On Tuesday, November 6th, voters in Michigan overwhelmingly approved Proposition 18-1, a ballot initiative that legalizes marijuana for adults who are age 21 or older, and allows for the sale of flower, concentrates or cannabis-infused edibles. The measure, which passed with 56 percent of votes, makes Michigan the tenth state, plus Washington, D.C., to permit recreational weed, and the second largest behind California in terms of population.
“This is yet another historic election for the movement to end marijuana prohibition,” Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, which had organized behind the Michigan initiative effort, said in a statement. “Voters have once again sent a message loud and clear that it is time to legalize and regulate marijuana.”
Two out of three people in the United States support legalizing cannabis for recreational use, according to the results of Gallup poll released last month. “The victory in Michigan highlights just how widespread support is for marijuana policy reform,” Hawkins added.
Under Michigan’s Prop 18-1, consumers would be allowed cultivate up to 12 plants for personal use, but limit possession to 10 ounces of marijuana products stored in their home and to 2.5 ounces in public, provided no more than 15 grams are in concentrate form. Using cannabis in public, though, is prohibited under the measure.
Still, even with those caveats, the passage of Prop 18-1 will have huge implications for criminal justice reform in the state. From 2007 through 2016, there were more than 200,000 cannabis-related arrests in Michigan, of which 84 percent were for personal possession, according to the Drug Policy Alliance. But with the legalization of recreational weed, those statistics should take a nosedive.
“Adults will no longer be punished for consuming a substance less harmful than alcohol,” Marijuana Policy Project’s Deputy Director Matthew Schweich said in a statement, “and rather than having to resort to the illegal market, they will be able to access it safely and legally from licensed businesses.”
There’s also a massive economic benefit: Prop 18-1 will impose a 10 percent cannabis sales tax, which will help support Michigan’s infrastructure, clinical research, education and regulatory costs, as well as localities where marijuana businesses operate. Prop 18-1 does, however, give local municipalities the option to opt out of the program, letting them prohibit or limit the recreational marijuana businesses in their area. The opt-out scheme, though, would only apply to the commercial cannabis industry and would not affect personal cultivation or possession.
Michigan wasn’t the only state to have cannabis legalization is on the table. Voters in North Dakota also took to the polls to decide the fate of legal weed in the state. North Dakota’s ballot initiative Measure 3 would have removed “hashish, marijuana, and tetrahydrocannabinols” (THC) from its list of Schedule I substances, ultimately making recreational cannabis use legal for all adults. It would also have created a process that automatically expunged previous marijuana convictions. But Measure 3 failed to pass, with less than 40 percent of voters in favor of the initiative.
On the medicinal side, Missouri legalized medical marijuana after more than 64 percent of people voted to approve Amendment 2, one of three competing legalization initiatives on the state’s ballot, all of which relate to medical marijuana only. Amendment 2 was considered the most substantive measure and aligned most closely with other state medical marijuana programs. The initiative will legalize medical cannabis in Missouri and impose a four-percent sales tax, the revenue of which would fund veteran health care services in the state.
“This is a patient-centered proposal that puts power in the hands of state-licensed physicians and their patients, not politicians or bureaucrats. Passage of Amendment 2 creates a robust statewide system for production and sale of medical cannabis,” Justin Strekal, political director of the marijuana advocacy group NORML, said in a statement. “Of the three proposals on the ballot, we believed that Amendment 2 was the clear choice for voters, and the voters agreed.”
Amendment 3, the second measure on Missouri’s ballot, failed with more than 68 percent of votes against the initiative. The last measure, Proposition C, penned by lobbyist Travis Brown, also won voter approval but by only 58 percent, meaning Amendment 2 will take priority in Missouri.
In Utah, voters approved a ballot measure that would legalize medical marijuana. Proposition 2, which passed with more than 54 percent of votes, would allow Utahns with a wide range of qualifying health conditions — including chronic pain, autism, gastrointestinal disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder — to obtain raw cannabis flower or oils, edibles and other cannabis products containing THC or CBD for therapeutic use, as well as grow up to six cannabis plants for personal medicinal use in limited circumstances. The initiative will also establish medical marijuana dispensaries controlled by the state.
With Utah’s approval, there are now 33 states in the country that have legalized medical marijuana, either through legislative action or through ballot measures.
“It is our hope that Utah’s politicians will respect the will of the electorate and move swiftly to enact The Utah Medical Cannabis Act in a manner that comports with both the spirit of the law and the letter of law,” Strekal said in a statement. The Church of Latter-Day Saints, a powerful force in the state, has said they support medical marijuana, but did not support this ballot measure.
Elsewhere, voters in Ohio have defeated State Issue 1, an omnibus drug sentencing ballot amendment that would have advanced criminal justice reform in the state. If it had passed, State Issue 1 would have reduced certain cannabis use and possession felonies to misdemeanors, as well as cut prison time for people convicted of a drug offense who completed rehabilitation programs, among other measures.