All eyes may be on the Clinton versus Trump circus this election, but November 8 will also be the most important moment yet for marijuana in the United States.
Nine states are voting on marijuana reform.
Five—California, Arizona, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts, totaling about fifteen percent of the country’s population—are considering adult-use legalization.
Four more—North Dakota, Arkansas, Montana and Florida, another ten percent of the US population—have medical marijuana on the ballot.
With weed already legal to some degree in 25 states, and polls showing wide support in the biggest races next month, it seems clear that the story after November will turn to when, not if, prohibitions on the federal level are revisited.
Indeed, support is only growing. A majority of Americans (58 percent) favor legal marijuana use. And for the first time in history, the presidential candidates from both parties have also stated support for states to do as they please with pot legalization. Nonetheless, despite Clinton or Trump’s support for states’ rights, the leadership in Congress will determine whether federal marijuana bills can arrive at a vote, while the incoming attorney general will guide law enforcement and the Department of Justice.
Hillary Clinton has proposed to reschedule cannabis, though not to deschedule it. After the DEA’s decision this summer not to reschedule, Clinton’s team reaffirmed her commitment to rescheduling if elected. “As Hillary Clinton has said throughout this campaign, we should make it easier to study marijuana so that we can better understand its potential benefits, as well as its side effects,” said Maya Harris, senior policy advisor to Clinton’s campaign. “As president, Hillary will build on the important steps announced today by rescheduling marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule II substance. She will also ensure Colorado, and other states that have enacted marijuana laws, can continue to serve as laboratories of democracy.” According to Clinton, the four states to have already legalized weed are important examples for other states considering legalization, as well as for the federal government. Clinton has also said she would continue to enforce marijuana laws along the same moderately hands-off guidelines as the Obama administration.
While once Donald Trump had stated support for legalizing all drugs, during a Miami Herald luncheon in 1990, he’s since scaled back his position. He’s called for more research on cannabis, though doesn’t support legalization outright. When asked about Colorado’s legal adult use program, Trump at one point called it “bad,” but does recognize the validity in medical laws. “I think medical should happen — right?” Trump said during a Nevada rally last fall. “I really believe we should leave it up to the states.”
With that said, Trump’s top candidates for attorney general are New Jersey governor Chris Christie and Alabama senator Jeff Sessions. Both would be disastrous for marijuana law reform. Christie has indicated he would enforce federal law even in green states, while according to Sessions, “good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
Sessions also believes that marijuana is not safer than alcohol because Lady Gaga has claimed to be addicted to pot.
If either of these choices were to become attorney general, state pot legislation would need the protection of marijuana law reform on the federal level.
Still overall, common opinion on pot law is “loosening up,” says Michael Collins, deputy director at Drug Policy Action, the political arm of the Drug Policy Alliance. Every year, the marijuana law reform movement gains momentum, in public conversation and at the ballot box. “There’s a sense of inevitability, the question is more when, not if,” he says. As more and more states that already have medical laws consider full-scale legalization, Collins predicts a similar eventual outcome on the national level. To eradicate the conflict between state and federal law, we need a president committed to ending federal prohibition, he says.
It will also be interesting to compare how many votes the marijuana initiatives get, versus how many votes state senators get. In 2012, for example, Colorado’s legalization initiative garnered more votes than President Obama did, notes Tom Angell, project oversight and communications manager at Marijuana Majority. “Will legal marijuana get more votes than the winning Senate candidates?”
Here’s an overview of what voters across the country will be considering on Nov. 8.
Arizona: Prop 205 — Arizona Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act
Arizona’s Prop 205 aims to regulate marijuana like alcohol. This full legalization initiative would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of weed, up to five grams of concentrate, and to grow up to six plants. They would be allowed to consume their pot only in private, with no more than 12 plants allowed in a single residence.
The law would also establish a Department of Marijuana Licenses and Control, regulating cultivation, manufacturing, transportation, testing, and sale. Pot would be sold out of licensed businesses, regulated and limited by local governments. Pot dispensaries would be capped at 10 percent of the total number of liquor store licenses, of which there are fewer than 180.
Pot retail sales would be subject to a 15 percent excise tax, which would go toward implementation and enforcement of the new policy regulations. Other tax revenue would go to the Department of Education (80 percent) for constructing, maintaining, and operating schools, as well as full-day kindergarten programs, and to the Department of Health Services (20 percent) for public drug and alcohol education.
