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4 More States Could Legalize Medical or Recreational Marijuana Next Week

Ballot initiatives in Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota, and Utah will give voters a chance to loosen their cannabis laws.

JZSJZSIn an interview with Roll Call this month, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) described Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's dismay upon hearing that voters in Utah seem set to approve medical marijuana when they go to the polls on November 6. "I said that even Utah is most likely going to legalize medical marijuana this year," Gardner recalled. "McConnell looks and me, and he goes, 'Utah?' [He had] this terrified look. And as he says that, Orrin Hatch walks up, and Mitch looks at Orrin and says, 'Orrin, is Utah really going to legalize marijuana?' And Orrin Hatch folds his hands, looks down at his feet, and says, 'First tea, then coffee, and now this.'"

Notwithstanding opposition from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, polls indicate that nearly two-thirds of Utah voters think patients should be able to use marijuana if their doctors recommend it. Prospects for medical marijuana look dimmer in Missouri, where surveys indicate weaker public support and voters will face a potentially confusing choice of three separate initiatives on the subject. It seems even less likely that North Dakota voters, who just two years ago approved medical marijuana by a surprisingly large margin, are ready to legalize recreational use. But recreational legalization seems to have a pretty good shot in Michigan.

Here is a rundown of those measures, plus an arcane Colorado initiative that could have a big impact on that state's hemp industry.

Michigan

Proposal 1 would allow adults 21 or older to possess 2.5 ounces or less of marijuana in public, transfer that amount to other adults "without remuneration," possess up to 10 ounces at home, and grow up to 12 plants for personal consumption. The initiative also would establish a licensing system for commercial production and distribution, subject to a 10 percent tax on retail sales.

Support for Proposal 1 averaged 54 percent in six polls conducted from late February to early October. A solid majority of Michigan voters (63 percent) approved medical marijuana in 2008. If they take this further step, Michigan will be the first state in the Midwest to legalize recreational use, joining nine states in the West and Northeast.

North Dakota

Measure 3 would go further than any initiative enacted so far by removing marijuana from the state's list of prohibited substances and thereby legalizing "any nonviolent marijuana activity, except for the sale of marijuana to a person under the age of 21." Possession of marijuana by minors would be treated the same as possession of alcohol.

The North Dakota initiative is also unique in requiring "automatic expungement of the record of an individual who has a drug conviction for a controlled substance that has been legalized." So far California is the only state to approve a legalization initiative that addressed the lingering collateral consequences of a marijuana conviction, and even that measure put the onus on victims of prohibition to seek expungement or resentencing (although a law enacted last month will make the process easier).

North Dakota voters approved medical marijuana by a 28-point margin in 2016, but they do not seem inclined to endorse wholesale legalization. Surveys conducted in February and August put support for legalizing recreational use at 46 percent and 38 percent, respectively.

Utah

Proposition 2 would authorize the production and distribution of marijuana for medical use by patients with any of 10 qualifying conditions and recommendations from their doctors. As of 2021, state-approved patients would be allowed to grow up to six plants at home if they do not live within 100 miles of a licensed dispensary.

Support for the Proposition 2 averaged 68 percent in nine polls conducted from mid-February to mid-October. Even after the LDS church joined the coalition opposing the initiative, two polls put support at 64 percent, while a third found 74 percent of voters favored the measure.

If voters approve Proposition 2, Utah will join 31 states that have legalized medical marijuana. The most recent addition to that list was another conservative state, Oklahoma, where an initiative passed in June.

Missouri

Amendment 2, Amendment 3, and Proposition C would all authorize production and distribution of marijuana for medical use by patients with qualifying conditions and recommendations from their doctors. The measures differ mainly in the way they define qualifying conditions, the maximum amounts they would allow patients to purchase and possess, their treatment of home cultivation, the tax rates they would set, the purposes for which they would earmark the revenue, the limits they would impose on the number of dispensaries, and the power they would give local governments to ban them.

A poll conducted in August found that 54 percent of Missouri voters think the medical use of marijuana should be permitted. If both constitutional amendments pass, the one with more votes will prevail. Proposition C, which would make statutory changes that the legislature could reverse by a simple majority vote, will take effect only if neither amendment passes.

