Ask Our Experts 11/04/2018


Q:Which states are voting on cannabis legalization this Election Day?


Questions about cannabis measures go before the voters in several states on Tuesday. Michigan and North Dakota will decide whether to legalize adult use, Missouri and Utah will consider medical cannabis initiatives, and other states including Ohio and Wisconsin will decide about lesser reforms or advisory measures. Legalization is a defining issue in many gubernatorial campaigns. Reform questions are Nine states and Washington, D.C., already have legalized adult use of cannabis; 31 states and D.C. have legalized medical cannabis programs.

Adult Use

In what would represent the second-largest adult-use market outside of California, Proposal 18-1 would legalize cannabis for ages 21 and older, and allow for up to 10 oz. of flower, or concentrates and cannabis-infused edibles, as well as homegrown plants (up to 12) for personal consumption. Local opt-out would let local municipalities ban or severely restrict cannabis businesses. A 10% cannabis tax would be earmarked for administrative costs, research, roads, schools, and local jurisdictions.

North Dakota
In North Dakota, voters will decide whether to legalize the possession, sale and use of cannabis for ages 21 and older; the state would also expunge previous cannabis convictions from criminal records. What it would not do is put any limit on possession, or establish any regulatory structure for the sales it would allow.

While Measure 3 calls for the most liberal program in the nation, North Dakota has one of the lowest cannabis usage rates in the country: According to the federal National Survey on Drug Use and Health, fewer than 10% of residents used cannabis in 2016, ranking it at 47th among the 50 states plus D.C.



Missouri has three competing measures on the ballot: Amendment 2 asks whether to amend the state constitution to permit doctors to prescribe cannabis, which would be taxed at 4%, and allow for home cultivation), while Amendment 3 would legalize medical cannabis and create a research facility (through a 15% tax), and Proposition C (taxing it at 2%) would be a changeable law rather than a more forcefully established amendment.

In Utah, public backing of Proposition 2 over the past few months has vacillated over the acceptance of a regulated, medical cannabis market beyond CBD. While the influential Church of Latter-day Saints has come out in favor of medical cannabis, it opposes the current proposal for being overbroad.

Modeled closely to Colorado’s program, the proposition would require qualifying patients to have a recommendation from a licensed physician, allow for up to six plants to be grown at home, prohibit smokable forms, and not institute the program before January 1, 2021. Cannabis would be exempt from local and state sales taxes; the state legislature would instead fund the program through business license fees.

State Issue 1 would reduce many cannabis possession and paraphernalia felonies to misdemeanors.

Since Wisconsin has no statewide initiative process, any full-state legalization must be passed by the state legislature. County-by-county ballots (in 16 of the state’s 72 counties) initiated by proponents are intended to show legislators how popular cannabis reform is, with the goal being to pressure them to pass statewide medical or adult-use legalization in 2019.

Gubernatorial Contests

Cannabis supporter Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom is expected to replace retiring Governor Jerry Brown in a landslide. Similar to his out-front stance on same-sex marriage, Newsom was an early public proponent for cannabis reform.

Either Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (D) or Rep. Ron DeSantis (R) will replace outgoing Governor Rick Scott in what has been an often bitter campaign between a liberal advocate of reform (Gillum) and a conservative prohibitionist (DeSantis). The winner will have great influence on the state’s emerging medical cannabis program, and the future for adult-use legalization in the nation’s third-largest state by population.

Former minority leader of the state House of Representatives, Stacey Abrams (D) has come out in favor of legalization, decriminalizing possession, and establishing a statewide medical program, including mental health and substance abuse treatment centers. A tight race pits her against retired financial planner Brian Kemp (R), who favors decriminalizing possession of less than an ounce of cannabis.

Former state legislator and tribal council member Paulette Jordan (D) supports full legalization while focusing more on decriminalization and medical cannabis.

Billionaire venture capitalist J.B. Pritzker (D) supports legalization as a centerpiece issue against incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner (R).

Facing favored incumbent Larry Hogan (R) has said that legalization is “worth looking at”, while former NAACP president Ben Jealous (D) has said that his longtime friend comedian Dave Chappelle persuaded him about legalization and that he would use cannabis tax revenue to fund universal pre-kindergarten.

Former state lawmaker Gretchen Whitmer (D) has pledged to vote for Proposition 18-1.

Sitting Congressman Tim Walz (D) tweeted his support for legalization on April 20, the unofficial cannabis holiday, while Jeff Johnson (R) opposes it.

New Hampshire
Incumbent Gov. Chris Sununu (R) signed cannabis decriminalization into law but opposes broader legalization, while Molly Kelly (D) wants “to join other New England states in legalizing, regulating and generating revenue from marijuana.”

New Mexico
Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) has supported regulated legalization during debates, touting that “states that have gone to recreational marijuana have been very clear that it’s an economic boost.” Her opponent Congressman Steve Pearce (R) opposes adult use.

New York
While heavily favored incumbent Governor Andrew Cuomo called cannabis a “gateway drug” as recently as last year, he has drastically changed his stance since a primary challenge from the pro-legalization actor Cynthia Nixon. The governor directed the New York Health Department to undergo a study of legalization which concluded that the “positive effects” of ending cannabis prohibition “outweigh the potential negative impacts.”

Former state attorney general and head of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Richard Cordray (D) said during a debate that he would vote for legalization; he also favored medical cannabis as an alternative to opioids. Republican Mike DeWine opposes legalization.