In Arizona currently, unless you’re a qualified patient, possessing any amount of weed is a felony. Between 2005 and 2014, the state saw 138,000 arrests for simple marijuana possession.
Blacks in Arizona are 2.4 times more likely than whites to be arrested for possession, despite fairly equal use rates among the two demographics.
From both within and outside Arizona, Prop 205 faces considerable opposition. In August, the Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit brought by Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy, which sought to block Prop 205 from the ballot. A lower court judge said that they had no right to sue and rejected all reasons the proposition’s opponents tried to keep it off the ballot, including that it has a misleading title and didn’t identify where its revenue came from. Meanwhile, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers urges opposition to the bill, citing that more children will smoke weed than before — which is what he says has happened in Colorado. Research, however, suggests otherwise.
According to survey data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Colorado teens smoke about as much weed as they did back in 2012, when the state voted to legalize. In fact, though 21 percent of Colorado teens had used marijuana within the past 30 days, according to 2015 data, that’s four percent lower than the national average.
Arkansas: Issue 7 — The Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act
Arkansas’s medical marijuana law would establish a program for licensing, testing, and distributing medical cannabis. Patients who suffer from one of a list of over 50 qualifying conditions would be able to obtain a doctor’s recommendation and buy marijuana from one of the 38 non-profit dispensaries that would be licensed under the new law. Patients with a “hardship certificate” who live too far from a dispensary would be able to cultivate their own plants.
Issue 7 has support from 68 percent of the voters polled by Public Opinion Strategies, though opponents are have appealed to the Arkansas State Supreme Court to block it. Arkansans Against Legalized Marijuana says Issue 7 is misleading about its consequences, claiming that it “omits material information that is essential for a fair understanding of the act.” The group also complained that the ballot title wasn’t explicit enough about the measure allowing dispensaries to sell cannabis-infused food and drink, and its potential effect on employers, landlords, schools, and churches.
Issue 7 also must compete against Issue 6, the Arkansas Marijuana Amendment (an amendment to the state constitution, rather than an act), which forbids home grow and provides for fewer qualifying conditions that allow patients to get recommendations. Unlike Issue 7, Issue 6 puts no limit on the fees required for patient recommendation cards. And while Issue 7 requires that all sales tax revenue go back into the medical marijuana program, Issue 6 requires that it be divided amongst the medical program (10 percent), the Skills Development Fund (10 percent), the state’s General Fund (30 percent), and the state’s Vocational and Technical Training Special Revenue Fund (50 percent). Arkansans Against Legalized Medical Marijuana also filed a Supreme Court suit against Issue 6’s ballot title. If both Issue 7 and Issue 6 are on the ballot and each receives majority approval, the one with more “yes” votes will win out over the other.
Currently, Arkansas’s marijuana laws are among the harshest in the nation. Possession of less than four ounces of weed is a misdemeanor with up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine. Third strike possession of more than an ounce is a felony, punishable of up six years in prison and a $6,000 fine. Of 2012’s 5,718 marijuana arrests in Arkansas, over 90 percent were for possession.
Meanwhile, 91 percent of reported burglaries and car thefts went unsolved, as law enforcement wasted its resources on weed.
According to a poll of 751 likely voters, 58 percent were in favor of Issue 7 while 34 percent opposed it.
California: Prop 64 — Adult Use of Marijuana Act
Prop 64 is among the most significant legalization measures in the nation, with ramifications far outside California’s borders. As the sixth largest economy in the world, California could serve as an example to other states, the federal government, and even other nations looking to make pot legal. Prop 64 has been called the “gold standard” for legalization by Lynne Lyman, California state director for the Drug Policy Alliance.
Prop 64 would allow adults 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of weed and eight grams of concentrates, and to grow up to six plants at home. Retail weed would be subject to a 15 percent sales tax, in addition to state and local taxes. Legalization in California is projected to generate up to $1 billion and $100 million in annual saves. The money would fund public university research on legalization ($10 million), medical cannabis research ($2 million) DUI protocols ($3 million), and rebuilding communities victimized by the Drug War ($50 million over five years). The remaining revenue would fund environmental cleanup from pre-existing or illegal grow operations (20 percent), youth drug use prevention and law enforcement (20 percent), and treatment and education (60 percent).
Prop 64 also accounts for 19 different kinds of licenses, for different sized grow facilities, retailers, and vertically integrated micro-businesses, such as a “bud-and-breakfast.” And to initially offset large scale monopoly interests, licenses for the largest scale industrial-size grow operations would be banned for the first five years of the adult use program.
