As the US cannabis market develops, these five states are inching closer to legalizing the drug in one way or another.
The 2016 presidential election cycle brought a flurry of support for cannabis policies across the US. This year, five states will ask voters to decide on a variety of cannabis programs.
While cannabis regulation in the US can get bogged down by the development of federal bills — such as the recent Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE Act) — the story is different at the state level, and several cannabis programs have launched thanks to voter support.
While the winner of the presidential election will draw significant attention from the marijuana sector, investors will also have to keep an eye on the results of these state elections as they will likely dictate the game plans of some of the publicly traded cannabis operators in the US.
Despite roadblocks such as a lack of federal policy on the cannabis industry, 33 states have legalized medical cannabis and 11 have done the same for recreational use. The expansion of these cannabis laws shows the support legalization has with all kinds of voters — in fact, the latest data from polling agency Gallup shows that 66 percent of Americans support cannabis legalization.
Matt Carr, chief trends strategist at the Oxford Club, said that while cannabis policy changes may come as a direct result of who wins the presidency, the state votes are a positive sign all around.
“(The votes) give us a nice tailwind over the next few months, and I think give us a tailwind into 2021 because this is again showing that these markets are expanding,” he said.
The expert explained that the path to legalization for these states has been spurred by interest in tax revenue, which might then become critical for budget plans moving forward.
Read on to learn which states will have cannabis measures on their ballots on November 3.
In 2016, Arizona came close to legalizing cannabis for recreational use, and a new measure will try again in 2020. The state already has an established medical market program.
The legalization vote joined the ballot after the Smart and Safe Arizona campaign secured the necessary signatures, over 250,000, a report from Cannabis Wire indicates.
Prominent cannabis companies like Harvest Health & Recreation (CSE:HARV,OTCQX:HRVSF), Curaleaf Holdings (CSE:CURA,OTCQX:CURLF) and Cresco Labs (CSE:CL,OTCQX:CRLBF) have all thrown financial support behind the legalization measure.
Even though the vote came very close last time around, a win for the “no” vote side secured with 51.3 percent of voters.
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey has strongly campaigned against the legalization measure — his main argument against recreational legalization focuses on claims like increased road dangers and potential use by minors, particularly teens, according to a report from Marijuana Moment.
The voters in Mississippi have a tricky vote ahead of them as they will be casting a decision on Initiative 65 and Alternative 65A, two amendments designed for a medical cannabis program.
The distinction between the two measurements, according to Ballotpedia News, comes down to limitations on cannabis use.
The first piece of legislation would allow the use of medical cannabis for patients facing 22 specified conditions. Under this legislation, patients would be allowed to carry up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis, but smoking wouldn’t be permitted in public places.
Meanwhile, 65A wouldn’t specify the medical conditions needed to secure medical cannabis. In addition to that, 65A would make it so terminally ill patients can smoke cannabis.
Initiative 65 would introduce a 7 percent tax for cannabis sales, determined by the state’s sales tax rate.
There’s been dispute at the local level regarding the value and intention behind having similar measures for cannabis policy up for vote. Advocates told Marijuana Moment that Alternative 65A is a “deliberately vague” piece of policy proposed by the state’s Senate.
Voters in Montana can relate to those in Mississippi, as they too will see two cannabis measures on their ballots on election day.
Local campaign group New Approach Montana obtained the needed signatures to bring Initiative 190, a recreational cannabis legalization bill, in front of voters.
The second piece of legislation, Constitutional Initiative 118, builds on Initiative 190 and would make it so only those 21 and older can buy and possess legal cannabis in the state.
According to The Hill, the cannabis legalization policy would also introduce a 20 percent tax on all non-medical cannabis products sold in the state.
New Jersey is one of the most watched markets by cannabis experts because a legalization effort there could affect neighboring state New York.
While Governor Phil Murphy has tried to move the legalization issue along through an in-house policy, after various arduous delays recreational legalization efforts will now be left in the hands of voters.
The policy, Public Question No. 1, will ask voters to legalize recreational sales in the state, a measure that is already getting strong support.
The measure would introduce a state sales tax for recreational cannabis products and would make it so the authority overseeing medical sales would also regulate the new adult-use products.
South Dakota is on the brink of doing something no other state has done so far in the legalization path of cannabis: It may legalize both medical and recreational cannabis at the same time this election cycle.
Measure 26 will ask voters to decide on the creation of a medical cannabis program for the state, while Amendment A would legalize adult-use cannabis sales.
According to Marijuana Business Daily, it’s hard to predict the outcome in South Dakota as there have been no independent polls on support for the cannabis cause. Local advocates have said perspectives on the issue have changed, but the medical measure may have a stronger chance to make it.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Bryan Mc Govern, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.
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