Skip to main content


Some Good Election News: Cannabis Hits It Out of the Park

Nov 09, 2016 09:17AM ● By Leland Rucker

Tuesday’s election results show a country divided almost down the middle. We don’t have final numbers or know the full ramifications of the results, but one thing is certain. No matter their vote on candidates or other issues, Americans of all persuasions and parties came together to vote for cannabis reform, pushing the federal government even harder to end its failed War on Drugs.

We still don’t know how many people actually use cannabis in the United States, but Tuesday’s results convincingly show that millions of Americans who don’t use cannabis and never will support the right of others to enjoy it as they would alcohol, without criminal repercussions.

The biggest news, of course, is that California voters passed Proposition 64, which legalizes cannabis for adults much like here in Colorado. The Golden State has a checkered legalization history: It decriminalized possession in 1975, approved medical marijuana in 1996 and then failed to pass an amendment to legalize recreational pot in 2010. Tuesday the state finally got it right, and Californians can possess cannabis legally today and purchase it legally by 2018. Significantly, it triples the number of Americans able to purchase cannabis legally and adds a significant 53 more seats with a constituent interest to the US House of Representatives.

Maine’s Question 1 won by a margin of 4,402 votes out of 757,718 ballots cast. It was a difficult slog. The Secretary of State originally invalidated more than half of petitioner signatures, which led to a lawsuit that finally allowed the measure on the ballot, and Gov. Paul LePage and some legislators actively fought against it. This one will be watched carefully by both sides since it provides for licensed social clubs that can sell cannabis.

Massachusetts voters approved Question 4, which creates a Cannabis Control Commission appointed by the state treasurer, which means that two states on the East Coast now allow adults to purchase cannabis. And voters in Nevada approved recreational sales, with a 15 percent excise tax to be used for state education and a provision to allow residents to grow their own if they are 25 miles from the nearest dispensary.

Many had feared that Republican opposition in the state and the influence of casino owner Sheldon Adelson, who bought the state’s largest newspaper and changed its editorial policy, would sink the legislation. Though he was unable to influence Nevadans, Adelson and other conservative groups were able to energize anti-legalization efforts in Arizona, the only state among nine where voters defeated its initiative.

All four states that had medical marijuana initiatives on their ballots approved them. After a similar measure failed to get the required 60 percent of the vote two years ago, more than 70 percent of Floridians voted for Amendment 2, making it the first Southern state to approve any cannabis use, with Arkansas following closely behind. That state’s Issue 6, which got 53 percent voter approval, creates a Medicinal Marijuana Commission and will allow marijuana to be used to treat 17 medical conditions. Montana’s Initiative 182, which lets cannabis stores closed by a state Supreme Court order in August to reopen, allows cannabis to treat PTSD, and expands the number of medical marijuana patients a doctor can treat, was passed by 55 percent of voters.

North Dakota’s Compassionate Care Act, which was approved by more than 60 percent of voters, lets the state’s Department of Health decide which conditions can be treated, allows medical marijuana to be produced and distributed in non-profit "compassion centers," and lets citizens living more than 40 miles from the nearest center to grow their own plants indoors. Twenty nine states now allow some form of medical cannabis, and in eight states adults are able to purchase and possess marijuana. When will Congress actually follow the will of its citizens and end the Drug War charade?