Midterm Voters Green Light Medical, Recreational Marijuana in 3 U.S. States

Midterm Voters Green Light Medical, Recreational Marijuana in 3 U.S. States
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Americans went to the polls November 6 to vote in the midterm elections, giving the green light for marijuana either medical or recreational uses in 3 more states. [1]

On November 6, Michigan became the first Midwest state to legalize marijuana for recreational use, joining 9 other states and the District of Columbia: Washington, Oregon, Nevada, California, Alaska, Colorado, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Maine. [1] [2]

Missouri and Utah approved medical marijuana measures, becoming the 32nd and 33rd state in the nation to do so. [1]

The only loser on election night was North Dakota, where a recreational marijuana ballot measure fell short.

Every state that has legalized recreational marijuana first legalized it in a medical capacity, and medical marijuana ballot measures are considered a “gateway” to recreational ones.

Both Michigan and North Dakota already had medical marijuana laws on the books when voters went to the polls Nov. 6. [3]

That makes perfect sense, according to Alison Holcomb, the primary drafter of Washington State’s recreational marijuana initiative.

“Politically, it makes a lot of sense for states to first work with marijuana in the medical context. That gives people in the states time to get more comfortable with it.”

It also makes sense logistically, Holcomb said.

When states legalize medical marijuana, it gives their agencies, such as the departments of health and agriculture, opportunities to tinker with their systems until they become available to a wider swath of people.

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Information is current as of Nov. 7, 2018. Source: Governing.com

Holcomb explained:

“Creating a smaller, more constrained medical system gives them time to learn about marijuana and to get comfortable with how they regulate it.”

It also gives constituents time to get used to what, for many, was a frightening prospect, said Holcomb.

“The unknown always carries a healthy amount of fear. And in this case, fear of the unknown has been stoked to a great degree by a long history of our federal government refusing to allow research into cannabis to provide accurate scientific information into what it does, and what the real risks of it may be.” [1]

In states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use, sales have brought in much-needed revenue to help study its effects. In Colorado, for example, recreational cannabis sales topped $1 billion in 2016.

Marijuana ballot measures also seem to have the unique ability of getting traditional non-voters to the polls, according to Sam D’Arcangelo, director of the Cannabis Voter Project.

While marijuana advocates are celebrating double wins, it is becoming clear that federal laws are outdated, leaving states with a patchwork of confusing and inconsistent ones.

Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement: [3]

“I think it’s safe to say federal laws are in need of an update. We hope the results of this election will inspire Congress to finally start addressing the tension that exists between state and federal marijuana laws in our nation.”

In June 2017, Mexico beat the United States to legalizing medical marijuana nationwide, but not everyone celebrated the landmark decree: Under the law, only products containing less than 1% THC are permitted.


[1] Time

[2] Business Insider

[3] NPR