Colorado

Amendment X would remove from the state constitution the definition of industrial hemp that was added by Amendment 64, the 2012 initiative that legalized marijuana for recreational use. Colorado's constitution currently defines industrial hemp, a nonpsychoative variety of cannabis that is used for fiber, food, cosmetics, and medicine, as "the plant of the genus cannabis and any part of such plant, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration that does not exceed three-tenths percent on a dry weight basis." Amendment X strikes that definition in favor of a statement that industrial hemp "has the same meaning as it is defined in federal law or as the term is defined in Colorado statute."

Since the current federal definition of industrial hemp, as set forth in a 2014 law that allowed limited cultivation and in the 2018 farm bill that is expected to replace it, is virtually identical to the Colorado constitution's definition, Amendment X would not have any immediate practical effect. But the state legislators who support the ballot initiative argue that they need the flexibility to adjust the definition in response to future federal legislation. Opponents of the initiative argue that it would leave the hemp industry vulnerable to the whims of legislators and bureaucrats.

"Amendment X is mischaracterized as routine tinkering," writes Denver attorney Rob Corry in Westword. "The poorly drafted Amendment X guarantees litigation or even criminal prosecution if federal law is different from state statute, as it is right now. Under federal 'law,' the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is empowered to unilaterally change the scheduling of narcotics and to outright ban them, as is the U.S. Congress. The DEA currently claims that industrial hemp is illegal under federal law. Amendment X would allow the legislature to re-criminalize hemp...Amendment X unilaterally surrenders Colorado's constitutional protections for hemp to the Trump Justice Department."

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  • Cy||

    Why are they legalizing it?

    Tax revenue.

    Not because it's the right thing to do, but because they're a bunch of greedy assholes.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    Well, yeah.

    But, progress is still progress.

  • Nuwanda||

    How is it progress? Are you in any doubt that the bureaucracy grows when marijuana is thus legalised? It's production, use and consumption is still regulated and policed. And a new army of tax gatherers, compliance officers and public health inspectors blossoms to oversee the new legalities.

    Sure, you get to smoke the doobie without the cops breaking down your door, but the state grows ever more pervasive. You've traded a little freedom in one area for less freedom in others. You've become a stoned budgie in a gilded cage.

  • jmlandry||

    Yes, but eventually the kid glove status will wear off and you will not need special two stage security doors to enter the room with the weed.

    It's just a plant for God's sake!

  • kynodog||

    So let's ban alcohol, tobacco and other legal, regulated products so we can really shrink the government and have more freedom...

  • Nuwanda||

    Oh, dear, you're making my point for me. The growth of the state under tobacco and alcohol laws has been enormous.

    I'm not suggesting these things be illegal, I'm saying that mere legalisation doesn't constitute a reduction in the size of the state or of the state's overall regulation of your life, in general terms or specifically as it relates to that activity.

    Realise that the goal of the bureaucracy is to perpetuate itself, to have power and to have income. That you can now get legally stoned has not altered their position one bit, in fact it will have cemented their position even more firmly. You're simply regulated differently.

  • Miggy||

    I get what you are saying and I am as conservative thinking as it gets but regulation is a part of life because some capitalists will take advantage of the system. Legalization is the thing to do but do we want someone to be able to sell canibas to a 13 year old who walks in the store which is right across the street from his/her school?

  • Nuwanda||

    "...but regulation is a part of life because some capitalists will take advantage of the system."

    Far as I'm aware, only anarchists (of which there are many here) would be hands-off regarding selling drugs to kids. I'm not saying they'd endorse it, only that there would be no state authority to forbid it. But I'm not an anarchist.

    That aside, I support forbidding selling drugs to kids. But kids aren't adults. I also have no problem with an age of sexual consent. Who in their right mind would take a hands-off position regards that?

    Ben Franklin: "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

    You've got the "temporary safety" of smoking the joint, but you've given up the wider and more important "essential liberty" by admitting all manner of other impositions surrounding the activity. The state has only increased its power. In effect, they've given you something that really doesn't matter but taken what does matter. As I said above, you've become a stoned bird in a gilded cage.

    The better solution is legal drug use for all adults, no tax, no education programs, no overseeing of anything related to drug use by adults. That would be a real victory. But, say the joint smokers, it's a start. No, it's not a start. It's you being distracted by a bright and shiny thing while the state keeps about its business and grows in the process.

