Legal marijuana states: Voters in North Dakota, Utah, Michigan and Missouri start debating on marijuana on Election day
DENVER — Legal cannabis is set to grow nationwide this Election Day, as millions of voters will cast ballots that may lead to the rescheduling of the plant in two states and increase access to medicinal pot in two more states.
Voters in North Dakota may approve the most relaxed recreational marijuana laws in the nation, which will permit adults to cultivate, smoke and carry any amount of marijuana, without intervention from the federal government. The conventional residents of the state of Utah are will soon be able to purchase medicinal cannabis after an agreement was signed between marijuana enthusiasts and leaders in the church who are vehemently against alcohol and caffeine.
In the meantime, the residents of Michigan are highly expected to approve a system to legalize, tax and regulate recreational marijuana, and residents of Missouri want three competing measures which allow the medical use of marijuana.
The ballot measures are set to take place after most states have already implemented laws which legalize different forms of marijuana. Laws legalizing recreational marijuana have been implemented in nine states including the District of Columbia, while laws legalizing of medical marijuana have been enforced in 29 states including the District of Columbia. The use of medicinal marijuana is also legal in Alabama and Mississippi for a small number of severely sick people.
According to an October poll by Gallup, marijuana is still completely illegal at the federal level, despite 66 percent of Americans favoring legal recreational cannabis.
Matthew Schweich, deputy-director of the pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project believes that the national polls are in their favor. However, national elections don’t dominate state-level results. He also thinks that each state that wants to legalize marijuana must battle with the federal government.
Voters in North Dakota want Measure 3, which is needed to legalize recreational marijuana completely, and the law would also clear all criminal records related to marijuana. Measure 3 is different from other legalization measures because it does not establish a system to tax and regulate the sales of marijuana. It preferably allows its inhabitants to cultivate excess amounts of marijuana and then sell it tax-free. In different states where marijuana is legal, anyone growing marijuana for sale is highly regulated, and the number of people who are qualified to buy weed is highly controlled.
The measure which suits the ideas of libertarian also revokes any state laws relating to marijuana, and critics believe that it would permit people to drive under the influence of marijuana or indoor smoking. Two years ago, residents of North Dakotans approved a medical marijuana system that became effective this week, and many marijuana enthusiasts are not satisfied with the slow rate of implementation.
The probability that this measure could pass has alerted the political establishment of the state because it would become effective in 30 days.
According to Norm Robinson, campaign manager for North Dakotans Against the Legalization of Recreational Marijuana, “It’s a very-open, no-holds-barred, no- restrictions on anything, no-oversight, poorly written measure.”
Supporters of the measure acknowledge that the language of the proposal achieves their objective of full legalization with no intervention from the government. Lawyers all over the state are pleading with judges to delay marijuana-related trials, stating that the criminal records of these individuals will be automatically cleared if the measure passes.
The fight for marijuana legalization in Utah has drawn national attention to a battle between the pro-legalization Utah Patients Coalition and the powerful Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is against the plan. But, a final agreement arranged by the church, supporters of the initiative and the political establishment of the state has set the foundation for medical marijuana in Utah with or without the passing of Prop. 2 passes.
According to Schweich, many voters are in favor of marijuana in principle but don’t want to oppose the LDS church. It’s important to note that the state of Utah has made a compromise with their opponents.”
Many people previously supported Utah’s measure, but things changed when the LDS church formally denied the plan and opponents started posting very critical radio ads stating that this could lead to potential legalization.
The two sides came to an agreement which will become effective immediately after the election. According to the laws in Utah, lawmakers have the freedom to alter or revoke ballot measures approved by voters.
More than 60 percent of Utah’s residents are members of LDS members, who are trained to prevent alcohol, coffee and different types of tea, along with tobacco and other illicit drugs. The church has a powerful impact on the decision of the state’s government, but leaders of LDS agreed to the measure that restricts the private cultivation of cannabis and tries to implement government medical marijuana distribution network. The bill also bans the smoking of cannabis, but patients would be able to consume marijuana-infused foods or use vape pens.
According to Schweich, the agreement will open the path for future progress, even if voters oppose Prop. 2.
According to a Detroit Free Press poll, the proposal of Michigan favors good support, with about 57 percent of voters in favor. In 2008, voters in Michigan legalized medical marijuana. On October 17th neighboring Canada authorized the sales of marijuana for adults, following Michigan to follow its lead.
According to opponents, voters in Michigan should consider the long-run consequences of their decision and propose that tax revenues will not be enough to prevent drug-treatment and campaigns to keep kids away from marijuana. Proposal 1 establishes a system to control, tax and sell marijuana to adults.
According to Scott Greenlee, director of Healthy and Productive Michigan, a group opposing the ballot proposal, legalizing medical marijuana will be a bad policy that will negatively impact the state for years.
Voters in Missouri must choose between three plans including Amendment 2, Amendment 3 and Prop. C. These three plans would legalize the cultivation, production, sales, and consumption of marijuana and marijuana-infused products for therapeutic use at the state level. According to the state law, the measure with the highest vote will become active, and the Constitutional amendments would trump the proposition.
According to Prop C, the sales of marijuana will be taxed at 2 percent; procedures would be divided into four ways to finance veterans’ health care, public safety, drug treatment programs, and early childhood development initiatives. According to Amendment 2, the sale of marijuana will be taxed at 4 percent, which will be used to finance veterans’ health care programs. This is the first proposal to permit the indoor cultivation of marijuana.
According to Amendment 3, sales by growers will be taxed at $9.25 per ounce for marijuana flowers and $2.75 per ounce for leaves and sales by dispensaries will be taxed at 15 percent to patients. The results will be used to establish a research institute and efforts to treat severe illnesses, with money saved to receive land to build the institute’s campus and to finance development, health care, public pensions, and income tax refunds.