Election Results that Make us Happy; A Summary of Marijuana Ballot Initiatives

While the presidential race went long into the night, the candidates neck and neck, cannabis took an early victory. Never before has our country had nine ballot initiatives for some form of legalization on the ballot. Voters demonstrated from coast to coast that they are ready for the end of cannabis prohibition. More and more our citizens are becoming aware of the medical benefits of cannabis and the social injustices that are being promoted with ineffective drug policies and they want to change things.

With the addition of Florida, North Dakota, Arkansas, and Montana, 28 states now have legal medical cannabis programs, providing access to 62% of American citizens.

Arizona Full Legalization FAILED
Arkansas Medical Marijuana Program PASSED
California Full Legalization PASSED
Florida Expanded Medical Marijuana Program PASSED
Maine Full Legalization PASSED
Massachusetts Full Legalization PASSED
Montana Expanded Medical Marijuana Program PASSED
Nevada Full Legalization PASSED
North Dakota Medical Marijuana Program PASSED

Arizona – Proposition 205

Unfortunately for the State of Arizona, Proposition 205 failed and prohibition will continue, for now. The Pharmaceutical Industry, Sheldon Adelson and a company that sells food to prisons came together and donated an exorbitant amount of money in an effort to defeat the Proposition. Proponents of the measure were unable to match the funding, which resulted in a loss. However, patients within the Grand Canyon State will still have access to medical cannabis through the state-regulated industry.

Key Components to the initiative:
  • Gave advantage to existing medical marijuana businesses
  • Existing businesses would have been able to grow unlimited amounts of cannabis; new businesses would have had to prove viability
  • About 147 recreational licenses would have been permitted

Arkansas – Issue 7

In the 2012 election, Arkansas failed to legalize medical cannabis by only 30,141 votes. In 2016, Issue 6 passed by over six points with the support’s campaign raising more than six times the funds of the opposition. With two measures for legalization on the ballot up until 12 days before the election, many were concerned the vote would be split, preventing either measure from passing. The main difference between the two ballot measures was a disagreement over whether home cultivation should be allowed. After the failure of Issue 7, Arkansans for Compassionate Care rallied behind Issue 6, ensuring a victory for the patients of Arkansas.

Key Components to the initiative:
  • Only 8 cultivation licenses; 20-40 dispensaries
  • Medical Marijuana Commission will decide the licensees
  • No one can own more than one license
  • 60% ownership by (7+ year) residents of AR; 40% allowed out of state

California – Proposition 64

The most significant win for the cannabis industry is the legalization of adult-use cannabis in California. Nearly 40 million people live in California with an additional 250 million tourists visiting the state each year. Arcview Market Research predicts that California will generate $7.6 billion in cannabis sales annually, far exceeding the $1 billion in cannabis sales seen in Colorado. The fight for cannabis legalization in California was long and hard-fought, with the first proposition being introduced in 1972 and medical cannabis being legalized 20 years ago. After drawing in a whopping $22.5 million in campaign contributions, as well as the support of notable figures such as Jay-Z and Sean Parker, Proposition 64 passed, officially legalizing cannabis along the entire western coast of the United States.

Key Components to the initiative:
  • 19 different business licenses
  • 13 different cultivation permits
  • Intended to build on the medical industry rules the state approved last year
  • Licensing to begin January 2018
  • Anti-monopoly provisions

Florida – Amendment 2

Jay and Di Prop 2Florida suffered a huge disappointment two years ago, lacking only 2.38% of the votes needed. However, Tuesday’s victory in Florida was so decisive that the win was able to be called an hour and a half after polls closed, with only 68% reporting. The campaign was resolute in their efforts to win, with over $6 million raised to finance support of Amendment 2, while the opposition raised only half that amount. Canna Advisors is extremely proud to have worked hand-in-hand with United for Care, helping to raise funds and awareness in such an important battleground state that led to the largest cannabis victory in history.

Key Components to the initiative:
  • Broader medical marijuana program than exists
  • Initiative would be one of the largest programs in the country
  • Potential patient pool is in the hundreds of thousands
  • Much of the details will have to be decided by the legislation

Maine – Question 1

In the closest race of the campaign, Maine legalized by only around 7,500 votes. Despite the incredibly narrow lead, Question 1 passed, legalizing adult-use cannabis in the State of Maine. Similarly to Massachusetts, Maine allows for home cultivation, as well as sales in regulated and licensed dispensaries. Donations to the campaign far exceeded those donated to the opposition, with Marijuana Policy Project alone contributing more to the cause then the entire budget of the opposing committees.

