Marijuana reform reaches Missouri, Michigan and Utah

On Tuesday, November 6, voters in three states approved legalization measures. In one state, North Dakota, a recreational legalization measure failed.

Michigan

Michigan voters approved Proposal 1, which was supported by a group called the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. Under the new law, those 21 years old and older may possess, use, and cultivate, and commercial sales are permitted through state-licensed dispensaries. As described on the ballot proposal, the law also:

  • Places a 10-ounce limit for marijuana kept at residences and requires amounts over 2.5 ounces be secured in locked containers.
  • Creates a state licensing system for marijuana businesses and allow municipalities to ban or restrict them.
  • Permits retail sales of marijuana and edibles subject to a 10 percent tax, with the revenue dedicated to implementation costs, clinical trials, schools, roads and municipalities where marijuana businesses are located.

In addition, the law has an implementation timeline to allow the state to establish the new program. Sales are not expected until 2020. The measure passed with 56 percent of the vote.

Missouri

Voters in Missouri faced three ballot measures to legalize medical marijuana: Amendment 2, Amendment 3, and Proposition C. Amendment 2 was backed by activists and followed models of other legal states. Amendment 3 was by a millionaire attorney and doctor who wrote the initiative himself and included language placing himself as the head of a new medical cannabis research center. Proposition C’s origins are murky; its financial supporters have hidden themselves behind campaign finance laws. Missouri’s voters evidently did their homework and passed only Amendment 2 with a margin of 65 percent.

Amendment 2 legalizes medical cannabis in a manner similar to that of other states, imposes a sales tax of 4 percent, and dedicates the revenue to healthcare for veterans.

Utah

Perhaps the most impressive victory was in Utah, where the Mormon Church opposed passage of Proposition 2. It supporters are activists who had less than a million dollars in funding. The measure passed with 53 percent of the vote.

Similar to medical cannabis laws in other states, Proposition 2 will allow patients with specific medical conditions to obtain a recommendation. One qualifying condition is opiate dependency; Utah will be testing the effectiveness of medical cannabis in reducing opiate use. Patients will be able to buy up to two ounces from dispensaries every two weeks, and they can grow six plants of their own. There will be a robust regulatory system that tracks sales and requires testing and labeling. In addition, there will be licensing requirements for labs, cultivators, and processing businesses. As in Massachusetts and other states, local governments may impose additional requirements, which may mean that medical cannabis will not be available where local governments do not want it.

North Dakota

Measure 3 in North Dakota failed to pass. It would have legalized recreational use of “hashish, marijuana, and tetrahydrocannabinols ” by those 21 and over. Moreover, it would have prohibited “prosecution of any person over the age of 21 for any non-violent marijuana-related activity (including growing, manufacturing, distributing, selling, or testing marijuana).” The proposed law also provided expungement for previous convictions. The activists who supported the measure were outspent by opposition groups. Nearly 60 percent voted against this sweeping legalization bill.

In the November 2018 election, marijuana initiatives fared very well, passing in most of the states where they were on the ballot. Not only that, voters in conservative states such as Utah and Missouri voted in favor of medical legalization.

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