Legislators in a number of states are pushing forward measures to delay the enactment of several voter-initiated marijuana laws.
In Arkansas, House lawmakers are moving forward with legislation, House Bill 1026, to postpone the deadline for establishing the state’s new medical marijuana program by 60 days. Fifty-three percent of voters approved Issue 6 on Election Day, which called on lawmakers to regulate the production and dispensing of medical cannabis within 120 days.
In Maine, leading House and Senate lawmakers have endorsed emergency legislation, LD 88, to delay retail marijuana sales by at least three months. Under the voter-initiated law, rules regulating the commercial marijuana market are supposed to be operational by January 1, 2018. (By contrast, separate provisions permitting adults to possess and grow specific quantities of cannabis take effect on January 30, 2017.)
In North Dakota, Senate lawmakers unanimously passed emergency legislation, Senate Bill 2154, to postpone the deadline for the enactment of the North Dakota Compassionate Care Act. Sixty-four percent of voters backed the measure, which gave lawmakers a 90-day window to regulate the distribution of medical marijuana.
Massachusetts’ lawmakers previously enacted legislation imposing a six-month delay on the licensed production and retail sales of marijuana. Legislators are also debating making additional changes to the law, including raising the proposed retail sales tax and limiting the number of plants an adult may grow at home.
In Florida, health regulators are also calling for significant changes to Amendment 2, which passed with 71 percent of the vote.
NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri strongly criticized the proposed changes and delays, calling them “an affront to the democratic process.” He added: “Voters have lived with the failings of marijuana prohibition for far too long already. Lawmakers have a responsibility to abide by the will of the voters and to do so in a timely manner.”
Massachusetts today became the sixth US state to enact legislation eliminating criminal penalties specific to the adult possession and personal use of cannabis. The law change ends over a century-long policy of criminal cannabis prohibition in the Bay State. Massachusetts was the first state in the nation to criminalize the use of marijuana — a policy it first enacted in 1911.
“By legalizing the adult use of marijuana, Massachusetts will shrink the illicit black market, generate millions in tax revenue, end the arrest of otherwise law abiding citizens, and better enable society to keep marijuana out of the hands of children,” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said.
Alaska, California, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington have previously adopted voter-initiated laws legalizing the private consumption of cannabis by adults. The District of Columbia also permits adults to legally possess and grow personal use quantities of marijuana in private residences.
On Election Day, 54 percent of Massachusetts voters approved Question 4, The Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act. Question 4 permits adults who are not participating in the state’s existing medical cannabis program to legally grow up to six plants, including all of the harvest from those plants, and to possess personal use quantities of cannabis (up to one ounce and/or up to 5 grams of concentrate; in addition, adults may legally possess up to ten ounces of marijuana flower in their home). Public consumption of cannabis remains a civil violation.
Separate provisions in the statute also license the commercial cannabis production and retail sales of cannabis. Those regulations do not take effect until January 1, 2018. However, some state lawmakers have suggested delaying this timeline, raising the state’s proposed sales tax rate, and amending the state’s new home cultivation guidelines — proposals that NORML opposes.
In just a few weeks, voters in nine states will go to the polls to vote on crucial marijuana policy reforms at a time when national polling shows that the public’s support for legalization has never been greater. I’m pleased to say that NORML is playing a key role in moving public sentiment toward marijuana sanity.
From day one, NORML’s chief mission has been to move public and political opinion sufficiently so that the responsible use of cannabis by adults is no longer criminalized and stigmatized. We do so by presenting credible, evidence-based information about marijuana and marijuana policy reform to the general public, the mainstream media, pundits, and policymakers. And nobody does it better than we do.
NORML remains the most well-known and most trusted source of cannabis-centric information in the United States. Nearly 30 percent of the entire American public is familiar with NORML and its mission, according to a 2016 YouGov poll, and the overwhelming majority of those who identify as marijuana consumers say that they possess a favorable impression of our organization.
