The 2016 election cycle (most of which I dare not delve into for so many reasons) could turn out to be the most significant event to date in the march toward nationwide cannabis legalization. As of today, CBD oil from industrial hemp as a nutritional supplement is legal in all 50 states; exactly half of the union’s states have full medical marijuana programs and 16 others have medical-CBD programs with possible expansion to Florida, North Dakota, Arkansas, and a reworked program in Montana.
With ballot initiatives for full legalization in five states due to be voted on next week, citizens in Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada will decide at the polls whether to make recreational cannabis legal.
The raw numbers of the potential expansion of legalized marijuana could create a cascading effect that builds upon the success of the legal cannabis movement first begun under medical premises in California 20 years ago and kicked into high gear by Colorado’s Amendment 64, the 2012 law that created the first legal recreational program in America. The population of the nine states considering expanded cannabis legalization represents nearly a quarter of the population of the U.S. overall and the impact that full legalization in California, with its 38.8 million residents (over 10 percent of the entire nation) and $2.5 trillion economy (which ranks as the sixth largest in the world) would change the face of cannabis going forward for a generation to come.
Let’s take a state-by-state look at the five recreational cannabis ballots.
Arizona, Proposition 205: Currently has a medical program – in place since 1996 – with about 100,000 participants.
Taxes, set at 15 percent, with funds directed primarily toward capital improvements to schools and drug education.
Regulation to be controlled by a newly created Department of Marijuana Licenses and Control.
Possession of up to one ounce by adults 21 and older and the ability of those adults to grow up to six plants, with a limit of 12 per household.
Polling in Arizona is roughly even as this vote approaches.
California, Proposition 64:Currently has the nation’s longest-running and largest medical program.
Would create a multi-billion dollar market.
Would allow for the possession of up to 28.5 grams of flower or eight grams of concentrates for adults 21 years and older.
The ability to grow up to six plants and would legalize growing industrial hemp.
Would create excise taxes for growers and a 15 percent tax for consumers.
The state’s current regulatory agency, the Bureau of Medical Cannabis, would be renamed the Bureau of Marijuana Control and would primarily govern cannabis matters with local boards, making decisions about the ability of residents to grow and business to exist in their locales.
The windfall from the taxes on cannabis would go to law enforcement, impaired driving programs, medical marijuana research programs, education, substance abuse prevention, alleviation of environmental damage created by illegal marijuana grow operations, and to political groups to study the effects of policy change. It would also create a system to investigate, reduce, and expunge convictions for previous marijuana convictions.
Current polling shows strong, double-digit support.
Maine, Marijuana Legalization Act:Medical marijuana has been legal since 1999, allowing nonprofit dispensaries and patients to grow.
Possession of up to 2 ½ ounces for adults over 21 and the possession, cultivation, and transportation of six plants, 12 immature plants, and unlimited seedlings, with the possession of all cannabis grown at individual residences.
Would be governed by the Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry.
Includes a 10 percent tax on retail sales.
Polling shows favorability around 53 percent and opposition in the range of 40 percent.
Massachusetts, Question 4 Initiative: Has had a medical program since 2013 with over 28,000 patients.
Would allow the possession of up to 10 ounces inside the home or one ounce outside the home for adults 21 years and older.
Growing (indoor) of up to six plants, with a limit of 12 plants per household.
Creation of a regulatory board, the Cannabis Control Commission, which would oversee the taxation of cannabis like alcohol at the level of the state’s sales tax plus a 3.75 percent excise tax with local governments able to add an additional two percent tax. Revenues would go back to the CCC with overages applied to the state’s general fund.
Polling is currently around 50 percent in favor and 40 percent opposed.
Nevada. Question 2: Has had a medical program since 2000.
Possession of up to one ounce for adults over 21.
Would allow residents who live further than 25 miles from a retail store to grow up to six plants.
Would create a 15 percent excise tax to go to enforcement and schools.
Approximately 50 percent in favor; approximately 40 percent opposed.
So, as the nation follows Colorado with regard to legal recreational cannabis, it looks like we could have some more company soon. In the meantime, take care of your civic duty by voting, then kick back and burn one for progress.
Christopher Gallagher lives with his wife and their four dogs and two horses. Life is pretty darn good. Contact him at [email protected]