While the national races dominate media attention, this year is also a fundamental turning point for marijuana legality in the United States.This year, six different states and four cities will vote on initiatives that have to do with marijuana.
These are three types of laws on the ballots:
- Medical marijuana laws
- Decriminalization, which makes marijuana possession or sale an infraction punished by fine rather than a misdemeanour warranting possible jail time
- Legalization, which would make marijuana legal to buy, sell, and use like any other commodity
No state has successfully made marijuana wholly legal, but many have come close — and several may succeed in doing so this November.
The end result could be a radically different landscape for marijuana availability in the United States. Here’s a rundown of all of the places that are putting pot to a vote.
Washington has one of the boldest ballot initiatives on the table.
Initiative 502 would legalise the taxation, sale, and consumption of marijuana in the state of Washington.
It would allow anyone over the age of 21 to purchase up to an ounce of marijuana, sixteen ounces of marijuana-infused products, or 72 ounces of liquid marijuana-infused products.
It would also allow producers to grow marijuana, the liquor board to regulate the sales, and the state to tax the sales (initially an excise tax of 25% wholesale price).
The initiative bans the public use of marijuana and the act of driving under the influence of marijuana. It allocates all of the money collected from the cannabis taxes toward state health and education services.
Source: Washington Secretary of State
Survey USA has been conducting repeated polls in Washington, and it seems that support is consolidating around Initiative 502.
A poll published on July 18 indicated that 55% of respondents would vote yes on the initiative with 32% voting no. 13% were undecided, with men supporting the measure more than women by a somewhat significant margin.
Another poll carried out September 7-9 showed 57% of respondents supporting the initiative, 34% voting no, and only 9% undecided.
The Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act -- Amendment 64 -- if approved by voters would immediately allow for the legal possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for anyone over the age of 21.
The amendment would also allow for the cultivation of marijuana plants, the manufacture of marijuana products and the retail sale of cannabis at approved and regulated locations.
It allows municipal governments to prohibit these locations if they so choose.
The act also requires the Colorado Assembly to enact excise taxes on marijuana and to annually use the first $40 million collected from these taxes towards state public schools.
Source: Regulate Marijuana
According to a Denver Post & Survey USA poll, 51% of Coloradans planned to support the measure and 40% opposed it.
Significant for Colorado is the state's longstanding relationship with marijuana. Most people have already made up their minds about it after years of ballot efforts and dispensaries on street corners.
Support and opposition has been consolidated there years longer than many other states with marijuana on the ballot this year, so polls shouldn't budge too much. Women, especially in this election, are the swing voters.
Oregon has one of the most contentious -- and ambitious -- marijuana legalization laws on the ballot this November.
A 'yes' vote allows commercial marijuana cultivation and sale in the state of Oregon. The stores would be state-licensed and could only sell to adult. All adults would be allowed to cultivate and use marijuana without a licence.
The measure would continue to ban the use of marijuana in public and possession by minors.
Supporters estimate that the subsequent taxes on marijuana would raise $140 million, 90% of which would be earmarked for the state's general fund.
A July 5 poll from PPP shows that 43% of Oregonians think marijuana should be legal while 46% believe it should be illegal.
A second poll published on September 18 from KATU-TV and Survey USA found that 37% would vote yes on Measure 80, 41% would vote no, and a full 22% were undecided, from a sample of 552 likely voters.
Also interesting in that poll is the fact that women are again the swing vote, with 27% of female voters still undecided.
In November, the Bay State will vote on Question Three, a measure to legalise the use of medical marijuana.
According to the text of the measure, the proposed law eliminates all state criminal and civil penalties related to the medical use of marijuana.
The cannabis could be sold to 'patients meeting certain conditions' and produced and distributed from centres regulated by the state.
The measure also allows patients to grow marijuana in 'hardship cases.'
The official argument for the measure was written by Linda Brantley, the President of the New England Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, arguing that the passage would alleviate the pain of thousands of Massachusetts' residents. The official argument against, by Dr. Jay Broadhurst of Vote No On Question 3, argues that medical marijuana needs tighter restrictions.
Source: Massachusetts Secretary of State
A survey of 502 likely voters by the Boston Globe showed 69% supporting Question 3 and 22% opposed.
A majority of both registered Republicans and Democrats supported the measure.
57% of Massachusetts Republicans surveyed planned to support Question 3 and 76% of registered Democrats planned to back it.
Two thirds of independents planned to vote yes.
Arkansas will be the first southern state to vote on legalizing medical marijuana.
Sponsored by a group called Arkansans for Compassionate Care, the measure would made marijuana legal for medical use and set up an infrastructure for cultivating and selling it to qualifying patients with a prescription.
Patients could also possess up to six plants. The measure got the requisite 100,000 signatures in late August.
Source: Arkansas Secretary of State
There has not been any statewide polling on the issue by an established firm, so it's difficult to project how it will do.
But a Talk Business poll conducted by Hendrix College before the measure was on the ballot found voters evenly divided on the issue.
In the poll, 47% of Arkansans said that they would vote for a referendum allowing medical marijuana while 46% said they would not. 7% were undecided. The poll was conducted among 585 likely voters and had a margin of error of ±4%.
Since the act didn't make the ballot until late August and this poll was conducted a month earlier, it's not clear whether this support or opposition has continued.
Montana votes on Initiative Referendum 124, which will determine accessibility to medical marijuana.
This ballot measure would repeal Montana's 2004 voter-approved medical marijuana law, which created a medical marijuana program for eligible patients.
In 2011, the Montana Legislature passed Senate Bill 423, which repeals Initiative 148 and replaces it with a new system.
That bill limits marijuana providers to three patients each, prevents marijuana providers from accepting anything of value in exchange for products, and places government oversight over doctors who certify marijuana for more than 25 patients per year.
But in order for the 2011 bill to overturn the 2004 vote, voters must approve Initiative Referendum 124 this November.
In this case, a 'no' vote is a vote for the initial initiative, and a 'yes' vote is a vote for the Senate bill.
Source: Project Vote Smart
One of the only recent polls on Initiative Referendum 124 is from Mason Dixon Polling on behalf of Lee Newspapers taken in mid-September.
In that poll, 44% of Montanans surveyed planned to vote yes on the measure, which would replace the 2004 initiative with the 2011 marijuana plan passed by the legislature; 31% were against the measure, preferring that the original initiative remain in effect over the Senate plan.
A whopping 25% of Montanans were undecided, understandable on a vote where 'yes' and 'no' mean unexpected things.
Something to note: Ballot initiatives must get at least 50% of the vote to pass so abstentions could kill the measure.
In Michigan, the cities of Detroit, Flint, Grand Rapids and Ypsilanti will all vote on marijuana too
There is a handful of local races voting for the local decriminalization of marijuana in several cities in Michigan.
- Detroit will vote on a measure to decriminalize up to an ounce of marijuana for adults over the age of 21
- Flint will vote to decriminalize possession of up to an ounce of marijuana on private property for anyone over the age of 19
- Grand Rapids will vote to decriminalize and make the possession of marijuana a fined infraction instead of a misdemeanour.
- Ypsilanti will vote to make local enforcement of marijuana possession the lowest law enforcement priority.
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