the continent government policies concerning weed are shifting like tectonic plates this year. In October, the Mexican Supreme Court ruled to overturn prohibition, and recreational sales began in Canada. As for the United States, voters in Oklahoma passed an extremely progressive medical marijuana bill this summer, while Vermont residents began enjoying legal recreational marijuana in July. Additionally, the New York health department recommended to the governor that marijuana be legalized, and the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. Commonwealth, legalized recreational use.
This week, the U.S. midterm elections will feature ballots posing the question of full legalization in two states, and medical legalization in two others. Here’s what Tuesday could hold:
Similar to earlier voter-led initiatives in Washington and Colorado, Michigan’s proposed bill would legalize recreational use for residents over the age of 21. Michigan’s law, however, would be more permissive than other states, allowing residents to possess up to two and a half ounces of marijuana (compared to a one ounce limit in other states) and grow up to twelve plants (compared to a six plant limit in other states) for personal use.
Leading into Tuesday, polls show the measure is favored to pass by a comfortable margin. Both candidates for governor have weighed in, with Republican Bill Schuette saying via a released statement that he does not “personally support” legalization, but that he will “respect the will of the voters” if the measure passes, and Democrat Gretchen Whitmer supporting legalization outright.
North Dakota (Recreational)
With no support from national legalization or reform advocates, North Dakota’s locally grown measure to legalize marijuana for recreational use just kind of sprang up. The measure does not follow the same formula that has worked for legalization efforts in other states, which have had the support of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and the Marijuana Policy Project. There are no regulatory structures built into the measure, such as possession limits or a body to regulate sales and commercialization, but supporters say they’ll leave that to the state legislature. Another feature of this measure would be to expunge records of prior marijuana convictions.
Polling numbers are of little help in this situation, with two separate polls showing results at odds with each other. In one, the measure is set to win by a 51%-36% margin, while the other shows 65% of voters disapproving of the measure. Either way, the result will be interesting.
There are actually three separate initiatives on the ballot in Missouri concerning legalization for medical marijuana. The major differences revolve around details such as tax rates or grow limits, but the one that seems most likely to pass is Amendment 2, which is similar to other medical marijuana laws in that it allows doctors to prescribe cannabis use for certain ailments and for patients to obtain and possess cannabis for the prescribed purpose at a dispensary, or to be able to grow their own plants.
There hasn’t been much in the way of polling, but data from an August survey suggests that voters in the state favor legalization for medical use in general. If more than one of the measures passes, it’s likely that whichever has the most votes will be the one that goes into effect.
In Utah, the medical marijuana initiative is a bit different, because regardless of the outcome of the election, the issue has already been resolved. Prior to the election, Utah’s governor, state lawmakers, and legalization advocates reached a compromise that would guarantee legalization bill from lawmakers regardless of the election results, but in a more limited scope than many backers wanted.
The reason for the compromise on the legalization advocates’ side was that in Utah, lawmakers can override voter initiatives by majority vote, and if that happened (which was likely without the compromise that limited the initiative) patients could have been waiting until the next election for any kind of progress.
For lawmakers, the compromise allows them to have more control over the limits within the bill, which in this case maintains the prohibition on homegrown plants and restrains consumption by smoking to a few circumstances.
Elsewhere Across The U.S.
Voters in certain Ohio and Wisconsin towns will vote on a number of local measures aimed at easing marijuana regulations. In Ohio, several local jurisdictions are voting on decriminalization measures which would treat minor marijuana offenses like a traffic infraction. Meanwhile, Wisconsin voters in some areas will be voting on referenda which, though nonbinding, is aimed at convincing lawmakers to legalize marijuana at some level, whether recreational or medical, soon.