Bloomin photo mid term.jpg

Marijuana Legalization Front And Center For Midterm Elections

By Roger Malespin November 1, 2018 photo/istock/Tzogia Kappatou

The midterm elections are just over a week away and marijuana is a prominent issue in many states. There are several reasons for this: For one, the tax revenue generated by the legal cannabis market is substantial - $1 billion in Colorado alone - and state municipalities will want to start working out how to allocate any potential income. Also, the youth vote, while historically unreliable, is anticipated to have a larger turnout than normal, and legalization is a key issue in that demographic.

4 states in particular are locked in a contentious battle over legalization: North Dakota and Michigan will decide on recreational marijuana for adults 21 and over, and Utah and Missouri will decide on medical marijuana.

Michigan is a state with some serious problems right now. Detroit has long been the prominent example of what happens to a city and industry when globalization takes hold with no safety net. Flint still has no clean drinking water. A large population of minorities have suffered disproportionately in the anti-drug campaigns since the 80s. Although awareness of the minority plight is a shot in the arm for legalization, it doesn’t seem to be the driving force behind most support - that would be medical usage. Additionally, Michigan is projected to take in over $250 million in a potential first year of a legal marijuana market. Not going to be a magic bullet for the problems, but legal marijuana in Michigan would certainly help.

North Dakota is a bit trickier. Medical marijuana was approved in 2016 in the state but the anti marijuana lobby and support is still strong, resulting in a number of provisions being removed before the final bill was established, including the ability for medical users to grow their own. Polls during that time and in 2017 showed an almost even split public opinion on recreational use, but more recent polling suggests the balance has shifted in favor of pro legalization. Possession is a class A misdemeanor in North Dakota, so at the least a measure to decriminalize petty possessions is quite possible.

Utah and Missouri are struggling with medical marijuana initiatives, and Utah in particular will be a difficult battle. A heavily conservative state, home to nearly the entire population of the country’s Mormons, and a good amount of deeply religious Christians, the voter approval of medical marijuana in February of this year was shocking. Back in 2016, legislators were able to reschedule cannabis to a class 2 drug, opening the door for medical research and use. The Utah lawmakers are mostly against implementing medical marijuana and have fought tooth and nail to weaken bills and remove provisions, but it remains to be seen how much they can mitigate the wills of their voters without losing them.

Missouri technically legalized medical marijuana in 2014, but the provisions are very restrictive. For example, to determine if a patient with severe epilepsy is eligible, they have to prove resistant to 3 different types of established treatments before that is possible. Also, HB 2238 only allows hemp extract that contains more than 5% of cannabidiol (CBD) and no more than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Anti marijuana lawmakers are really under pressure this election cycle, however, as the latest polls show 90% of Missourians supporting recreational legalization and only 28% of those are active users. It will be very difficult for the anti marijuana lobby to defend their positions in light of those numbers.

Of course, this all ultimately depends on the voters. No matter if you are in one of these 4 states or any other, voting for sensible marijuana reform begins with you. No matter where you are, your potential senators and representatives’ position on marijuana is publically available, so take a bit of time this week to do some research and vote for the right people. Only then can we make legalization a reality.