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The 2018 Election: Why It’s Important for Cannabis & State by State Local Elections Update

The 2018 Election: Why It’s Important for Cannabis & State by State Local Elections Update

Note: This article is intended to be non-partisan and does not endorse or oppose any specific candidates or positions. It is intended to inform readers of the issues at stake in the upcoming election and to encourage anyone concerned with cannabis access and legalization to vote, get involved, and make sure the voices of cannabis advocates are heard in this election.

Election Day is rapidly approaching on November 6, 2018. Traditionally, turnout is significantly lower in non-presidential elections. For example, only 36.4% of eligible voters voted in 2014, the last non-presidential national election cycle. While the Presidency is not on the ballot this year, many other important offices and ballot initiatives are. This election will decide among other things, the majority parties in the House and Senate, governorships and control of state legislatures in many states, statewide proposition ballots related to cannabis and CBD legality and access, and innumerable important local races that may directly affect whether a local community prohibits or allows cannabis businesses to operate legally in their jurisdiction. This article will outline briefly some of the most important issues at stake in the upcoming elections and provide a summary of key statewide ballot measures. It is not intended as a voter guide, but rather as a general summary and reference and to encourage all readers of this magazine and anyone concerned with cannabis legality and safe access to vote, donate, volunteer, and make sure their voices are heard in this important election.

NATIONWIDE LANDSCAPE:
Cannabis remains federally prohibited under Schedule 1, despite being legal for adult-use currently in nine states plus Washington DC, legal for medical use in thirty-one states, and having some limited legality for CBD or low-THC cannabis in 15 other states. This federal prohibition has important consequences even in states such as California and Colorado where cannabis is legal. These challenges include difficulties in obtaining safe and regulated banking, inability to transport cannabis and cannabis products across state lines, and local and state restrictions and limits on cannabis and CBD access due to concerns about the federal legality status. There are numerous bills, many with at least some bipartisan support, in both the House and Senate that would move forward with changing this status. Some of these bills would fully remove the federal prohibition and legalize cannabis nationally. Most are more limited in scope and would range from leaving cannabis legality up to the states, decriminalization, or more restrictive allowances for CBD legality, research, and medicinal cannabis access for veterans. The results of the upcoming election will directly impact whether any of these bills will make it out of Senate or House committees and successfully pass through both houses of Congress.

STATE AND LOCAL ELECTIONS:
While ending the federal prohibition remains an important goal, in many ways state and local government regulations have more direct impact on the ability of cannabis businesses to operate and for safe access to legal cannabis and CBD for individual patients and users. It is extremely important to be informed and vote on statewide and down-ballot local races as well as nationwide elections. For example, in California, while cannabis is legal on the state level, currently city and county governments have final approval on whether cannabis businesses will be allowed in that municipal jurisdiction. It is very helpful to know your local officials’ positions on cannabis and to work to educate candidates and officials on these issues. Many candidates and officeholders are open to meeting with voters and constituents to discuss cannabis policy and often benefit from learning more about cannabis, especially with regards to its medical benefits, its positive impact on groups such as veterans and the elderly, and correcting stereotypes and misconceptions. It is important that those in the industry, as well as citizens concerned with cannabis rights, vote for and support through donations and volunteering pro-cannabis local and statewide candidates for office.

STATEWIDE AND LOCAL BALLOT MEASURES:
Lastly, ballot measures and voter referendums have been important tools for moving forward with state and local legality for cannabis. This is a brief summary of some important statewide ballot measures this year. In states where cannabis is legal, be sure to look for any local initiatives related to cannabis in your communities.

COLORADO – Amendment X: Would change definition of Industrial Hemp to that used by federal government. Designed to allow industrial hemp industry to adapt to changes in
federal policy.

MICHIGAN – Proposal 1: Would legalize Adult-Use “Recreational” Cannabis for persons 21 and over.

MISSOURI – Amendments 2 and 3 and Proposition 3: all would legalize medical cannabis. These different measures would allow for variant tax rates (2, 15, and 4 percent respectively).

NORTH DAKOTA – Measure 3: Would legalize Adult-Use cannabis for persons 21 and over and allow automatic expungement process for cannabis-related prior convictions.

OKLAHOMA – Question 788: Would legalize medical cultivation, use, and possession of cannabis.

UTAH – Proposition 2: Would legalize medical cultivation and use of cannabis for certain conditions.

CONCLUSION:
The voices and votes of citizens who support cannabis legalization and access is essential to achieving further progress on the federal, state, and local levels towards safe and legal access to medicinal and adult-use cannabis and CBD. Hopefully, cannabis advocates, industry professionals, and members of our community will make sure they vote and continue to be active, engaged citizens in the electoral process.

Jonathan Landis, Esq.
Attorney with Bird Law Group in Costa Mesa, CA

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