Voters in California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada on Tuesday approved ballot initiatives to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana for adult use. Initiatives legalizing medical marijuana were approved in Florida, North Dakota, and Arkansas, and a measure that would expand upon Montana’s existing medical marijuana law was approved by voters. Arizona voters, meanwhile, said no thanks to Measure 205, the flawed legalization initiative appearing on the ballot there.
Heading into the election, four states — Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington — had adopted laws that legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana for adult use, and 25 states had adopted comprehensive medical marijuana laws.By shifting away from counterproductive marijuana arrests and focusing instead on public health, states that have legalized marijuana are diminishing many of the worst harms of the War On Drugs, while managing to raise substantial new revenues. A recent Drug Policy Alliance report found that Colorado, Washington, Alaska and Oregon have benefitted from a dramatic decrease in marijuana arrests and convictions, as well as increased tax revenues, since the adult possession of marijuana became legal. At the same time, these states did not experience increases in youth marijuana use or traffic fatalities.
A nationwide Gallup poll released last month found that a record 60 percent of respondents support legalizing marijuana. In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first two U.S. states – and the first two jurisdictions in the world – to approve ending marijuana prohibition and legally regulating marijuana production, distribution and sales. In the 2014 election, Alaska and Oregon followed suit, while Washington D.C. passed a more limited measure that legalized possession and home cultivation of marijuana (but did not address its taxation and sale due to a federal law passed by Congress in 2014 that bars D.C. from pursuing taxation and regulation).“This is the most momentous Election Day in history for the movement to end marijuana prohibition,” said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “From Los Angeles to Boston, voters are casting their ballots in favor of sensible marijuana policy reforms. Today’s results are right in line with national polls showing record-high support for making marijuana legal.
“These votes send a clear message to federal officials that it’s time to stop arresting and incarcerating marijuana users,” Kampia said. “Congress must take action to ease the tension between state and federal marijuana laws. Once this new batch of state laws takes effect over the next couple of months, marijuana will be legal in more than half a dozen states, and we expect several more to follow during the 2017-2018 legislative and election cycles. The end of prohibition is near, and it would be a mistake for the federal government to continue waging war on its own nonviolent citizens. How do you ask a DEA agent to be the last man to enforce a mistake?
“Most voters do not think otherwise law-abiding citizens should be criminalized for using a product that is much safer than alcohol,” Kampia said. “They want marijuana to be sold inside regulated, taxpaying businesses, not on the streets, where sales enrich cartels and drug dealers. There is a general consensus that law enforcement should be fighting serious crimes rather than enforcing failed and deeply unpopular policies.”“Marijuana reform won big across America on Election Day – indeed it’s safe to say that no other reform was approved by so many citizens on so many ballots this year,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “But the prospect of Donald Trump as our next president concerns me deeply. His most likely appointees to senior law enforcement positions – Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie – are no friends of marijuana reform, nor is his vice president.”
“The momentum for ending marijuana prohibition took a great leap forward with the victories in California and elsewhere, but the federal government retains the power to hobble much of what we’ve accomplished,” Nadelmann said. “The progress we’ve made, and the values that underlie our struggle – freedom, compassion, reason and justice – will be very much at risk when Donald Trump enters the White House.”
“Reversing course and going against the tide of history would present huge political problems that the new administration does not need,” said Tom Angell, executive director at Marijuana Majority. “Polls continually show that most Americans support ending marijuana prohibition altogether, and with the new states that just enacted legalization, there’s more pressure than ever to finally change outdated federal laws.”It’s clear from the results tonight that legal marijuana is much more popular with voters than the president-elect and many U.S. senators and governors are,” Angell said. “It’s time for more politicians to start respecting the will of the voters by treating marijuana policy as the important and mainstream issue it is.””Last night’s results send a simple message – the tipping point has come,” said National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) executive director Aaron Smith.
“Voters have spoken clearly in states across the country,” Smith said. “More than 16 million voters, including in two of the three most populated states in the nation, chose legal, regulated cannabis programs that promote safety, boost the economy, help sick patients, and address social injustices.
“It’s time for our leaders in Washington, D.C., to hear those voters,” Smith said. “Responsible cannabis businesses are contributing to the economy and to their communities, and they’re here to stay.
“Now Congress and the new administration should work to protect patients, treat small businesses fairly, and respect the will of the voters in more than half the states in this country,” Smith said.