  • 0x1000||

    e.g. in Michigan, provision "without renumeration" is "progress."

    Imagine if other things were regulated that way. All they have to do is ban something and then they can bring it back under absurd controls and label it "progress."

    Yeah, progress towards something, but it's not liberty.

  • Nuwanda||

    "Yeah, progress towards something, but it's not liberty."

    I'm sure such studies have been done, but as regards the Eighteenth Amendment (Prohibition), and then its rescinding a decade later, what was the state of regulation before and after on alcohol production and sale?

    We can all guess the answer. With marijuana it's just been a much longer time between old legality and new legality, that's all.

  • fafalone||

    NJ just put off the vote for another 2 months because of the fucking stupid tax fight. I bet they're going to put a sky high tax that illegal sources are still cheaper, apparently the 12% tax wasn't high enough and they want 25%. They were supposed to vote today actually.

  • Nuwanda||

    Sure, this is the thing not understood--apparently--by many simple-minded advocates of legalisation: you might get to smoke without being arrested, but the whole sordid system of regulation and enforcement goes merrily on.

    But now it's worse because not only do you get to fund public anti-weed education and compliance costs for the new regime, but because of high weed taxes, a black market exists as it always has done and the cops still need to chase the black market suppliers. The size of the weed-related bureaucracy has actually gotten more pervasive.

    You're just too stoned to notice.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Excatly Cy. The right thing is to convene an Article V Constitutional Convention or have Congress amend the US Constitution to prohibit government from controlling what Americans ingest or smoke.

  • sarcasmic||

    I will settle for them doing the right thing for the wrong reasons.

  • Sometimes a Great Notion||

    "Amendment X is mischaracterized as routine tinkering," writes Denver attorney Rob Corry in Westword.

    How'd work that into a show about androids?

  • Conchfritters||

    Prospects for medical marijuana look dimmer in Missouri, where surveys indicate....

    ..that meth is still their medicinal drug of choice.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Yet for some reason, none of the Democrats and RINO politicians in these states are advocating repealing the unconstitutional Controlled Substances Act.

    I didn't include Republican politicians because many of them don't want drugs legalized.

  • RPGuy16||

    So you don't agree that a guy growing weed on his own property for his own consumption is "commerce among the several states"?

  • jmlandry||

    Fucking Republicans! Where is liberty and individual choice? 51% of Republicans now support legal weed.

    Here in MN we can't even get the Dems to legalize! fucking clowns.they all suck.

  • sarcasmic||

    Straight democracy is a bad thing. Except what it's a good thing. Principals, not principles.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    'First tea, then coffee, and now this.'

    A Conservative Nightmare (in three acts, by The Liberal-Libertarian Mainstream Alliance)

    Carry on, clingers. Not much longer, though.

  • OsamasPornStache||

    Duck my state so much Shill Murphy promised me legal weed in the first 100 days and we are about to be passed by these motherfuckers *smh*

  • Slocum||

    The pot legalization initiative is about the only thing on the ballot in here MI that A) I actually want to vote for, and B) has a decent chance of winning. So it better 'effing pass.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Good catch! A is A means hemp is hemp. Letting Prohibitionist Comstock Luddites in the mismanaging Dee of Cee run roughshod over State citizens' individual rights by burdening them with Medieval or Mercantilist definitions would be the height of idiocy.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Only one of these states, Colorado, is among the 13 Libertarian Battleground states with LP spoiler vote coverage times electoral votes greater than 2.5, and the move in Colorado is a set-up for prohibitionists to send the Feds in and start shooting a few recalcitrants to set an example. I would be VERY suspicious and go over the language of verbose enactments in those more bigoted redoubts of looter prohibitionism.

  • jmlandry||

    I hate it when they legalize weed and then tax it for the schools.

    The schools already get too much money with their crooked teachers unions extended vacations and unobtainable pensions. They can suck dick!

    Why can't we have legal weed with no tax? I already pay way too much and stupid ass school taxes.

    MN needs Gary Johnson and or Ron Paul. Gotta move.

  • AnnieBlack||

    I was just browsing around, looking for someone who could write essay for me and I got here somehow and I love it! You made my day! Thank you!

  • Myk||

    I don't think Utah needs to pass. Antis worked out a compromise they liked better than losing the vote.

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