The initiative also has a strong social justice component. If passed, the bill would allow marijuana convictions to be reduced or expunged upon request. This applies to anyone who is imprisoned, has completed their sentence, or is on probation or parole. However, people with prior felony convictions for violations like embezzlement, fraud, and drug trafficking would not be able to be licensed to run marijuana businesses under Prop 64.
However, while Prop 64 is likely to pass, with endorsement from major publications such as the Los Angeles Times and polling around 60 percent in support, the initiative is controversial even within California’s cannabis community. Cultivators who have grown comfortable and accustomed to the state’s 20-year-old hazy gray market fear over-regulation and eventually being overrun by mega marijuana companies. Meanwhile, those in the medical marijuana industry are only now just starting to figure out new regulations put forth by the MCRA (Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act). Prop 64’s supporters must also fight misconceptions conflating MCRSA with AUMA. Moreover, anti-pot mogul Kevin Sabet and his group SAM, Smart Approaches to Marijuana, have put forth $2 million to fight legalization.
Florida: Amendment 2 — Use of Marijuana for Debilitating Conditions
On its second try at medical marijuana, Florida seems poised for victory. Seventy percent of voters in the state support Amendment 2, which would allow qualifying patients to possess and purchase medical marijuana from licensed dispensaries, called “Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers.” These MMTCs would be responsible for acquiring, cultivating, possessing, processing, transferring, transporting, selling, distributing, dispensing, or administering pot and pot products.
Under Amendment 2, only patients with “debilitating medical conditions” would be eligible to obtain cannabis medicine. These conditions include cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, post-traumatic stress disorder, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. The recommending physician must also believe that using medical marijuana would outweigh potential health risks to the patient. (Luckily, pot bears little physical risk to the user and has never, ever, caused any fatalities.)
Seventy percent seems like a huge margin of support, but under Florida law the amendment needs 60 percent of the vote to pass. In 2014, a similar amendment failed by just two percent of the vote. The No on 2 campaign has secured more than $1 million in TV reservations to advertise against it. The amendment’s proponents, United For Care, have also secured $1 million to film TV advertisements urging voters to finally pass a medical marijuana law.
Amendment 2 must also overcome the hump of gross misconceptions about it. Some people falsely believe that the majority of Florida’s patients with debilitating medical conditions already have access to medical marijuana. In fact, only a tiny fraction have access. Additionally, many people don’t realize that local municipalities will be able to limit the number and locations of medical marijuana businesses.
Under Florida’s already-existing, limited medical marijuana law only very few terminally ill patients are exempt from criminal sanctions and allowed to consume cannabis oil in the form of a pill, injection, or vapor. They also need the approval of not one, but two doctors.
Florida’s CBD-only law covers only patients who suffer from cancer, muscle spasms, seizures, or who have less than a year left to live. They’re allowed to have cannabis with no more than .8 percent THC, though some terminally ill patients can access higher THC strains from state-licensed dispensaries. Florida’s first dispensary opened this past summer in Tallahassee.
Proponents are optimistic. The millennial vote plus weed’s increasing normalization, especially in the Miami area, where 20 grams of weed or less has been decriminalized, bode well for medical legalization.
Maine: Question 1 — Marijuana Legalization Act
If Maine voters pass Question 1, adults 21 and older would be allowed to possess up to 2.5 ounces of weed and cultivate up to six plants for personal use. Retail cannabis would be subject to a 10 percent sales tax, while non-commercial transactions and medical marijuana would remain tax-free. Smoking in public would remain illegal. Local jurisdictions would also have the authority to prohibit marijuana retail stores, cultivation facilities, product-manufacturing facilities, and testing facilities.
Because Maine’s Marijuana Legalization Act occupies the first place on the ballot, it may have a better chance of passing, according to court-qualified marijuana expert Chris Conrad, since historically first measures on the ballot get more votes.
The legalization measure made it to the ballot this past April only after a court-ordered review of petition signatures that had previously been invalidated by the Maine Secretary of State’s Office. The measure received more than the required 61,123 signatures to qualify.
According to an April poll conducted by the Maine’s People’s Resource Center, more than half the state’s voters support the initiative; 42 percent oppose it. Travel writer Rick Steves, a board member of NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) offered to match every donation up to $500,000 in support of the initiative.
