The Cannabis Election

The race for who will be America’s next President remains a cliffhanger as of early evening on November 4. Many observers thought this election would be a clear-cut win for former Vice President Biden but turned out to be significantly closer than most people imagined with the outcome still unknown and with many votes still left to be counted.

However, one election outcome that was unanimously clear is the one that occurred in five states that had ballot measures regarding the legalization of cannabis for adult and medical use. In all five of these states, voters overwhelmingly approved of cannabis legalization. Interestingly, this outcome was not an outlier to just liberal leaning blue states. In fact, legalization of adult use occurred across the political spectrum ranging from the deep red state of South Dakota, to the purple state of Arizona, and to the deep blue state of New Jersey. One thing is clear: cannabis reform and legalization is a policy issue that strikes strong bi-partisan support and it is commendable the voters of these states have approved cannabis legalization. These passing referendums now bring the total number of states that allow for the adult use of cannabis to 15. The total number of states that now allow for both adult use as well as medical use of cannabis stands at 38 or seventy-six percent of the United States.

With these ballot measures passing, these states will begin the important next steps of implementing legislation and subsequent rulemaking to ensure the creation of a state regulatory structure for the sales of adult use and medical cannabis. One should expect significant work by these states over the next several months as their programs come online. Interestingly, New Jersey is likely to move forward with enabling legislation as early as this week. Moreover, most of these ballot measures did not specify specific types of rules and regulations for how these cannabis regulatory structures will take shape. As a result, expect significant lawmaker and regulatory involvement seeking public comment and industry views on how best to create a robust industry for their state. Some states may opt for the “vertically integrated model” and some will look to limit total number of licenses available, similar to states like Massachusetts and Florida. On the other hand, others may have no such regulatory or license limits but create more of an open market model similar to Colorado and Illinois. Finally, some states may look to implement robust social equity applicants. There will be much work to be done before these states cannabis programs go live. But, one thing is certain, the voters of America are embracing cannabis legalization and one should expect other states to pass cannabis policy reforms in the coming year.

Once again, states have proven to be the “laboratories of democracy”. 2021 will be an exciting year for the industry as well as its patients and consumers.
Please see below the voting totals for these cannabis referendums in each of the five states:

• For – 1,596,548 (59.9%)
• Against – 1,071,255 (40.1%)

Mississippi (Medical Use)
• Are you for liberalizing medical marijuana laws?
o Yes – 638,015 (68.0%)
o No – 300,937 (32.0%)
• Which alternative?
o 65 – 612,786 (74.1%) (the advocacy preferred sponsor)
o 65A – 214,277 (25.9%) (the state legislature sponsor)

Montana (Adult Use)
• CI-118 (Set legal age of cannabis purchases at 21)
o For – 318,819 (57.7%)
o Against – 233,636 (42.3%)
• I-190 (legalize cannabis)
o For – 318,849 (56.6%)
o Against – 244,657 (43.4%)

New Jersey (Adult Use)
• For – 1,735,733 (66.9%)
• Against – 857,073 (33.1%)

South Dakota (Medical and Adult Use)
• Initiated Measure 26 (Medical use)
o For – 260,777 (69.2%)
o Against – 116,042 (30.8%)
• Amend A (Adult use)
o For – 200,557 (53.4%)
o Against – 174,923 (46.6%)

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