Key Components to the initiative:
  • Legalized recreational marijuana
  • First state to legalize “social clubs”
  • Local municipalities will have right to prohibit the businesses

Massachusetts – Question 4

While Massachusetts replaced criminal penalties with civil penalties for minor cannabis offenses in 2008, three committees registered to oppose full adult-use legalization. Despite their efforts, Question 4 passed, providing adult residents of Massachusetts the ability to purchase cannabis in dispensaries, as well as grow their own cannabis at home. Massachusetts officially became the first state on the east coast to legalize medical cannabis, a practice previously only seen west of the Mississippi. Due to the state’s proximity to high population density areas such as New York and Pennsylvania, it is anticipated to generate a thriving market for cannabis tourism.

Key Components to the initiative:
  • Legalized recreational marijuana
  • No residency requirements
  • No long term cap on permits
  • Local government can establish limits
  • Medical dispensaries(vertically integrated) have first pass as licenses
  • If 75 permits are licenses by October 2017( 173 dispensary applications have been filed as of October 2016), then new applications have to wait a full year to apply

Montana- Initiative I-182

Medical cannabis has been legal in Montana since 2004, however the program has been struggling since 2011 when the legislature essentially outlawed dispensaries by only allowing dispensaries to provide medicine to three patients each. The ruling was challenged, but upheld. Demonstrating the grit expected of Montanans, the people took matters into their own hands and passed Initiative 182, re-legalizing medical cannabis in Montana. The new measure allows for the creation of profitable dispensaries, and adds severe pain and PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions. Despite the opposition raising almost twice the campaign funds, I-182 passed by a large margin.

Key Components to the initiative:
  • Overturning a law established in 2011 limiting providers to three patients each
  • Residency requirement
  • Expand patient access
  • No limit to number of licenses

Nevada – Question 2

Many experts did not expect Nevada to pass Question 2, as early polls indicated the race would be extremely close. However, with all precincts reporting, cannabis legalization passed in Nevada by nine points. Despite first passing medical marijuana legalization in 1998, state-regulated dispensaries were only permitted beginning in 2013, only three short years ago. Question 2 was opposed with massive donations from several casinos who do not want to see legalized cannabis in Las Vegas. This is mostly due to federal restrictions that prevent casinos from profiting from dispensaries, resulting in fear that cannabis tourism may draw dollars away from the casinos. However, Marijuana Policy Project focused on educating the public on the potential for increased tax revenue for schools and the anticipated increase in jobs, and ultimately defeated the casinos.

Key Components to the initiative:
  • Legalized recreational model
  • New distributor category added
  • Limited number of retail businesses
  • Give existing medical operators 18 months before new licensing is issued
  • No residency requirement

North Dakota

North Dakota received almost twice as many votes in favor of medical cannabis as against, resulting in yet another landslide. Measure 5 allows access to those suffering from a wide range of medical conditions, including severe pain that cannot be managed through other options. It also allows for home cultivation if patients are more than forty miles from a dispensary. With only $5,000 raised in support of the campaign, North Dakotans for Compassionate Care were confident that despite being a conservative state, “voters in this state would view this as an alternative to prescription drugs that we know are harmful”.

Key Components to the initiative:
  • Legalized medical marijuana
  • Vertically integrated dispensaries
  • Non-profit
  • Inventory on hand can be no more than 1000 growing plants and 3,500 ounces(218.75 lbs) of “useable” marijuana
  • Residency requirement
  • No cap on number of licenses

With the addition of California, Nevada, Massachusetts and Maine, there are now eight states with full adult use cannabis legalization. Including Washington D.C., this means that one in five American adults now have access to adult-use recreational cannabis. More and more voters are welcoming the legalization of cannabis as data emerges demonstrating that the War On Drugs has failed and that minor drug arrests create a huge financial strain on the prison system. Americans are becoming increasingly interested in sensible drug policies that encourage safe and responsible use while providing avenues for individuals suffering from addiction to seek help, rather than face punitive action.

Congratulations to Florida, North Dakota, Arkansas, Montana, California, Nevada, Massachusetts and Maine! We look forward to watching your industry develop and mature, and cannot wait to do our part to help foster the growth of responsible businesses committed to best practices and the success of the industry!

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