Voters aren’t quite sure, however, where the tax revenue from legal marijuana would go in Maine. “It would be great if some of the revenue that’s generated from this legalization could stay in the community where it’s having the most impact,” said Ethan Strimling, mayor of Portland, Maine. That would mean funding substance abuse programs to counter any negative consequences from legalization. Others say it should help fund child foster care programs.
Retail weed would be subject to a ten percent sales tax, on top of Maine’s 5.5 percent sales tax. The initial $30 million in tax revenue would go to school construction, while the remainder would be go to the General Fund.
One group opposing the initiative are the Maine police chiefs. They say Question 1 is poorly written and would have a negative effect on communities. “We do value the will of the voter, but we have this extreme sense of responsibility on what is safe and healthy for our communities,” said Sagadahoc County Sheriff Joel Merry, president of the Maine Sheriffs’ Association.
Their concenrs include driving under the influence of marijuana, youth consumption, and edible overdoses. In regard to youth access, advocates for the initiative say teen use could drop because dispensaries, unlike dealers, check identification. The initiative’s opponents, however, say that normalizing weed would encourage more teens to try it.
Massachusetts: Question 4 — The Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act
Massachusetts’ legalization initiative would allow adults 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of weed in public (but not consume it publically) and up to 10 ounces in an enclosed space at home. They can also grow up to six plants and possess the bud and other products cultivated from those plants, in the same location where they were grown.
Under the new law, a commission similar to the Alcohol Beverage Control Commission would oversee a tightly regulated system of licensed dispensaries, cultivation facilities, testing facilities, and manufacturing facilities. Driving under the influence of marijuana would remain illegal, while all drug policies in the workplace would be allowed to remain as is.
Retail weed would be subject to a 3.75 percent excise tax on sales, in addition to a 6.25 percent Massachusetts sales tax. Cities and towns would also be able to tax up to 2 percent, and have the power to limit or ban marijuana businesses.
Some have objected to the initiative’s high taxes on legal marijuana, referring to the state as “Taxachusetts.” Arguments against the high taxes say they could encourage consumers to stay in the underground, tax-free black market. “We want the tax to be low enough to be able to fund the regulation and the administration of the initiative, but also to undercut the illicit market,” said Jim Borghesani, spokesman for Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which sponsors Question 4.
But even Colorado has a 10 percent tax on retail weed, while Washington has a 37 percent excise tax and Oregon a 25 percent sales tax.
Others think Massachusetts’ marijuana tax is too low. “Any claims that this ballot question would be a revenue generator for the Commonwealth would be fool’s gold,” said State Senator Jason Lewis. “At this tax rate it may not even cover the full cost of regulating the industry.”
Similar to his effort in Maine, Rick Steves is touring Massachusetts in support of Question 4. He’s also offered to match donations up to $100,000. “There are so many reasons to end the prohibition of marijuana,” Steves said. “Whether you’re concerned about the wellbeing of children, fairness for our minority communities, redirecting money away from criminals and into our state’s coffers, stemming the horrific bloodshed in Mexico, or civil liberties, it is clearly time for a new approach.”
Montana: I-182 — Montana Medical Marijuana Initiative
Montana’s medical marijuana initiative improves the state’s already existing medical legislation. It would remove the limit that each licensed provider only cover three patients, while allowing providers to hire employees to cultivate, dispense, and transport medical cannabis. The law also repeals the current requirement that any doctor who wrote 25 or more recommendations be referred to the board of medical examiners. Moreover, I-182 bans law enforcement from conducting unannounced inspections of medical marijuana facilities. Instead the new law would require the state to make annual inspections.
In 2004, Montana had already passed I-148 by 64 percent of the vote, which created a medical marijuana program. The Montana Legislature later repealed that program in 2011 and replaced it with Senate Bill 423, a new law that has failed to effectively cover patients. I-182 aims to remedy SB 423’s restrictions.
“It’s a much more comprehensive bill that’s actually designed to work for the people,” said U.S. Marine Corps Combat Veteran Talyn Lang, who medicates with cannabis. The new law would also allow veterans and other patients with post-traumatic stress disorder to access medical marijuana, while making it easier for patients with chronic pain to obtain cannabis medicine, as well.
Safe Montana, an anti-marijuana group, has raised $105,000, 98 percent of which comes from Stephen Zabawa, who owns car dealerships around Billings. “We know there’s nothing good about federally illegal Schedule I drugs,” Zabawa said.
