Cannabis Legalization in November
As November approaches, five states will have a ballot question around cannabis legalization. The odds of each state vary with some being near locks to those whose future is more uncertain. Many factors affect if a state will be open to legalization. Besides the obvious political stance of the state’s constituency along with other demographics (age, income bracket etc.) there is a difference into how legalization is put into law. In the case of Colorado 4 years ago, they enacted an amendment to their state constitution (Amend. 64). Washington on the other hand issued a bill. (I-502). The biggest difference in terms of policy is that the Washington bill can be overturned and negated much easier than an amendment to the state’s constitution, which would have to go through the state supreme court to be overturned.
Keeping this in mind, the following states have petitions on the ballot for November 8th. We have ranked them from More than Likely, Somewhat Likely, Not Likely, and No Idea in terms of probability of passing. This does not take into account how long it will take for the following states to set up and enact legalization. Other information, including information about the ballot proposal and appropriate links to the ballot question and pro-legalization campaigns are included as well. Also included is the campaign financing done by both sides of the various ballot proposals.
More than Likely
As of April 27th after a lengthy lawsuit, The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol acquired enough valid signatures to put question 1 on the ballot. The proposal if ratified, would legalize marijuana and allow the possession and use by a person 21 years or old. It would also set up a licensure process for retail marijuana facilities. Although a bumpy road has rocked the campaign with claims of invalid signatures, Maine looks like a pretty good lock for legalization up to this point. A poll taken in September of 509 Maine residents voted 53% in favor of question 1 with 38% oppose. Also important is the margin of error, with the Pro side more than the 4.3 Margin of Error percentage points, indicating a comfortable lead. Other than Maine’s governor Paul LePage, who says Maine “doesn’t need to put another vice on the street,” it is safe to say that Maine hasa good chance for legalization.
The Adult Use of Marijuana Act or AUMA legalization initiative is on the ballot under Proposition 64. The latest polls show around 60 percent of likely voters are in favor of legalization. What also helps is the large war chest funded by the many professionals of the state’s medicinal marijuana industry, the Marijuana Policy Project, as well as other political action committees. As of October 20th, the support campaign has raised a whopping $18,144,447.21 compared to the No campaign’s 2,053,001.16. Even the Los Angeles Times has come out and said voters will most likely legalize. When you got the largest newspaper and the Lieutenant governor in support of legalization and are outspending the opposition 60 times over, there’s a good chance of legalized cannabis in California
Massachusetts has an interesting landscape for potential legalization. Many state senators and representatives have come out in support of the bill including former governor Bill Weld, who is running on the Libertarian ticket with Gary Johnson this November. Most polls within the last six months have shown Massachusetts citizens to favor legalization however, there is much stronger support from the No side. Both the Governor of Massachusetts and Mayor of Boston have come out against the measure along with the Attorney General and many medical and professional societies based in Boston. The pro side has had funding from the marijuana policy project among other donors. It will be a tight race but still has a fairly good chance of passing considering most of the population is socially very liberal. The last 4 polls taken currently show Massachusetts to favor legalization though some polls have the cons side ahead by a slim margin. With Massachusetts already having stiff rules when it comes to alcohol and tobacco products are taxed close to the highest in the nation, don’t expect legalization to occur without a fight.
Arizona’s proposition 205 is shaky at best. To start there were two competing campaigns in the state. One was formed by Arizona marijuana activists, the other my medicinal marijuana dispensary owners. The dispensary owners won out in the end but those from Arizonans for Mindful Regulation are still list to be opposing Prop 205. There has also been strong support from the Arizona Republican Party against the measure. So far as that there were initiatives introduced to allow the legislature more power to reject citizen initiatives like Proposition 205. Last week, a lawsuit was settled involving many No side supporters indicting the Yes campaign of deceiving voters and not being accurate on the propositions impact on motorists, child custody, and workplaces. The case was rejected but the process to bring the prop to the ballot has been rocky. This being said, recent polling indicates that the pro side wins in some polls and gets beat in others with most having similar sample sizes. It looks like there will be an uphill fight for pro-legalization advocates in Arizona.
Out of the many states on this list, the one state that had the best chance of passing a motnh months ago was Nevada… before vested interests entered the political arena. The pro side’s “Regulate Marijuana in Nevada” came out strong earlier this year as a result of proper planning and gathering the required number of signatures by the end of last year. On the con side, Sheldon Adelson has donated 2 million dollars to “Protecting Nevada’s Children,” who is organizing the No campaign. Two polls are in strong contrast to each other with one showing a 57-33 split of Yes and No while another is virtually tied and is of a higher sample size and a lower margin of error. It is difficult to say if Nevada will pass. Though the organization of the pro side is beneficial to the campaign, the No campaign will have more resources available to them if the Casino industry decides to fully back them.
To put in perspective, polls can change rapidly and money has been mismanaged before in campaigns. However, out of the five states, 3 appear to be locks at the present time, one is a soft lock, and one seems unlikely. What is the most striking is that only 5 states opted to pursue full legalization. This shows that the majority of state representatives and senators are not committed to true drug reform. In many areas of the United States, marijuana use is still widely seen as taboo and part of deviant behavior. Polls are also unreliable considering their relative small sample sizes compared to the total voting population of their respective states. No states are a sure lock primarily for this reason. However, a consensus among all of these states is that change needs to come for the protocol on how these states treat and handle marijuana.
Article written by Zach Johnson.