Marijuana Election 2016
This is it. It’s the year the history books will look back upon and declare, “this was the tipping point for the end of American marijuana prohibition.”
So make sure you’ve registered to vote in your state. You’ll want to be able to tell your grandchildren that you helped end the War on Drugs, what Judge Jim Gray called “the worst public policy decision since slavery.”
Here are the states that will legalize marijuana in 2016… with your help. (Note: other states may have initiatives circulating as of press time, but I’m concentrating on the eight most-likely to make the ballot.)
California: The Golden State boasts the eighth-largest economy in the world and 55 electoral votes in the presidential election. The Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) will legalize the possession of one ounce of marijuana, up to eight grams of that can be concentrates, and the cultivation of 6 cannabis plants indoors that no locality can ban, plus the complete results of your harvests.
Other penalties that are felonies or misdemeanors get reduced to misdemeanors or tickets or nothing at all, to the point where there will no longer be any possession felonies in California. The only penalty that increases is public toking, which rises from a $100 fine to $250.
There will be a commercial sales model that includes growers, processors, retailers, and testing labs. Localities, at their discretion, could license adult marijuana lounges, something Colorado, Washington, and Oregon still have yet to achieve. Taxes are a bit much, though – a 15 percent sales tax and $9.25 per ounce production tax.
Nevada: The Silver State is eagerly awaiting the legalization of marijuana as yet another entertainment option in the casino-strewn desert. It’s one of four legalization initiatives branded as CRMLA (crim-lah), which stands for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, and is written and promoted by the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).
The possession limits are similar to California’s AUMA, one ounce including seven grams of concentrate, and there will be a commercial retail system with a 15% excise tax, but that’s where the similarities end. Nevada’s CRMLA is far more restrictive than any of the currently-legal states or the other states with initiatives.
NV-CRMLA states that adults have the right to grow 6 plants each with a limit of 12 per household. But buried farther down in the language are penalties for anyone who cultivates marijuana within 25 miles of a licensed pot shop. Basically, that means most everyone living in the urban areas of Nevada won’t be able to home grow cannabis, leaving that only for residents in the far-flung rural deserts.
Furthermore, NV-CRMLA maintains draconian penalties for exceeding limits. Possession of more than one ounce moves you from legality to a felony intent-to-sell charge.
Arizona: The Grand Canyon State has the second CRMLA for us to review. It’s got much of the same boilerplate language as the other CRMLAs, allowing for possession of one ounce including just five grams of concentrate.
Unlike neighboring Nevada, however, Arizona will allow all adults to cultivate 6 plants each, with a maximum of 12 plants per household. Oddly, while NV-CRMLA is establishing a 25-mile no-home-grow zone around pot shops, AZ-CRMLA, by enabling all adults to home grow, is eliminating the 25-mile zone around its dispensaries that was established in their 2010 medical marijuana law written by MPP. Adults may possess the entire results of their harvests at the grow.
Personal use club, or pot lounges, aren’t immediately authorized, but the legislature may approve them starting in 2020. Drivers are protected from DUI prosecutions for inactive metabolites of marijuana. Parents are protected from losing their kids over marijuana use. Patients needing organ transplants are protected from being kicked off of organ waiting lists for their marijuana use.
Massachusetts: The Bay State has the third CRMLA in our review. Just like Arizona, it allows for one ounce possession including five grams of concentrate. Up to two ounces will just get you a $100 fine, and more than two ounces can no longer be prosecuted as a felony. Adults can cultivate 6 plants with a household limit of 12 and possess all the results of their harvest. Furthermore, even adults who don’t cultivate at home can possess up to ten ounces of marijuana.
Marijuana DUIs in Massachusetts must be proven by impairment, not metabolites, and there is no implied consent to a blood or urine draw by law enforcement. Massachusetts also proposes the lowest marijuana taxes in the existing or proposed states; just a 3.75 percent state tax and up to 2 percent local tax. There will be a commercial retail system, of course, and localities that wish to limit pot shops or other licensees below 1/5th of how many liquor licenses there are can only do so through a vote of the people (i.e. no city council bans by ordinance).
Maine: Our fourth CRMLA is actually language that came from another group, Regulate Maine, that cleaved with MPP to run the campaign. Thus, its language differs from the CRMLA boilerplate.
Maine will allow up to two-and-a-half ounces of possession, including concentrate. Yes, up to 2.5 ounces of concentrate will be legal! Felony possession doesn’t start until you’ve possessed a pound of marijuana. Adults will be able to cultivate 6 mature cannabis plants, 12 immature, and unlimited seedlings, but they must all be tagged with the grower’s name and Maine driver’s license number, which essentially limits home growing to Maine residents only. You may possess the entire results of your harvest at the grow.
There will be a commercial retail system, but localities can ban licensees by ordinance or by public vote. The tax will be 10 percent excise at the point of sale. Adults who consume cannabis are protected from employment discrimination – no drug tests to discriminate in hiring and continued employment. There is protection from child custody and housing discrimination as well, though landlords can still ban not just smoking, but possession and cultivation on their properties. Organ transplants, however, are not protected.
Those are the five states looking to legalize this November. We also have three states looking to legalize medical use of cannabis.
Florida: The Sunshine State narrowly missed passing medical marijuana in 2014, with 58 percent of a vote that required 60 percent to amend the constitution. The language from 2014 hasn’t changed much, except to tighten some definitions about caregivers that were attacked by opponents in the last campaign. The Florida system would include a commercial grow and dispensary system and patients would qualify with standard conditions like cancer, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, ALS, PTSD and the like, but also with any “comparable” malady that a doctor believes cannabis would help more than hurt.
Missouri: The Show-Me State is looking to pass a medical marijuana law as well. Its language is fairly robust, with a qualifying conditions list exceeding most medical marijuana states that includes the ability for doctors to recommend medical marijuana for any chronic or debilitation condition. There will be a commercial dispensary system, too.
Arkansas: Perhaps the longshot of the race, the Natural State is proposing a medical marijuana law. Home growing won’t be allowed unless you can qualify for a “Hardship Cultivation Certificate”, otherwise you must shop at dispensaries for medicine. The qualifying condition list has over fifty conditions, but for chronic pain, you’ll have to prove that other medications and surgery haven’t worked for three months.
There are the eight most-likely candidates to reform marijuana laws in 2016. Make sure you’re registered and you get out to vote.