What This Year’s Elections Mean for Marijuana Legalization

This week marked another big election for strides towards more marijuana legalization. Here were some notable wins:

  • New Jersey elected Phil Murphy as its next governor who campaigned on the issue. This is a big switch from his predecessor Chris Christie who opposes legalizing marijuana. By contrast, incoming governor Murphy said during his primary election victory speech, “The criminalization of marijuana has only served to clog our courts and cloud people’s futures, so we will legalize marijuana.” He cites social justice as his reasoning for ending marijuana prohibition, as well as criminal justice reform. You can read more of his comments and tweets about the issue here.

New Jersey could even be the first state to allow legal retail cannabis sales through its legislature, rather than by a ballot measure. Last year, New Jersey State Senator Nicholas Scutari organized a trip for lawmakers to visit Colorado to tour marijuana dispensaries and meet with public health officials and business owners. Senate President Stephen Sweeney’s takeaway: “This is a game changer for the state. I’m committed to it. We are going to have a new governor in January 2018. As soon as the governor gets situated we are all here and we  intend to move quickly on it.” More here.

  • Virginia elected its current Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam as its next governor. He campaigned on decriminalizing marijuana. In a blog post this year, he said “African Americans are 2.8 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession in Virginia. The Commonwealth spends more than $67 million on marijuana enforcement—money that could be better spent on rehabilitation.” He also supports the drug’s medicinal benefits: “As a doctor, I’m becoming increasingly convinced by the data showing potential health benefits of marijuana, such as pain relief, drug-resistant epilepsy, and treatment for PTSD. By decriminalizing it, our researchers can better study the plant so doctors can more effectively prescribe drugs made from it.”
  • Detroit also passed new medical marijuana ordinances with roughly 60% of the vote. Additionally, voters in Athens, Ohio overwhelmingly voted (77%) to eliminate all penalties for possessing or cultivating up to 200 grams of marijuana.
  • New Yorkers voted against a constitutional convention in which delegates would propose amendments to the state constitution at a convention in 2019 for voter approval. Some advocates believed they could use the convention to amend the constitution and legalize marijuana. Now advocates will have to turn towards convincing the state legislature for marijuana legalization.

Bottom line, all these little steps are part of a domino effect for marijuana legalization. Some states have already launched ballot measure campaigns to legalize medical or recreational marijuana next year, such as Michigan (recreational), Missouri (medical), Oklahoma (medical), South Dakota (medical and recreational), and Utah (medical). Other states could potentially legalize marijuana through their legislatures, such as New Jersey, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Source: Marijuana Business Daily (ballot measuresstate legislatures).

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