America is agreed on one thing this election season: cannabis is here to stay. All five states that had cannabis initiatives on their ballots passed them resoundingly. As we wrote earlier, these developments might well be a bellwether for what is to come. These wins signal a growing industry that is becoming overwhelmingly embraced by Americans throughout the country. Even in states that have skewed conservative, Senators and Congressmen now represent an electorate that has made its feelings on cannabis known! What’s more, these clear shifts in public opinion may impact policy at the federal level, and could lead to increased funding for research, or even decriminalization at the national level! But more on that in a separate blog…
For now, here is what it means state by state:
New Jersey, South Dakota, Montana and Arizona have joined the 11 other states that have legalized recreational marijuana. Mississippi and South Dakota legalized medical marijuana, bringing the total number of states to do so to 35.
Although medical marijuana has been legal in the state since 2011, advocates are making their second attempt to legalize for recreational purposes. Prop 207, the Smart and Safe Arizona Act, legalized the sale, possession, and consumption of one ounce of marijuana (of which 5 grams can be concentrate) for adults at least 21 years old. It also allows home cultivation of up to 6 plants, establishes over 100 recreational marijuana dispensaries, and decriminalizes many marijuana-related offenses. The measure passed with 60% of the vote, signaling strong approval and shifting sentiments on a policy that was rejected just four years ago.
Just as notably, the state prosecutor has decided to drop all pending marijuana charges. “Instead of continuing to spend resources on these cases, this office will begin implementing the will of the voters immediately,” the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office said in a written statement Monday.
Mississippi had two cannabis measures up for a vote – one that would give doctors more freedom to prescribe cannabis for certain conditions, and another, more restrictive initiative that was put forth by conservative legislators as a counter to the more progressive measure. Voters passed the first proposal, Initiative 65, that now allows doctors to prescribe cannabis for 22 qualifying conditions such as cancer, chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder. Patients will be allowed to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana per 14-day period.
Voters in the historically conservative state approved a measure to legalize recreational marijuana, along with a separate initiative to establish 21 as the legal age limit. The first policy includes a 20% tax on recreational cannabis that will mostly go to the state’s general budget, with the rest earmarked for veterans programs, substance abuse treatment, and enforcement. It will also allow people serving cannabis-related sentences to apply for resentencing or records expungement.
As expected, voters overwhelmingly approved a referendum to legalize recreational marijuana for adult use, sale and possession. Products will be taxed at the state sales tax rate of 6.625 percent, although local governments could opt to tag on an extra 2 percent. The new measure is expected to change the face of cannabis on the East Coast, because of Jersey’s close proximity to New York and Pennsylvania, where cannabis is not yet legal.
On Monday, a state Senate and Assembly committee approved identical bills to implement the regulations that can bring it to market, as well as taking up two separate bills to decriminalize marijuana in the meantime.
South Dakota went all in and became the first state in the nation to legalize medical and recreational marijuana at the same time. The recreational measure allows people 21 and older to possess and distribute up to one ounce of marijuana, as well as cultivate up to three cannabis plants.
The medical cannabis initiative now permits patients suffering from debilitating conditions to possess and purchase up to three ounces of marijuana from a licensed dispensary.
Thus, the voters have spoken, and the impacts on the nation going forward will be hard to miss. Watch this space for more as it happens!