“With more than 29 states in support of laws that legalize cannabis for medical use, it’s up to the Federal Government to follow the lead of States and end the prohibition on medical cannabis by ensuring that all Americans who need this drug have reliable access,” said Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA).
“Additionally, the passage of California’s Proposition 64, a recreational cannabis measure, will help enshrine some additional protections for patients in the areas of taxation, parental custody rights, indoor home cultivation, and privacy rights,” Sherer said. “But as the states move forward with implementing the adult use programs, they must be careful to preserve their medical programs and resist the temptation to merge the medical and adult-use programs.
“While most of the 2016 adult-use ballot measures contain provision to preserve their state’s medical program, patients must be vigilant to ensure that state officials preserve the independence of both programs,” Sherer said.
Arkansas Voters Approve Medical Marijuana, Amendment 6
Arkansas voters approved the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, Issue 6, which will allow seriously ill patients who have a certification from their doctor to obtain medical marijuana from dispensaries. Patients, unfortunately, are prohibited from ever cultivating at home.
The program is overseen by a new medical marijuana commission and the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control. Arkansas joins Florida as the first states in the South to approve medical marijuana. DPA’s lobbying arm, Drug Policy Action, provided financial support for the campaign.
“With Arkansas joining Florida as the 27th and 28th medical cannabis states, 2016 marks the year the comprehensive medical cannabis programs were established in the South,” said Sherer of the ASA. “The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment (Issue 6) will bring a regulated system of cultivators and dispensaries to provide access to patients in the state.
California Recreational Marijuana Passes, Proposition 64California voters approved Prop 64, which allows adults 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants at home. The initiative also legalizes the industrial cultivation of hemp.
“This is the most important moment in the history of the marijuana legalization movement,” Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, told Toke Signals. “California is the sixth-largest economy in the world and is hugely culturally influential. Most importantly, this vote will dramatically accelerate the end of federal marijuana prohibition.”
California alone has just added 53 more U.S. House members to the list of federal lawmakers who represent places where marijuana is legal,” Angell pointed out. “Last year we came only nine votes shy of winning an amendment to stop federal interference with state marijuana laws. Do the math.
“With California’s huge vote and other results tonight, our movement is in perfect position to increase our already strong momentum,” Angell said. “Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have repeatedly pledged to respect state marijuana laws. And in an interview last week, President Obama said federal marijuana prohibition would be ‘untenable’ if California legalized marijuana. He was right, and it’s time for Congress to get to work passing legislation to get the DEA out of the way of full and effective implementation of these state laws.”
DeAngelo released a statement marking the momentous occasion, and, as he notes, “the beginning of the end of the global war on cannabis.” While that war has negatively impacted nearly every sector of society, DeAngelo believes the passage of Prop. 64 has widespread, positive implications.
“The voters’ validation that we were right all along feels great, but this dismantling of Prohibition makes the tragedies and suffering it has caused seem all the more absurd and senseless,” DeAngelo said. “Billions of wasted dollars, millions of unjustified arrests, hundreds of thousands of wrongful imprisonments, and decades of suffering are finally over—but they never should have happened in the first place.”
“With its carefully crafted provisions for helping to heal the damage caused by the war on marijuana to poor communities and people of color, Prop 64 represents the new gold standard for how to legalize marijuana responsibly,” said Lynne Lyman, California state director for the DPA. “This not only protects youth from accessing marijuana products, it also protects them from being harmed by the criminal justice system.
“Young people can no longer be arrested for marijuana offenses, which data consistently show us is a primary gateway to the criminal justice system,” Lyman said. “And with hundreds of thousands of residents eligible to have their records cleared, Prop 64 is a major victory for Californians who care about justice.”
“Legalizing marijuana in California will have a national and global impact on marijuana prohibition all over the world,” said Lt. Commander Diane Goldstein (Ret.), a veteran of the Redondo Beach Police Department and executive board member for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). “We are an epicenter of American culture and values, and we’re sending a very loud message – It’s unethical, impractical, and harmful to individuals and families to continue punishing people for marijuana. Today is the beginning of the end.”
“We actually welcome the increased regulation that will occur as a result of the vote in favor of the proposition,” said The Cali Connection President Edward “Swerve” Clarizio. “It helps put everyone on a level playing field.
“We have done our best to be in full compliance of the loosely written current proposition,” Clarizio said. “We understand there will be increased paperwork to file and some added costs in terms of meeting regulatory requirements, but we want to do our part to legitimize this industry.