Safe Montana originally campaigned for I-176, which would have repealed Montana’s medical marijuana program. When that initiative failed to garner enough signatures, Safe Montana focused its efforts on opposing I-182.
Medical marijuana proponents have raised money against Zabawa. “This is wrong. We must remedy this,” says the Montana Cannabis Industry Association. Medical marijuana supporters, Montana Citizens for I-182, have also filed a complaint against Safe Montana: They claim that Safe Montana’s finances reports were late, vague, and didn’t disclose purchases of billboards that went up in September. “Vote No I-182. No Pot Shops,” the billboards read.
Zabawa denied these allegations, and went on Facebook asking people to give the I-182 page a one-star review. “If that’s the best they got, they’r’e in trouble,” said Zabawa. “They’re running scared right now.”
Nevada: Question 2 — Nevada Marijuana Legalization Initiative
Nevada’s legalization measure would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of weed and grow up to six plants non-commercially. Wholesale marijuana sales would be subject to a 15 percent excise tax, imposed on licensed cultivators, while retail marijuana sales would be subject state and local taxes. The taxes would support regulating and enforcing the program, with the remainder of the revenue would going to education.
According to a report from the Las Vegas-based RCG Economics and the Marijuana Policy Group, legalization would bring in $393 million in annual sales in Nevada in 2018. By 2024, sales would increase to $485 million, and more than $1.1 billion overall, regarding everything related to the legal adult-use weed industry. The excise and sales taxes alone would garner more than $60 million in annual revenue, $20 million of which would benefit the state’s schools. The measure would also create 3,300 jobs directly related to the cannabis industry, and 6,200 jobs overall.
The measure would have a significant impact on social justice, too: Blacks in Nevada are 4.5 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession, despite comparable rates of use, according to a 2010 ACLU report.
Many groups however are concerned the bill would bring about more harm than good. “We believe when voters of Nevada are educated on this issue, they are going to reject legalizing and commercializing a retail drug,” Pat Hickey, spokesman for the “No on 2” campaign, said. “Legalizing pot in Nevada would mass-market child-friendly, edible pot products, putting them within easy reach of our kids,” proclaims the anti-legalization campaign, which is organizing a number of spots for TV ads and mailers, leading up to the election.
Another anti-legalization campaign put forth by a group called Protecting Nevada’s Children, also has “heavy-hitter” support from Governor Brian Sandoval and the casino industry. Lobbyists from the casino industry fear that those going for casino licenses may face extra scrutiny from Nevada gambling regulators were they also to become involved in the weed industry.
Still, supporters of Question 2, including Nevada State Senator Tick Segerblom, are optimistic it will pass. “Let’s bring it out in the open. Let’s tax it and let’s test it,” said Segerblom. “Let’s regulate.” He’s currently working on a bill to address issues with edibles, to ensure they won’t look like candy that would be attractive to kids.
Nevada already legalized medical marijuana in 2000, but it took 13 years for the legislature to finally allow dispensaries. By the July 2016, about 18,600 patients had recommendations. Nevada’s dispensaries also accept recommendations from other states to accommodate the state’s tourists.
North Dakota: The North Dakota Compassionate Care Act 2016
North Dakota’s medical marijuana program would allow eligible patients to have up to three ounces of medical cannabis preparations with a doctor’s recommendation. About 20 conditions are covered under the law, including HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, epilepsy, chronic back pain, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The program would also set up a system regulating the state’s dispensaries, which the state calls “compassionate care centers.” Patients and caregivers who live more than 40 miles from one of these “compassionate care centers” would be allowed to cultivate up to eight plants at home.
Passing medical marijuana would be a significant step in the state’s road to marijuana law reform, as North Dakota has among the harshest marijuana laws in the country, according to the Marijuana Policy Project. A first-time bust for even one joint is punishable by a $2,000 fine and a year in prison. Non-whites are also disproportionately affected: The American Civil Liberties Union reported in 2013 that blacks are 4.4 times more likely to be arrested for weed possession in North Dakota.
In 2014, polling indicated that 47 percent of North Dakota voters supported medical marijuana, while 41 percent opposed it. However, the state is particularly conservative, with authorities already cautioning the public about the high cost to implementing a medical program, and it’s hard to tell what effect the unusual Trump-Clinton match-up will have on the character of the voting population this year. According to the North Dakota Health Department, regulating the program would cost more than $3.5 million. The state treasury already falls short $310 million, while officials consider cuts to the Health Department and other state agencies. Supporters of the bill, however, dispute the Health Department’s official cost predictions.
