Legalize It

Election Day 2018 was one of the most inspiring days in the history of the cannabis reform movement.

The 2018 election was a midterm election, which is historically not as exciting as a presidential election. However, this year’s election was far from boring.

Statewide cannabis reform initiatives made the ballot in four states, and multiple states had local cannabis measures on the ballot.

When you add to that plus the candidate races, it resulted in an action-packed evening on Tuesday night. Below are some of the highlights.

Another state legalized cannabis for adult use

Adult-use cannabis legalization was on the ballot in both North Dakota and Michigan. North Dakota’s initiative was soundly defeated, but Michigan’s initiative was approved.

North Dakota’s legalization measure faced a heavily funded opposition. Combine that with initiative language that may have been too broad, and getting a majority of voters on board proved to be too tough.

Michigan meanwhile became the 10th state to legalize cannabis for adult use, and the first state in the Midwest to approve cannabis legalization. It will hopefully result in other states in the region following suit.

The new law in Michigan will take effect 10 days after the vote is certified, which typically takes a few weeks.

That would mean that cannabis would officially become legal in Michigan sometime in December.

Two more states legalize cannabis for medical use

Medical cannabis legalization measures appeared on ballots in Utah and Missouri. In fact, Missouri had no less than three different medical cannabis initiatives make the ballot.

Amendment 2 was ultimately the initiative that prevailed, which is good because it was definitely the best of the three options. Amendment 3 and Proposition C were soundly defeated.

Utah’s medical cannabis initiative passed by a healthy margin. Utah had been the first state in the country to pass CBD-only legislation, so one could argue that Utah already legalized medical cannabis.

However, the CBD-only law was largely useless. The law passed on Tuesday is a dramatic improvement, although Utah lawmakers have indicated that they will change it.

Missouri and Utah are two of the most conservative states in the nation, so victories there demonstrate that medical cannabis reform can occur in any state.

A huge Congressional win

Statewide initiative victories received a lot of attention on Election Day, and rightfully so. But one of the biggest victories of the day came in the form of a candidate’s defeat.

United States Representative Pete Sessions (R-TX) (outgoing) has been arguably the biggest anti-cannabis member of Congress for several years.

Representative Sessions blocked fellow House members from voting on no less than 3 dozen cannabis bills while he was in office.

Many of the bills had bipartisan support and likely would have been passed had Representatives been able to vote on them.

Pete Sessions’ defeat is going to prove to be one of the biggest benefits to federal cannabis reform efforts of all time when history looks back on the 2018 election.

Significant Governor victories

With the exception of one state, Vermont, every legal adult-use state ended cannabis prohibition via a citizen initiative. Vermont is the only state to do it via legislative action.

More and more state legislatures have been giving serious consideration to cannabis legalization but ultimately pass on the policy change due to opposition by their Governors.

The 2018 election saw a number of states elect Governors that are pro-cannabis legalization, such as in New Mexico, Illinois, Minnesota, and Connecticut.

This upcoming legislative cycle could see multiple states legalize cannabis via legislative action, which is a good thing considering that the list of initiative states is dwindling.

Local victories in multiple states

Political pundits will often say that ‘all politics is local’ and that is definitely true with cannabis. Local cannabis reform victories don’t generate a lot of attention, but they are significant.

The 2018 election saw local cannabis reform victories occur in Ohio (5 decriminalization measures), Wisconsin (16 legalization advisory questions), and Oregon (6 dispensary bans overturned).

In Ohio and Wisconsin, those local victories help build the momentum for a statewide victory. If enough local municipalities pass reform measures, the state will eventually follow.

The local victories in Oregon were significant because they highlight the need to keep fighting for cannabis reform even after legalization is approved.

What will 2019 look like for cannabis in the United States?

This year’s election has set the stage for what could be an enormous year for cannabis in 2019.

With a more favorable Congress, specifically a Congress without Pete Sessions, we very well could see a cannabis banking reform bill passed in 2019, and that could just be the beginning..

Because 20% of states have now legalized cannabis (plus Washington D.C.), and with Vermont having set the precedent for legislatures, and now that many Governors are supportive, the time is ripe for multiple states to legalize cannabis via legislative action in 2019.

Internationally, cannabis reform is on the move as well. Uruguay, Canada, and Mexico have all effectively legalized cannabis.

Cannabis is being imported and exported in an increasing number of countries, and the list of countries involved is going to no doubt grow in the next year.

The future is bright for cannabis reform, and 2019 is shaping up to be a historic year, largely because of what occurred on Election Day 2018.

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