“We realize that there will be increased competition and an influx of large corporately backed growers, and farms,” Clarizio said. “Being an independently owned company, we can ensure our focus and priorities are on our customers and their medicinal or recreational needs. We are working on bringing new strains to the market that growers and the general public will be able to enjoy.”
George Zimmer, the founder and CEO of Generation Tux and the founder of Men’s Wearhouse, praised California’s legalization of adult use of marijuana under Proposition 64. “Ending the prohibition against the adult use of marijuana is now the mainstream view,” Zimmer said. “With the passage Proposition 64, I look forward to continuing to advocate for a nationwide end to marijuana prohibition.”Many mom-and-pop dispensaries and marijuana cultivators are worried that the entrance of big corporate money into the community will mean that only monied players will be able to compete in the new business environment.
“Prop 64 did not ask the voters a honest question,” activist Shona Gochenauer of San Francisco’s Axis of Love collective told Toke Signals. “It’s great message of legalization, but the actual policy is horrible. And it will deeply impact patients who already can’t afford their medical cannabis.
“DPA severely limited Washington patient access once gaining government control,” Gochenauer said. “There no doubt in mind California is headed the same direction. The billionaire boys’ club won across the board; it feels more like a coup de tat than an election.”
“Small craft farmers will soon realize that most will not be cherry pick for a impractical permitting process, which will even narrow down the cherry picked,” Gochenauer said. “DPA and its various tentacles have been working on a coercive monopoly in California for the last decade; the final piece was to manufacture voter consent.”
Florida Voters Approve Medical Marijuana, Amendment 2
Florida voters approved Amendment 2, legalizing medical marijuana. The initiative instructs the Department of Health to register and regulate centers that produce and distribute marijuana for medical purposes, and issue identification cards to patients and caregivers.Individuals with cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, PTSD, ALS, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, or other debilitating medical conditions as determined by a physician will be able to purchase and use medical marijuana. Florida requires 60 percent of the vote to pass – a similar initiative in 2014 was defeated despite winning 57.6 percent of the vote.“Patients in Florida have waited far too long for safe access,” said U.S. Customs Special Agent Ray Strack (Ret.), a speaker for LEAP and Florida resident. “I’m so excited for them – they no longer have to risk arrest or consider relocating to another state just to get the medicine they need.”
“The passage of Amendment 2 in Florida is historic, as it marks the first time that a state has evolved from a limited CBD-focused program to a comprehensive medical state,” said Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA). “This new amendment means more patients will qualify for medical cannabis use and that more cultivators, dispensaries, and patients will have access to a superior range of medical cannabis products to treat their conditions.
The Drug Policy Alliance and its lobbying arm, Drug Policy Action, supported this initiative with assistance on the drafting, as well as financial support for the campaign.
Maine Voters Approve Recreational Marijuana, Question 1
Maine’s Question 1 scored a narrow victory. Question 1 allows adults 21 and older to possess up to 2½ ounces of marijuana, and grow up to six flowering plants and 12 nonflowering plants.The initiative instructs the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry to regulate and control the cultivation, manufacture, distribution and sale of marijuana. It also provides for the licensure of retail social clubs where marijuana may be sold for consumption on the premises to adults 21 and older.
The initiative enacts a 10 percent excise tax on marijuana sales that will be deposited into Maine’s General Fund. The Drug Policy Alliance’s lobbying arm, Drug Policy Action, supported Maine’s initiative with financial support for signature collection.
“Maine made history today by ending the failed policy of marijuana prohibition. Voters approved Question 1 because it represents a new, more sensible approach to marijuana policy,” said David Boyer, campaign manager for the Yes On 1 campaign and Maine director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “It will take marijuana production and sales out of the underground market. It will generate significant new tax revenue for our community. And it will allow law enforcement to spend more time addressing serious crimes.
“For the past few years, we have highlighted the fact that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol and questioned the logic of laws that steer adults toward the more dangerous substance,” Boyer said. “Once Question 1 goes into effect, adults in Maine will no longer be punished for making the rational, safer choice to use marijuana instead of alcohol, if that is what they prefer. Our state’s laws are finally going to be based on the facts, rather than on the fear mongering and propaganda that produced marijuana prohibition.”
“We are proud of the voters of Maine and all the citizens, elected officials, organizations, and businesses that came together to bring about this victory,” said Matthew Schweich, director of state campaigns for MPP. “We look forward to working together with our supporters and our opponents to ensure Question 1 is implemented properly and on time. We are confident that Maine can establish a system that will serve as an example for other states in New England and across the nation.”
