Cannabis Legalization Election Preview

If you’re anything like us, Election Day can’t come fast enough. But while the mainstream media gives us 24/7 coverage of this tire fire of a Presidential race, pro-cannabis activists across the country are poised to strike some devastating blows against Prohibition. Next Tuesday, five states will vote on legalizing the adult use of marijuana, while four more vote on medical marijuana. Here’s a primer on what’s at stake, and how we can expect to see cannabis laws change in the days ahead. Disclaimer: These haven’t been voted on yet, and I am not a lawyer. If you get caught walking down the street with a lit blunt and expect to get off the hook by showing them this article, you should cut down a bit.
Arizona:

What: Prop 205, which would legalize possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana for people 21 and older.

When: September 1, 2018

How much: 15% tax on sales. Money would go first to fund the Department of Marijuana Licenses and Control, with the leftovers going 80% to schools and 20% to poison control. Local governments would also get half of licensing fees from businesses in their jurisdiction, with the rest going to the DMLC.

Gonna Happen?: It’s neck and neck, and it’s gotten so nasty that the Colorado Legislature had to call out the opposition for misrepresenting legalization in their state. Expect to stay up late on Tuesday if you want to see how this one shakes out.
California:

What: Prop 64, which would legalize possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana for people 21 and older.

When: November 9, 2016 for possession, mid-2017 for sales.

How much: 15% tax on sales, $9.25 per ounce of flowers and $2.75 per ounce of leaves for cultivation. Estimates vary, but this tax would likely bring in approximately $1 billion per year into California’s coffers. 60% of this fund would go to drug prevention, treatment, and education, 20% to state and local law enforcement, and 20% to environmental restoration, cleanup, and enforcement. The California Highway Patrol will receive $3 million per year for the next four years in order to establish a means of determining whether drivers are under the influence of marijuana. A portion of the revenue will also go to fund research into the medical benefits of marijuana.

Gonna Happen?: Bet on it. A PPIC poll from October shows 55% in favor with only 38% opposed. In 2010, Prop 19 was hemorrhaging support at this stage of the game, and there’s no evidence history is repeating itself, in no small part to the fact that the opposition is underfunded and outgunned.
Maine:

What: Question 1, which would legalize possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana for people 21 and older.

When: 30 days after the official results of the election are determined (so probably early December unless it’s a close call).

How much: 10% tax on sales. This would bring in an estimated $2.8 million in 2017 and over $10 million in the subsequent years. 98% of that would go straight to the general fund, with 2% going to the Local Government Fund.

Gonna Happen?: Probably. Polls put it up 50% to 41%, which is down from the 15 point spread earlier this year, but is still a healthy margin of error. In addition, opposition forces haven’t been terribly well organized. If you want a lobster roll with cannabis butter, might be a good time to book a flight.
Massachusetts:

What: Question 4, which would legalize possession of up to 10 ounces of marijuana in their homes and 1 ounce in public for people 21 and older.

When: December 15, 2016.

How much: 3.75% tax on sales, with individual cities able to tack on another 2% for themselves. The 3.75% would go into the Marijuana Regulation Fund which (not surprisingly )would solely fund the regulation of marijuana.

Gonna Happen?: Signs point to yes. The polls have been squirrelly lately, but a recent poll that concluded on November 2nd put it at 61% in favor with 34% opposed. The odds of Kevin Smith tricking Affleck and Damon into Jay and Silent Bob 2: Electric Boogaloo are looking better by the day.
Nevada:

What: Question 2, which would legalize possession of up to an ounce of marijuana for people 21 and older.

When: January 1, 2017.

How much: 15% excise tax on wholesale sales. All the taxes that don’t go to fund the regulatory structures created by the measure would go straight into public education

Gonna Happen?: Seems likely. There’s not a lot of recent polls, but polls taken in August and September showed legalization forces with somewhere between a 10 and 20 point lead. It also stands to reason that a state as dependant on tourism as Nevada would find a lot of support for such a measure.
Arkansas:

What: Issue 6, which would legalize medical marijuana for 17 conditions..

When: Not clear, as the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission, Department of Health, and the newly created Medical Marijuana Commission would have to design a regulatory framework first.

How much: There wouldn’t be a special marijuana tax, but existing sales taxes would apply. Of that revenue, 50% would go to the Vocational and Technical Training Special Revenue Fund, 30% to the General Fund, 10% to workforce training programs, 5% to the Department of Health, 4% to the ABCC, and 1% to the Medical Marijuana Commission.

Gonna Happen?: Wouldn’t bet on it. Polls show a close race, which is often bad news for initiatives, and one of the two medical marijuana measures on the ballot was decertified on October 27, but remains on the ballot. A close race plus a confusing ballot is rarely a good sign.
Florida:

What: Amendment 2, which would legalize medical marijuana for a short list of conditions, but would allow licensed doctors to certify patients for other conditions determined to be comparable.

When: After the Department of Health sets up a regulatory framework.

How much: No new taxes, just standard sales tax, which would go into the general fund.

Gonna Happen?: Odds are good. Florida initiatives need to pass a 60% threshold to pass, but a previous measure in 2014 made it to 57%. This time, increased turnout due to it being a Presidential year will likely put them over the top, There have been quite a few polls this year, all of which have it passing safely, many with a more than a ten point cushion. Hopefully, Florida will no longer be known as the land of bath salts. 
Montana:

What: Initiative 182 which would amend a Montana Senate Bill that heavily curtailed medical marijuana in the state, allowing for medical marijuana providers to have more than three patients and eliminate the state review of physicians that prescribe marijuana to more than 25 patients.

When: Either immediately, or on June 30, 2017. Due to a clerical error, it would likely be up to the Legislature to decide, so it’d be unlikely to see any change until January of 2017 when they come back into session.

How much: No special taxes, just licensing fees.

Gonna Happen?: Doubt it. It was down 44% to 51% in early October, and it seems unlikely that supporters will turn it around.
North Dakota:

What: Measure 5, which would legalize medical marijuana for defined medical conditions.

When: After the Department of Health sets up the regulatory framework.

How much: Estimates are that expenditures would outpace revenues generated by medical marijuana, but no special taxes will be applied.

Gonna Happen?: Beats me. A poll taken in 2014 showed 47% support for medical marijuana compared to 41% opposed, and that’s the last time anyone bothered to ask. I guess North Dakotans like to keep their cards close to their chest.

That’s the nine states voting on cannabis on Tuesday. If it needs to be said, remember to vote. Some people think marijuana smokers are lazy deadbeats that can’t be motivated to do anything. Some of those people are elected officials. Show them how wrong they are.

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