The State of the Cannabis Nation: 2016 Election Results & Analysis

Voters in Missouri have three competing proposals on the ballot dealing with medical marijuana in the November election. Two would amend the Missouri Constitution; the other would simply change state law. (AP Photo/David Dermer, File)
FILE - In this Sept. 20, 2018, file photo, an employee at a medical marijuana cultivator works on topping a marijuana plant, in Eastlake, Ohio. Voters in Missouri have three competing proposals on the ballot dealing with medical marijuana in the November election. Two would amend the Missouri Constitution; the other would simply change state law. (AP Photo/David Dermer, File)

It’s high-time that we, as a collective society, change the way we deal with cannabis. I believe that the 2016 election didn’t just clear a path, it installed a highway. Out of nine states that had marijuana initiatives this year, eight passed, just one was defeated.

Of these eight victories California has stolen the spotlight. Two factors make California’s recreational cannabis victory so monumental:

A population representing 12% of the nation

An economy that is stronger than all but five other countries in the world

The fact that California has a population larger than the whole of Canada and that its GDP is individually greater than the collective bottom 24 states and the District of Columbia means that the days of the gradual nudging from voters and hands-off federal approaches are coming to critical convergence — and action will be necessary.

With medical success in Florida and recreational success in Massachusetts (and possibly Maine as well), efforts to legalize cannabis have finally taken a public foot-hold on the east coast. I, myself, expect that this Tuesday’s victories on the state level (Thank you FEDERALISM!) will be a rally-cry for legalization campaigns and will force the DEA, FDA, and congress to make some choices.

Marijuana Legalization 2016

How will the Trump Administration approach cannabis? He may not maintain the incumbent’s hands-off regulatory approach. His close aid, Chris Christie, has been a loud critic of legalization efforts. However, drastic changes seem unlikely as Trump himself seems to support medical marijuana.

It’s important not to get ahead of ourselves. After all, it took Colorado over a year to implement recreational sales, and Washington 6 months longer than that. While each state victory reverberates positive energy — at least in the personal freedom, “I voted on this” sort of way — many of these victories have some caveats. So let’s take a quick look at the nine states that had either medical or recreational initiatives on their ballot and what the results were.

FailDEFEAT: Arizona Proposition 205 The Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act

Arizona’s Prop 205 is a bundle deal. Here’s what’s inside:

  • 15% sales tax on all retail sales
  • Individuals age 21 and older are permitted to possess and/or grow limited amounts of marijuana; one ounce per person and 6 plants respectively.
  • Tax revenues collected from recreational sales will be earmarked for a “Marijuana Fund,” and will be dispersed to the department of Revenue, school districts and charter schools, the Department of Marijuana Licenses and Control, the counties and locals where marijuana establishments operate, and the Arizona Department of Health Services.
  • Creation of a 7-person, governor appointed commission to head the Department of Marijuana Licenses and Control.
  • Grants counties and locals the ability to enact rules and regulations regarding marijuana sales and business licensing.

While the state did experience a defeat by about 5%, in so doing, Arizona limited those with access to marijuana in the state to around 90,000 patients. Realistically, for a population of over six million, this leaves a huge gap.

PassPASS: Arkansas Issue 6 (See also: Issue 7) – The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment

Just 12 days before the election, a judge struck down the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act on the basis of invalid signatures, thereby removing issue 7 from the counted votes. But luckily, Arkansas had doubled down this year. Let’s see what issue 6 is:

  • Establish and regulate marijuana cultivation and retail dispensaries.
  • State and local taxes still apply
  • Tax revenues would be allocated to various governmental and regulatory agencies, after administrative costs of course.
  • Municipalities can ban dispensaries or cultivation facilities
  • The Arkansas Senate may amend Issue 6 at any time (except where it legalizes medical marijuana and in setting how many dispensaries can operate) by a 2/3 vote.

The biggest upset here is that those who do qualify for the state’s medical program are ineligible to grow their own plants, creating a possible bottleneck in the ability to adequately address patient demands. Good news, however: medical marijuana has finally penetrated the Bible belt.

PassPASS: California Proposition 64 The Adult Use of Marijuana Act

Having already established the (presumed) impact of California’s legalization, let’s just get into what they voted on.

  • Create two new taxes; one for cultivation (by weight, part of plant) and one on retail sales (15%), except on medical crops and sales, adjusted for inflation beginning 2020.
  • Allow individuals 21 and up to partake in marijuana as well as cultivate it at home, with certain limitations.
  • Individuals 21 and up can possess an ounce of flower or up to 8 grams of concentrates, but never near a school, daycare, or any other youth center.
  • Municipalities may design additional regulations on sales or ban them.
  • A caveat preventing large-scale marijuana business licensing for five year to prevent someone hogging the market.