“The impact of Maine’s decision won’t be limited to its own borders,” said Tom Angell of Marijuana Majority. “Lawmakers elsewhere in New England and other parts of the country are ready to move ahead, and now they have a reason to move a lot more quickly. Maine voters just gave their state a leg up on reaping the job creation and tax revenue benefits of an emerging new industry that will soon spread throughout the region.”
“It looks like it will be at least another two or four years until the existing recreational marijuana market in Arizona is brought aboveground where it can be regulated and taxed,” Angell said. “That’s unfortunate for the state, but it doesn’t change the fact that the clear trend nationally is toward legalization and away from prohibition.”
“In pinpointing the reasons for this local setback, front and center are the huge and unseemly contributions to the opposition campaign from Big Pharma, a company that makes money selling food to prisons and a casino billionaire,” Angell said. “Our opponents used this money to bombard Arizona voters with ‘Reefer Madness’ scare tactics.”
“Still, this local disappointment is tempered by the decision of so many other states to strongly approve legal marijuana measures tonight,” Angell said.
“The overwhelming support of voters in California, Massachusetts, Nevada and Maine reinforces the will of the people to overturn Prohibition,” said Mark Malone, executive director of the Cannabis Business Alliance (CBA). “Sensibly regulating cannabis takes it out of the Black Market and turns it into an economic driver. We are pleased to see these states following Colorado’s lead, and we look forward to seeing the cannabis industry prosper and continue to be a job creator.”
Massachusetts Becomes First State East of the Rockies to Approve Marijuana Legalization, Question 4
Massachusetts voters approved Question 4, allowing adults 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, and grow up to six plants in their home. The initiative establishes a Cannabis Control Commission to oversee the licensing of marijuana retail stores, as well as cultivation, manufacturing, and testing facilities.
It enacts a 3.75 percent excise tax on marijuana sales used to pay for the regulatory structure. Additional revenue will be deposited into Massachusetts’ General Fund. While public consumption of marijuana would not be allowed, if a city or town permits it by vote, this law would allow for the consumption of marijuana on the premises where sold or on a limited basis at special events.
The new law provides support for communities disproportionately harmed by the Drug War, by requiring the new regulating agency to adopt procedures and policies to promote and encourage full participation in the marijuana industry by people from communities that have previously been disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition and enforcement. It also requires the agency to develop policies to positively impact those communities, such as education, job training, and placement programs.
The law also states that a prior conviction solely for a marijuana-related offense will not disqualify an individual from being employed in the newly legal marijuana industry or from getting a license to operate a marijuana business, unless the offense involved distribution to a minor.
“Western states have led the way on legalizing marijuana but the victory in Massachusetts powerfully demonstrates that this movement is now bicoastal and soon to be national,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “Indeed, I’d wager that the next states to legalize marijuana will also be in the Northeast – and they’ll be the first in the country to do so through the legislature rather than the ballot box.”
“States with regulated marijuana access tend to have lower rates of opiate overdoses,” said Substance Abuse Counselor and Corrections Officer Patrick Heinz (Ret.), speaker for LEAP and Massachusetts resident. “I think we’re going to greatly reduce the pain and suffering of people in Massachusetts, particularly those with opioid addiction and their families. The new tax revenue from marijuana will help us provide better and more accessible drug treatment.”
The Drug Policy Alliance and its lobbying arm, Drug Policy Action, supported Massachusetts’ initiative with assistance on the drafting, as well as financial support for the campaign.
Montana Medical Marijuana Measure Restores Program, I-182
A Montana medical marijuana measure achieved a narrow victory.
In 2004 Montana passed a ballot initiative to allow for the production, possession and use of marijuana by patients with debilitating medical conditions. But the Republican-controlled Legislature subsequently restricted the medical marijuana law to make it practically unworkable.
I-182 restores Montana’s medical marijuana law to ensure that patients have meaningful access to their medicine.
“This win happened because Montanans have seen medical marijuana in action for years, and they know it works,” said Marijuana Majority’s Tom Angell. “Hopefully the politicians who foolishly tried to eliminate the medical cannabis providers that serve so many patients will hear the message voters just sent. Marijuana law reform is sweeping the country, no matter how hard our opponents have tried to roll back our gains.”
