Cannabis advocacy groups and industry supporters weighed in on the new legal and political terrain created by the election Nov. 6, 2018. Most are calling the results a major victory now that Michigan became the tenth state to legalize recreational cannabis and Utah and Missouri legalized medicinal cannabis.
The wins shouldn't be surprising, given the findings of the April 2018 Quinnipiac University National Poll that found 93 percent of respondents support use of medical marijuana and 70 percent oppose enforcement of federal laws against marijuana in states where it's legal in some form.
“The momentum to end the drug war took a significant leap forward today,” said Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, whose sentiments echo through other advocacy organizations. Here are more post-election reactions from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and other marijuana reformers:
National Cannabis Industry Association
“This election proves that U.S. voters are ready and eager for comprehensive cannabis policy reform at the state and federal level,” Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, said in a statement. “This is no longer a third-rail issue. Members of Congress need to listen to their constituents, allow states to determine their own cannabis policies, and start treating this burgeoning legal industry fairly.”
Americans for Safe Access
A statement from the medical cannabis advocacy group said: “Last night, we won, and we won big: Missouri, Utah, and Michigan all have new cannabis laws. Wisconsin made it loud and clear they are ready for a medical cannabis program. With the victories in Missouri and Utah, there are now 33 states that will have a medical cannabis program. We also saw Michigan legalize the non-medical use of cannabis. With two-thirds of the country now having laws for medical cannabis, and a new Congress, we are in a position to end federal prohibition once and for all.”
“There were several gubernatorial victories last night that speak well for the prospects of statewide marijuana reform in 2019,” said Paul Armentano, Deputy Director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and the NORML Foundation in Washington, D.C.
“In four states — Connecticut, Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois — voters elected Governors who openly campaigned on a platform that included legalizing adult marijuana use. In two other states — California and Colorado — we now have governors who have a long history of spearheading legalization reform efforts. And in Maine and in New Mexico, two of the nation's most rabid marijuana prohibitionists, Paul LePage and Susana Martinez, have been replaced by governors who are open to enacting common-sense reforms. As we approach 2019, I would anticipate unprecedented legislative activity at the state level in favor of marijuana law reform legislation.”
“Voters in Michigan sent a resounding rebuke to their state's failed policy of prohibition and elected to follow a new, more sensible path of regulation and legalization,” said NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri. “Instead of arresting thousands of citizens a year for possession of a plant, Michigan will now be able to prioritize law enforcement resources towards combating violent crime, honor personal freedom and civil liberties, end the racist application of weaponizing prohibition laws against communities of color, and collect tax revenue that was previously going to black market elements and put it towards important social programs such as education and infrastructure development.”
Proposal 1 permits adults 21 and older to possess and grow personal use quantities of cannabis and related concentrates, while also licensing activities related to commercial marijuana production and retail marijuana sales.
“For years, Michigan has been one of the leading states in the nation in total annual marijuana-related arrests,” Altieri said. added Altieri, “In 2016, police made over 22,000 marijuana-related arrests, at an estimated cost to taxpayers of over $94 million. That wasteful and harmful practice ends today.”
With the approval of Proposition 2, Utah has become the 33rd state to regulate the licensed production and distribution of medical cannabis products to qualified patients. The vote comes ahead of a proposed special legislative session of the Utah legislature to address specific rules and regulations governing medical cannabis patient access.
NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said, “It is our hope that Utah's politicians will respect the will of the electorate and move swiftly to enact The Utah Medical Cannabis Act in a manner that comports with both the spirit of the law and the letter of law,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal.
Under legislation enacted by the legislature in 2018, only those patients who are terminally ill may potentially access cannabis-infused products. To date, however, such products are not yet legally available.
The amendment was one of three competing ballot measures that seek to regulate medical cannabis use in Missouri. NORML endorsed only Amendment 2.
“This is a patient-centered proposal that puts power in the hands of state-licensed physicians and their patients, not politicians or bureaucrats. Passage of Amendment 2 creates a robust statewide system for production and sale of medical cannabis,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said.
Marijuana Policy Project
Right now, cannabis is a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA),” said Steve Hawkins, executive director of Washington DC-based Marijuana Policy Project on a Reddit Ask Me Anything Forum on Nov. 7, 2018. “It will likely remain a Schedule I drug until we reach a tipping point where the majority have legalized. We anticipate reaching this tipping point in the next 3-5 years. There is an effort, the STATES Act, to exempt states that have legalized from being subject to the CSA.
Drug Policy Alliance
This Election Day showed the burgeoning political clout of the drug policy reform movement, with the results expected to accelerate efforts to legalize marijuana and to end the broader war on drugs in states across the U.S., at the federal level, and internationally.
“Western and northeastern states have led the way on legalizing marijuana, but the victory in Michigan powerfully demonstrates the national reach of this movement,” said McFarland Sánchez-Moreno, DPA executive director.
“With such overwhelming public support for marijuana legalization, even including majorities of Republicans and older Americans, there's only so long that the federal government can continue to hold out,” she said. “The public has long believed that drug use should be treated as a health issue, not as a criminal issue. It's encouraging to see so many political candidates finally getting on board.”
Missouri's victorious Amendment 2 will provide legal access to medical marijuana for patients with certain qualifying conditions. It creates a robust system of access for patients through the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services while allowing physicians to decide when medical use is appropriate.
Florida voters, meanwhile, approved a historic initiative to restore the vote to over 1.4 million people with past felony convictions upon completion of their sentences, except for those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense. As in most other U.S. states, drug possession is punished as a felony in Florida.
Drug policy reform also played a major role in scores of local, state and federal races all over the country. The most powerful marijuana reform opponent in the House of Representatives, Pete Sessions of Texas, lost to Colin Allred, a supporter of marijuana reform.
Students for Sensible Drug Policy
In a statement, the group wrote: “Students for Sensible Drug Policy was honored to support the four statewide cannabis initiatives this year by running the national youth Get Out The Vote (GOTV) phone banks, placing calls to nearly 13,000 voters in Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota, and Utah.
“We'd also like to congratulate our colleagues working on dozens of local referenda to end prohibition or restore justice. In Florida, Amendment 4 will restore voting rights to nearly 1.5 million people convicted of felonies who have served their time; in Ohio, Issue 1 changed the conversation around criminal justice reform even though it didn't pass.”