The bill also faces opposition from the North Dakota Medical Association. “The proposed petition would be very difficult to implement in a safe and cost-effective manner,” according to the NDMA. “Furthermore, medical marijuana has not been tested or vetted through the Federal Drug Administration’s protocols…Therefore, dosage, side effects, and contraindications of medical marijuana are not fully known. As an organization that holds evidence-based medicine in the highest regard, the North Dakota Medical Association cannot endorse medical marijuana.”
Despite the state’s conservative reputation, supporters are optimistic. “Even though we are a conservative state, I think most of the voters in this state would view this as an alternative to prescription drugs that we know are harmful,” said Rilie Ray Morgan, who sponsors the initiative.
Oklahoma: State Question 788
Oklahoma’s medical marijuana act would establish a licensing system to allow eligible patients to possess up to three ounces of cannabis on their person in public, one ounce of concentrate, 72 ounces of edibles, eight ounces of weed at home, and to grow up to six plants. Local jurisdictions would have the power to limit marijuana establishments within their borders.
It’s unlikely, however, for the bill to make the ballot. Although medical marijuana proponents collected enough signatures for the measure to qualify for the ballot, they are challenging the attorney general’s rewording of the measure’s title on the ballot. This issue pending, it may be that Oklahoma decides on medical marijuana in a special election after Nov. 8.
Attorney General Scott Pruitt said the bill’s proponents didn’t submit the petition’s signatures early enough to account for any legal challenges before the state’s Election Board needing to print and send out ballots.
However, a special election after Nov. 8 could cost $1.2 million, which the state is unlikely to spend, amidst its pre-existing financial woes. Hence, the measure may instead appear on the 2018 ballot.
There’s a sideshow here as well. The attorney general rewrote the official description of the law on the ballot, playing up the “legalizing marijuana” aspect and downplaying the “medical” part, presumably to make the law seem more radical to the state’s conservative voters. Pruitt, however, calls his rewrite “succinct and objective.”
Currently, Oklahoma has a high-CBD law that offers limited protection to patients who use low-THC, high-CBD cannabis oil for specific medications. However, the law provides no way for patients to actually get access to the CBD cannabis oil within Oklahoma. It also excludes patients who would benefit from higher THC strains of cannabis.
In regard to the state’s marijuana law overall, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed a bill in April that reduces the mandatory minimum sentences for second marijuana possession convictions by half. That new law goes into effect Nov. 1. Regardless, Oklahoma still has some of the harshest marijuana penalties in the nation: up to one year in jail and a $1000 fine for a first offense, and a mandatory minimum of one year in jail, and up to five, and a fine of $5000 for a second offense. Blacks are also 2.9 times more likely than whites to get busted for simple possession in Oklahoma.
At the Congressional level, a few key races in the Senate and House can have a great influence on whether marijuana legislation can make it to the floor and to a vote. One of the major pending bills right now is the CARERS Act, which would classify marijuana as Schedule II, while seeking to protect patient access to marijuana in states that have already passed their own medical legislation. In addition to facilitating research, the bill also clears up federal banking issues currently plaguing marijuana businesses, and would allow VA doctors in any green state to recommend marijuana to veterans.
To ensure that legislation like the CARERS Act and other marijuana bills have a chance at passing through Congress, a couple key races are worth paying attention to.
Incumbent Republican senator Chuck Grassley from Iowa and chairman of the Judiciary Committee is running for re-election against Democrat Patty Judge. It’s been difficult to move anything marijuana related passed Grassley, says Collins of Drug Policy Action.
In Florida, incumbent Republican Senator Marco Rubio is also up for reelection, running against Democrat Patrick Murphy. During his now-defunct presidential campaign, Rubio had pushed for enforcing federal marijuana laws in legal green states.
In Illinois, incumbent Republican Senator Mark Kirk, who has consistently voted against marijuana law reform, is running against Democrat Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth. She has voted in favor of House amendments protecting medical marijuana laws from federal interference. Polling shows that Duckworth is in the lead.
Lastly, among significant federal races, Republican congressman John Fleming of Louisiana, who has been notoriously vocal against marijuana law reform, is up for re-election. “There are only a handful of old-school reefer madness legislators willing to fight left in Congress,” said Bill Piper, senior director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, and Fleming is one of them. If no candidate wins in the Nov. 8 “jungle primary,” the top two will face off in a Dec. 3 re-election.
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