2018 Midterms: Marijuana Legalization Update

Much of the attention around US midterm elections currently centers on which party will control the House next year; under the radar, however, is the question of how many more states will legalize marijuana use in some form.

This year’s midterms may turn out to be a referendum on President Trump with his low approval numbers, but it could also push forward more marijuana legalization in the US. Already this year Vermont legalized recreational marijuana through its state legislature, making it the ninth state plus DC in which retail use is legal. Oklahoma also became the 30th state where medical marijuana is legal after its residents voted on the issue back in June.

Come November, Americans will be able to vote on marijuana ballot initiatives in four more states. Here’s where these initiatives currently stand:

  • Michigan: Citizens here will likely vote to legalize the possession and sale of recreational cannabis on November 6th. In a new poll (September 5-7) of 600 likely voters from The Detroit News and WDIV-TV, +56% of respondents said they would support marijuana legalization vs. 38% who opposed or 6% who were undecided.
    Most Democrats said they would support legalization, and even nearly half of Republicans (49%) and self-identified strong Republicans (41%) agreed. By contrast, only 37% of those over the age of 65 said they would vote in favor of legalization vs 79% for 18-29 year-olds and 72% for 30-39 year-olds. In other words, support for marijuana legalization in Michigan is mostly non-partisan, but age does play a role.
    Source: Detroit News
  • North Dakota: Legalizing adult use of marijuana here will be tougher than in Michigan. A statewide poll of 400 people conducted by advertising and PR firm Odney found that only 38% said they would vote in favor of legalization. Fifty-six percent of participants said they would not support the measure, while 6% were undecided or did not answer.
    Males were more likely to vote in favor of the measure (44%) compared to females (32%). Those under the age of 35 were also more supportive of legalization (66%) compared to older cohorts (34% of 35-54 year-olds in favor and 32% of those 55 and older). Politics was a strong factor in North Dakota as well: 53% of respondents who identified as Democrats said they would vote yes to the measure compared to 41% for Independents and 25% for Republicans.
    Source: Grand Forks Herald
  • Missouri & Utah: Missouri has three initiatives to legalize the possession and sale of medical marijuana. Two are proposed constitutional amendments and one is a statutory amendment; the one that receives the most votes will likely succeed. Regardless, 54% of citizens in the state are in favor of legalizing marijuana for medical purposes according to a survey of 1,785 General Election voters this year that was conducted on August 8-9 by TJP Strategies and Missouri Scout; 35% opposed and 11% are undecided.
    Utah is also voting on medical marijuana legalization, where support remains high. Sixty-four percent of likely voters are either “somewhat” or “strongly” in favor according to a Dan Jones and Associates poll of 809 people between August 22-31 for UtahPolicy.com. It was higher in May at 66%, but still in the majority even after The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints formally opposed the measure.
    Sources: Missouri ScoutSalt Lake City Tribune

Bottom line, three out of four states will likely approve marijuana use in some form this November, adding +19 million Americans to the roster of existing +215 million who live in states where it is already legal. Moreover, these ballot initiatives do not include New Jersey (9 million residents) which will likely soon pass recreational cannabis use and sales in its state legislature. Public marijuana stocks have already received a boost from national legalization in Canada and deal-making with liquor companies. Expect more positive headlines next month, but as we’ve warned in our prior note about bubbles treat these stocks with caution.