All four of the medical marijuana initiatives being considered by states on Election Night were approved by voters, adding to the considerable momentum of marijuana policy reform sweeping the country. Voters in Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota approved initiatives for new medical marijuana programs, and Montana voted to significantly expand access and improve its existing program.
As of now, there are effective medical marijuana laws on the books in 28 states and the District of Columbia, covering 198 million Americans (or roughly 62% of the population). Patients in states without legal, safe, and reliable access to medical marijuana should continue to put pressure on their elected representatives to pass sensible reforms at the state and federal level. Together, we can make sure the seriously ill aren't treated like criminals for much longer.
The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Arizona filed an initiative with the Secretary of State’s Office this afternoon that, if approved by voters in November 2016, would legalize marijuana for adults and establish a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol.
In summary, the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act would:
- allow adults 21 years of age and older to possess and privately consume and grow limited amounts of marijuana (it will remain illegal to consume marijuana in public);
- create a system in which licensed businesses can produce and sell marijuana to adults and establish a Department of Marijuana Licenses and Control to regulate the cultivation, manufacturing, testing, transportation, and sale of marijuana;
- provide local governments with the authority to regulate and prohibit marijuana businesses; and
- establish a 15% tax on adult marijuana sales in addition to standard sales taxes.
Once the Secretary of State approves the initiative, the campaign must collect 150,642 signatures from registered Arizona voters in order to qualify for the November 2016 ballot. Far more will be needed to ensure enough of the signatures are valid, so the campaign will need as much help as it can get.
The Marijuana Policy Project is gearing up for a 2016 campaign to tax and regulate marijuana in another Southwestern state, Nevada.
Although a recent poll found that a majority of Nevada residents (54%) support legalizing marijuana for adults and 39% voted in favor of legalization on a 2002 ballot, MPP’s communications director Mason Tvert said that there are several reasons to wait until the November 2016 election to launch a petition. By 2016, Tvert said, the campaign will almost certainly have the funds and public support necessary to launch a successful petition drive and secure a victory.
“Given the costs, is it worth trying in 2014 and getting 49.9% of the votes when if we wait until 2016 [we can] get well over 50%?,” Tvert said.
Politicians in Nevada have already expressed their support for ending the current prohibitionist regime. Assemblyman Joe Hogan introduced a bill to tax and regulate marijuana in March, saying that the state wastes barrels of money “spoiling teenagers’ lives.” Assemblyman Andrew Martin testified in favor of legalization, arguing that it could secure nearly $500 million a year in tax revenue for schools.
Last weekend, California NORML hosted Cannabis in California: Ending the 100-Year War, an inspiring conference that brought together advocates from across the state, country, and even as far as New Zealand. Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the event – California will almost surely see a statewide initiative in 2016 similar to those approved in Colorado and Washington, and it appears local and national activists and organizations will be unified in the effort to get it done.
On the first panel, California NORML Director Dale Gieringer explained how the California State Board of Pharmacy quietly pushed a ban on possession of “hemp, or loco-weed“ through the legislature in 1913 without it receiving any press or opposition. In contrast to that very quiet campaign to demonize and ban marijuana, reversing this failed policy will be very public, and it will undoubtedly face some opposition.
For an initiative to succeed in California, however, it’s important that the opposition doesn’t come from our base. Hence, it was particularly heartening to see so much unity at the conference and at an MPP-hosted strategy meeting on Thursday. Reform organizations, funders, and advocates overwhelmingly supported putting a marijuana regulation initiative on the next presidential ballot in 2016, rather than 2014 (when voter turnout is much less favorable) and working together to see it through. It will be some time before the details of any measure and campaign are hammered out. In the meantime, there appears to be widespread support for advancing statewide regulations on medical marijuana.
For those who are eager to start building support for 2016, we can look to the 2012 Colorado campaign’s “Talk It Up” project, which helped build support leading up to the election by encouraging people to start conversations about the issue with their friends, family members, and others. It’s these personal discussions that change people’s minds and make them more comfortable supporting an end to marijuana prohibition, so start talking it up today!