Legalization Is On Ballots In The Midterms - With Or Without The Support Of The White House

U.S. President Joe Biden may be lukewarm on the issue of federal cannabis legalization, but voters in several states will have the chance to vote for legalization in the November 8th midterm election. 

These states include Maryland, where residents will have the opportunity to vote on the constitutional amendment House Bill 1. The bill will legalize possession of up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis flower, and 12 grams of cannabis concentrates if approved. The bill does not include rules and regulations for a legal cannabis market. 

Following a long campaign by Legal Missouri 2022, voters in the Show-Me-State will be able to vote on an initiative that will legalize the possession, purchase, consumption, and cultivation of cannabis for adults over 21 years old. 

Other states that are set to vote on adult-use cannabis legalization initiatives include North Dakota and Arkansas. In addition, voters in South Dakota will receive another chance to cast a vote for legalization after the state’s Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s ruling that nullified voter approval of a legalization initiative passed in the 2020 election. 

There are also some local initiatives up for a vote in legal marijuana states, including one in Colorado Springs, Colorado, that will determine if the city’s medical marijuana dispensaries can be transitioned into recreational marijuana dispensaries.  

Some Democratic candidates have urged President Biden to push for federal cannabis legalization in the months leading up to the Midterms. These include Pennsylvania Lt. Governor and Democrat candidate for the U.S. Senator John Fetterman, who stated “it’s long past time that we finally decriminalized marijuana” and called on Biden “to use his executive authority to begin.”

Fetterman’s comments followed a letter from 6 U.S. Democratic Senators to President Biden in July. They called on the President to advance cannabis reform and “act quickly to rectify this decades-long injustice harming individuals, especially black and brown communities.”

According to Morgan Fox, the Political Director at the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), politicians who worry about the blowback for supporting legalization are making a mistake. 

“I think that some democrats absolutely look at the polling and see that supporting this will help them because two-thirds of the American public supports ending prohibition. Some Democrats are definitely nervous about how it could affect them, mainly if their election opponent focuses on it as a wedge issue. But just looking at how the electorate looks and how the polling has gone in recent years, being afraid of those attacks is a political misstep when it comes to cannabis.”

He added, “you still have some outliers who think that cannabis is a gateway drug, and some people have moral issues against it, but those folks are really starting to dwindle in number.”

Recent polls have consistently shown that the majority of Americans support marijuana policy reform. According to a 2021 Pew Research Center survey, 60% of U.S. adults said that cannabis should be legal for medical or recreational use, and 31% said that they support medical marijuana legalization only. Only 8% said they oppose all legalization. 

President Biden stated in 2010 that he still believes cannabis is a gateway drug and that marijuana legalization would be a mistake. In March 2020, Biden said he no longer thinks marijuana is a gateway drug. Still, his Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said, “I don’t have anything else to share in the upcoming weeks,” when asked by reporters if the president would take action on cannabis reform.

According to Abbey Roudebush, the Director of Government Affairs for Americans for Safe Access, voters should look beyond ballot initiatives and focus on supporting pro-legalization candidates.

“I think the big thing that’s sort of discounted when people are talking about the midterms is not only are there ballot boxes, but who people vote for as their federal representatives is just as important,” Roudebush said.

Roudebush also expressed concern that, if approved, adult-use legalization measures could decrease access for some medical cannabis patients. 

“Recreational cannabis and medical cannabis are separate, and medical cannabis patients have specific needs and legal protections that need to be preserved. Unfortunately, in some states that passed recreational cannabis, we've seen that they either merged the two programs or sort of did away with medical altogether, to the detriment of patients.”

But that’s assuming that voters approve an initiative in the first place. According to Roudebush, if an initiative fails, it is up to supporters to stay the course. 

“Keep trying and keep the force behind it. And whether any of these ballot initiatives pass or not, it's important to continue the work and not let it get you down because they will pass eventually.”

Image sourced from Shutterstock

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Posted In: RootwurksCannabisMarkets

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