“The victory Initiative 182 in Montana means a restoration of the state medical cannabis program that was nearly evaporated after a state court lifted the injunction that had prevented parts of a 2011 bill that nearly repealed the entire program,” said Steph Sherer of the ASA. “The I-182 win means that patients will once again have access to medical cannabis products through regulated retail dispensaries and expand the qualifying conditions list.”
DPA’s lobbying arm, Drug Policy Action, provided financial support for the campaign.
Nevada Voters Approve Recreational Legalization, Question 2
Nevada’s Question 2 allows adults 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, and those who do not live within 25 miles of a retail marijuana store may grow up to six plants in their home. The initiative instructs the Nevada Department of Taxation to oversee the licensing of marijuana retail stores, as well as cultivation, manufacturing, and testing facilities.
It also establishes a 15 percent excise tax on marijuana sales used to fund schools, and the marijuana regulatory structure. The Drug Policy Alliance and its lobbying arm, Drug Policy Action, supported Nevada’s initiative with assistance on the drafting, as well as financial support for the campaign.
“Despite scare tactics funded by Sheldon Adelson and other casino interests, Nevadans just took a strong stand for smart marijuana policy,” said Tom Angell of Marijuana Majority. “The state now stands to create jobs and generate millions in tax revenue by bringing the existing market for cannabis aboveground.”
Although Adelson’s money was enough to flip longstanding legalization support by the Las Vegas Review-Journal editorial board, he just couldn’t buy the votes of Nevadans who are eager to move beyond decades of failed prohibition policies,” Angell said.
“It’s great to see that the power and money of Sheldon Adelson were not sufficient to dissuade Nevadans from doing the right thing,” agreed Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the DPA.
“Many areas of Nevada suffer from very high unemployment rates, and marijuana legalization can help alleviate that,” said Maj. Neill Franklin (Ret.), veteran of the Baltimore and Maryland State Police Departments and executive director for LEAP. “The new industry will employ many Nevadans, and discontinuing most marijuana arrests will help improve people’s chances at employment and climbing the economic ladder.”
“Good Chemistry Nurseries lauds the decision by Nevada voters to support the passage of Question 2,” said Matthew Huron, CEO at Good Chemistry. “Legalizing cannabis for adult use makes it more accessible to those who need it, and brings cannabis out of the black market and into a regulated and taxable market. Good Chemistry Nurseries has worked very hard to establish ourselves as a well-respected, trusted and compliant organization in each of the communities we serve, and we look forward to continuing that tradition in Nevada.”
North Dakota Voters Overwhelming Approve Medical Marijuana, Measure 5
North Dakota voters, with an overwhelming 64 percent Yes vote, have approved Measure 5, a ballot initiative to establish a comprehensive medical marijuana program. Measure 5 legalizes the medical use of marijuana for conditions such as cancer, AIDS, hepatitis C, ALS, glaucoma, and epilepsy, and other debilitating medical conditions.
Patients will be permitted to possess up to 3 ounces of marijuana. The initiative instructs the Department of Health to issue ID-cards for qualified patients and regulate non-profit compassion centers which will serve as dispensaries for patients. Individuals living more than 40 miles from a dispensaries will be permitted to grow up to eight plants in their home.
“This is an exciting day for North Dakota patients and families,” said Anita Morgan of North Dakota Compassionate Care, a committee formed to support Measure 5. “Many of these folks have suffered for years while awaiting legal access to this medical treatment option. We are proud of North Dakota voters for standing up for patients at the polls.“Measure 5 is going to improve the quality of life for many North Dakotans,” Morgan said. “There is no longer any doubt that cannabis is effective in the treatment of several debilitating medical conditions. It can alleviate the nausea that cancer patients experience as they undergo chemotherapy. It can dramatically reduce or even eliminate seizures in patients suffering from epilepsy. And it can serve as a much safer alternative to prescription drugs that are often prescribed to patients who are dealing with severe and chronic pain.
“This effort was sown and grown in the hearts of many people, nurtured by love and compassion,” Morgan said. “Thank you to all the individuals and organizations that supported this truly grassroots effort. We look forward to working with the Department of Health and other state and local officials to ensure an effective program is up and running as quickly as possible.”
“The passage of North Dakota Medical Marijuana Legalization (Measure 5) was perhaps the biggest surprise for patient advocates in 2016,” said Steph Sherer of the ASA. “The grassroots initiative received little national funding or attention, yet managed to pull off an impressive victory to become the 29th state with a comprehensive medical cannabis program.
“The Drug Policy Alliance’s lobbying arm, Drug Policy Action, provided financial support for the campaign.