The messaging put forward by NORML, its 100+ affiliates, and its staff is prominently featured almost daily in the mainstream media and in opinion-shaping publications like the New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and The Hill – outlets that reach millions of readers and policy makers in the highest levels of government. Meanwhile, NORML reports, such as its new 2016 Congressional Report Card and its newly updated handbook, Clinical Applications for Cannabis, continue to inform the public about the latest scientific and political developments surrounding the cannabis plant. It is your donations and support that permit us to continue to do this important work and engagement.
Today, it is clear that NORML’s efforts are paying dividends. The 2016 state election season was the busiest on record with lawmakers in 25 US states enacting legislation to reform their marijuana laws – the most ever in a single year. On Election Day we anticipate even more victories, but we can’t slow down now!
There is little doubt that we are on the precipice of seismic changes in both public opinion and public policy. Help us make these changes a reality. Please consider making a contribution to NORML today of $25, $50, $100. We could not have gotten this far without your help and with your continued support we are confident that we will achieve historic victories on Election Day and beyond.
ARIZONA: Half of Arizona voters intend to vote ‘yes’ in favor of Proposition 205: The Arizona Legalization and Regulation of Marijuana Act, according to an Arizona Republic/Morrison/Cronkite News poll. Forty percent of voters oppose the initiative. The Act allows adults age 21 and older to possess and to privately consume and grow limited amounts of marijuana (up to one ounce of marijuana flower, up to five grams of marijuana concentrate, and/or the harvest from up to six plants) and provides regulations for a retail cannabis marketplace.
CALIFORNIA: Numerous polls show strong support among Californians for Proposition 64: The Adult Use of Marijuana Act. In recent weeks, polling data compiled by the Public Policy Institute of California and the California Field Poll show the measure leading among voters by some 30 percentage points. Proposition 64 permits adults to legally grow (up to six plants) and possess personal use quantities of cannabis (up to one ounce of flower and/or up to eight grams of concentrate) while also licensing commercial cannabis production and retail sales. The measure prohibits localities from taking actions to infringe upon adults’ ability to possess and cultivate cannabis for non-commercial purposes. The initiative language specifies that it is not intended to “repeal, affect, restrict, or preempt … laws pertaining to the Compassionate Use Act of 1996.”
MAINE: Fifty-three percent of voters support Question 1: The Marijuana Legalization Act, according to a September UNH Survey Center poll. Only 38 percent of respondents oppose it. The Act authorizes adults to obtain up to two and one-half ounces of cannabis from licensed facilities. Adults can also cultivate up to six plants and possess the harvest from those plants.
MASSACHUSETTS: Voters back Question 4: The Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act by a margin of 53 percent to 40 percent, according to polling data released last week by WBZ-TV. The ballot measure permits adults to possess up to 10 ounces of cannabis and to grow up to six plants for non-commercial purposes. The measure also establishes regulations overseeing the commercial production and sale of the plant.
NEVADA: Question 2: The Nevada Marijuana Legalization Initiative leads among Nevada voters by a margin of 57 percent to 33 percent, according to Suffolk University polling data released last week. The initiative states, “The People of the State of Nevada find and declare that the use of marijuana should be legal for persons 21 years of age or older, and its cultivation and sale should be regulated similar to other businesses.”
For more information about these and other pending ballot initiatives, please see NORML’s Election 2016 page here.
The Secretary of State’s office has confirmed that initiative proponents, The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol, submitted a sufficient number of signatures from registered voters to qualify the measure for the November ballot. A Maricopa County judge has also dismissed a lawsuit that sought to prohibit the measure from going before voters, although initiative opponents may seek to further litigate the matter before the state Supreme Court.
Proposition 205 permits adults to legally possess (up to one ounce of marijuana flowers and/or five grams of marijuana concentrates) and cultivate marijuana (up to six plants) for their own personal use, and establishes licensing for its commercial production and retail sale. Commercial, for-profit sales of cannabis will be subject to taxation, while non-commercial exchanges of marijuana will not be taxed.
Similar adult use measures will appear on the ballot this November in California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada. Voters in Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota will also decide on medical use measures this fall. A Missouri statewide initiative seeking to regulate the plant’s medicinal use is in litigation.
A summary of 2016 statewide ballot measures and their status is online here.