If you hadn’t already seen the interview between Bill Maher and POTUS Barack Obama, it lays out just how crucial California passing Prop 64 is, calling it “not tenable” to maintain the current order of how we deal with drugs as a country when the entire west coast operates under a different set of laws than the federal government.

The changes in legal standing of marijuana in the state will allow upwards of a million people to petition to have their past marijuana possession charges thrown out from the record, while thousands more stand to get their charges dropped or be released early from prison.

PassPASS: Florida Amendment 2Use of Marijuana for Debilitating Medical Conditions

Florida Amendment 2 had experienced defeat in 2014, only to cast itself to a quickly more supportive audience in 2016 — passing by 70% in the largest current east coast market. Talk about reprise. Let’s see what they got.

  • A much needed expansion of the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014, allowing patients access to a larger variety of medications (specifically THC related products)
  • An expanded and more precise list of “debilitating ailments” that the state recognizes as a valid doctor recommendations.
  • Creation of a division of the Department of Health to oversee the cultivation, as well as regulate distribution and patient/ caregiver licensure.

PassPASS: Maine Question 1Maine Marijuana Legalization Measure

Maine is looking to expand the medical marijuana industry the state currently boasts and transform cannabis into an age restricted agricultural product. In so doing, the ballot initiative grants Maine the following:

  • Grants licensure of retail facilities and marijuana social clubs.
  • Saddles the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry with administration of the Marijuana industry, including a 10% retail sales tax.
  • Municipalities can limit the operation of retail stores.
  • Allows purchase from an authorized dispensary and possession of up to 2 ounces of cannabis for adults 21 and up
  • Allow cultivation of 6 flowering plants, 12 immature plants, and unlimited seedlings by those aged 21 or older
  • Allows citizens added 21 and up to consume in non-public spaces (like weed social clubs, or hotels)

PassPASS: Massachusetts Question 4Massachusetts Marijuana Legalization Initiative

Where witches were burned, tea was dumped, and a man on horseback yelled about the British in the middle of the night; the state of Massachusetts is quintessentially tied to American history. And in 2016, Massachusetts joined the growing number of states that allow recreational sales. Check it out:

  • Legalized recreational sales and created a commission to be the states Marijuana regulator.
  • Allows possession of marijuana for individuals 21 and over of (a) 1 ounce in public (b) 10 ounces at home as well as cultivation of up to 6 marijuana plants and hemp.
  • All sales are subject to state sales taxes, as well as a 3.75% excise tax. There is also the possibility of a municipality increasing the taxes up an additional 2%.

While I couldn’t find anything on how it’s going to affect the Massachusetts legal system, there is evidence that this could be an agent of change in the uptick in minority possession arrests since decriminalization laws were enacted in the state. Legalization could assist in combating racial discrimination.

PassPASS: Montana I-182Montana Medical Marijuana Initiative

Montana Initiative 182 is an amendment to an amendment, initially passed in 2004 but was further amended. With the added state legislature significantly reducing the amount of eligible patients within the state system, I-182 aims to amend the current Act in the following ways:

  • Allows more conditions to be valid reasons for a doctor to recommend marijuana
  • Repeals the 3:1 patient to licensed provider requirement, allowing a greater population access to medical marijuana.
  • Removes the requirement of an annual state review of any physician who recommends marijuana to 25 or more patients.
  • Prevents authorities from being legally able to conduct unannounced inspections of marijuana facilities, but does include an annual state inspection.

PassPASS: Nevada Question 2Nevada Marijuana Legalization Initiative

It makes an expanding amount of financial sense to allow use of the devil’s lettuce in Sin City, with large, constant amounts of tourism abounding from the gambling center of the country. Let’s see what comes with Nevada’s new recreational condiment (BLUNTS BEFORE CRAB LEG BUFFETS, ANYONE?):

  • Allows those aged 21 and over to possess one ounce of cannabis flower (28 grams) or 1/8 oz of concentrates (3.5 grams)
  • Allows individuals aged 21 and over the right to cultivate up to six plants in a locked storage space.
  • Retail sales will incur a 15% excise tax to cover administrative costs by the Department of Taxation and the remaining tax revenues are sent to schools.

PassPASS: North Dakota Initiated Statutory Measure 5The North Dakota Medical Marijuana Initiative

While North Dakota had before in 2012 attempted a Medical Marijuana initiative, it was struck down on the basis of fake signatures. This year, however, ND joins half the nation in having a voter approved medical marijuana industry. Let’s see how it works:

  • Patients may qualify for medical marijuana on the basis of a debilitating medical condition. The list is quite expansive, and includes the ability to add more as needed.
  • Patients and caregivers are subject to proper licensing and identification and are required to submit an application
  • Allows for home cultivation, given your home exceeds 40 miles from the nearest cultivation facility
  • Allows for patients to possess up to three ounces of usable marijuana

By Joey Wells