Tuesday’s midterm elections could make recreational marijuana legal in two more states.Voters who show up to the polls in Michigan and North Dakota on November 6 decide whether to green-light recreational use. If approved, the states will join nine others, plus Washington D.C., where recreational use is already legal — Washington, Oregon, Nevada, California, Colorado, Alaska, Vermont, Maine and Massachusetts.
Less aggressive cannabis-related measures are at stake in Missouri, Utah and Ohio. And races in Florida and Kentucky, viewed by some as referendums on pot, could tip the likelihood of expanded legalization.
Here’s a closer look at state ballot initiatives and races across the country.
Michigan’s Hemp Legalization Initiative, or Proposal 1, would legalize recreational use for those 21 and older, yet leave it up to municipalities whether to keep recreational use illegal and ban or restrict commercial enterprise within their boundaries. If passed, the bill would permit industrial hemp production and let individuals grow up to 12 cannabis plants at a time. Public consumption would remain prohibited. Michigan’s bill proposes one of the lowest cannabis tax levels in the nation. Retailers would pay a 10 percent excise tax, proceeds of which would go to local governments, education and infrastructure expenses, and consumers would pay a 6 percent sales tax, the same rate already imposed on the state’s retail goods.
North Dakota’s Measure 3 initiative takes its legalization bill one step further, matching Michigan’s 21-year-old age requirement, plus providing automatic expungement of criminal records for certain drug offense convictions, including certain marijuana violations. Critics say the bill doesn’t go far enough because it fails to lay out regulatory and enforcement details. All marijuana sales in North Dakota would fall under the state sales tax of 5 percent, with additional local taxes that range from 5 percent to 8.5 percent, according to Cole Haymond, a Connecticut resident and Advisor for Legalize ND who joined the effort to legalize marijuana in North Dakota.
On Florida’s November ballot, voters will have the chance to repeal a state constitutional provision that keeps alleged and convicted marijuana drug offenders on the hook, even if the state decriminalizes the drug. Amendment 11would relax the current rule that says violators can still be prosecuted even if the state’s criminal statutes are amended. The governor’s race in Florida is also viewed by some as a referendum on recreational legalization. Democratic candidate and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum supports recreational legalization. His opponent, U.S. Representative Ron DeSantis, has expressed concern about marijuana getting into the hands of minors. DeSantis voted against a measure that would have made marijuana access and use easier for veterans. Both candidates support medicinal use, which is already permitted under state law.
In Kentucky, marijuana use remains fully illegal, though both Republican and Democratic lawmakers are behind proposals for change. Republican state senator, Dan Seum, who led a legislative effort introducing SB 80 to legalize recreational cannabis beginning in January this year, is vying for reelection. He and other lawmakers view legalization as a way to dig the state out of mounting debt by bringing in an estimated $100 million in new tax revenues. The state’s House Bill HB 166 stalled in March, which would have made marijuana available for certain patients with “qualifying debilitating illness.”