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Debra BorchardtNovember 4, 2020
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The nation may not know who is president on election day, but the people have spoken when it comes to cannabis legislation. Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota have all legalized marijuana for adults 21 and older, as voters in each state approved their respective ballot initiatives at the ballot box. The Garden State has gone green as the closely watched state of New Jersey approved adult-use cannabis.

New Jersey

“Today, New Jerseyans voted overwhelmingly to legalize cannabis for adult use. This is a vital first step for shifting away from punitive cannabis prohibition and toward a regulated market that prioritizes racial and social justice,” said ACLU-NJ Campaign Strategist, Ami Kachalia, on behalf of New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform (NJUMR). “Now, we call on New Jersey legislators and the Governor to implement the vision of cannabis legalization that voters have pushed forward – one that begins to repair the harms of marijuana prohibition and creates an accessible and inclusive new cannabis industry. In determining the details of implementation, lawmakers must include expungement, community reinvestment, and meaningful opportunities for those most harmed by unjust enforcement of marijuana laws to enter into the industry.”

NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said: “Garden State voters spoke resoundingly. They are demanding their lawmakers end the failed policy of marijuana criminalization, and instead pursue a more sensible path of regulation and legalization. “Law enforcement in New Jersey arrests more citizens each year for minor marijuana violations than almost any other state in the nation. By moving to end this fiscally wasteful and morally repugnant policy, state officials will now be able to prioritize law enforcement resources toward combating more serious criminal activities, better respect the personal freedom and civil liberties of their citizens, end the racist application of marijuana prohibition laws against communities of color, and direct new tax revenues toward important social programs such as education and infrastructure development.”

South Dakota

South Dakota also passed a medical marijuana initiative and became the first state in American history to enact both policies on the same day. The Marijuana Policy Project was instrumental in the Montana and South Dakota campaigns. “This historic set of victories will place even greater pressure on Congress to address the glaring and untenable conflicts between state and federal laws when it comes to cannabis legalization,” said Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. “A few years ago, nobody would have predicted that South Dakota would legalize marijuana before New York,” said Matthew Schweich, deputy director of the Marijuana Policy Project and one of the leaders of the South Dakota campaign. “But that’s the power of the ballot initiative process.”

“South Dakotans sent an unequivocal message in support of allowing patients the ability to legally access it under the advice of their physician,” stated NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri. “When operational, this program will provide lab-tested medical cannabis products to thousands of South Dakotans who can benefit from them. These patients cannot wait, and voters were right to take action to make this access a reality.”

Montana

Montana voters have approved two complementary ballot initiatives that legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana for adults 21 and over. “By legalizing marijuana, Montanans have adopted a policy that is good for public health, good for public safety, and good for public finances,” said Ted Dick, New Approach Montana campaign manager, and co-founder. “The initiatives will free up law enforcement to focus on serious crime, as Montana ends the practice of arresting otherwise law-abiding adults for personal use of marijuana. At the same time, 118 and 190 will expand access to medical marijuana for many patients, including veterans, and provide a new funding source for important state programs.”

Initiative 190, which establishes state laws to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana, was approved by an initially reported margin of 57%-43%. Constitutional Initiative 118, which amends the state constitution to allow state law to set a minimum legal age of 21 for marijuana, was approved by a margin of 58%-42%. “This is the culmination of a two-year campaign and belongs to the people of Montana,” said New Approach co-founder and political director Pepper Petersen. “During that time, we heard from thousands of Montanans who were demanding commonsense marijuana policy for our state. Now, thanks to their effort and their votes, we have that.”

Mississippi

Mississippi voters approved a constitutional ballot initiative to establish a medical marijuana program for patients with debilitating conditions. Initiative 65, which provides for a state-regulated marijuana access system for qualified patients. Voters rejected a far more restrictive effort placed on the ballot by the legislature, Measure 65A.

NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “Initiative 65 puts the needs and interests of patients first. This was a grassroots effort to provide patients with access to a treatment option that patients already enjoy in 34 other states and in the District of Columbia. By contrast, Measure 65A was a cynical effort by lawmakers to misdirect voters. The same state lawmakers that for decades had refused to ever seriously address the issue were the ones behind 65A, and voters wisely rejected their campaign.”

“It is great to see that the tides of change are continuing to flow across the country and now they have come to Mississippi,” said Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, which was founded in 1995 and has played a central role in eight state-level legalization victories over the past eight years. “As we saw in Utah in 2018, and as we see in Mississippi this year, medical marijuana can pass in any state in the country.”

 

“From the Badlands to the Jersey Shore, and from the Grand Canyon to Big Sky Country, Americans across the country have embraced the idea that marijuana legalization is the policy decision that best serves the interests of public health, public safety, and, most importantly, justice,” said Schweich, deputy director of the Marijuana Policy Project and one of the leaders of the Montana and South Dakota campaigns.

“With the passage of these initiatives, one-third of the population now lives in jurisdictions that have legalized cannabis for adult use, and 70% of all states have embraced cannabis for medical use. The federal government is out of step with a clear national trend toward legalization,” said Hawkins. “Regardless of who controls the White House, the House, and the Senate, we should demand landmark federal marijuana reform in 2021. This is not a partisan issue. And with more Republican Senators representing states with medical marijuana and legal marijuana for adults, we’re hopeful that marijuana reform can serve as an opportunity for bipartisan cooperation.”


Debra BorchardtNovember 3, 2020
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As the election quickly approaches, cannabis investors are keenly aware of the landscape and how it could play out for the industry. Looking at the Democratic party platform, candidates former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris have taken the position of decriminalization and rescheduling (from DEA Schedule I) through executive action on the federal level.

They have said that they support legalization of medical marijuana nationwide and believe states should be able to make their own decisions about recreational use. In addition to that, their approach is a combination of the previously proposed legislation known as the STATES ACT and the MORE ACT.  Their position is that the Justice Department should not launch federal prosecutions of conduct that is legal at the state level, as well as that all past criminal convictions for cannabis use should be automatically expunged.

Many in the cannabis industry believed over the past four years that President Trump would pull a surprise maneuver and legalize marijuana to capture that voting bloc. However, it never happened and in fact the President recently asked red states to remove cannabis from state ballots to keep Democrats away. If he won, it isn’t really seen as a negative towards the industry. States have continued to legalize during his presidency and sales have risen accordingly. Despite this, the Uniform Crime Report from the FBI reported that more people were arrested for cannabis in 2019 than for all violent crimes put together. The hard data from the FBI’s report clearly showed that police arrested 545,602 people for cannabis-related crimes in 2019. “That arrest rate is 9% higher than the 495,871 people arrested for violent crimes the same year.” Expungement is rarely mentioned by Trump even though he has made a big deal of commuting some high-profile criminal sentences.

One comparison could be Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1932 presidential campaign when the repeal of alcohol Prohibition was a key part of his Democrat party platform. Soon after he won the election, Congress proposed the 21st Amendment to end Prohibition.  This ironically sparked the beginning of the war on cannabis as the government agency had no desire to dissolve itself.

Dan Ahrens, Chief Operating Officer and  portfolio manager of the AdvisorShares Pure Cannabis ETF (YOLO), AdvisorShares Pure US Cannabis ETF (MSOS), and the AdvisorShares Vice ETF (ACT) said, “Regardless of who wins the White House, U.S. cannabis expansion is expected to continue past November.” He noted that Arizona and New Jersey each have ballot proposals for voters to decide on legalizing adult-use cannabis. Both states currently have existing medical marijuana programs.

Other states including South Dakota, Montana, and Mississippi also have recreational and/or medical marijuana proposals up for a vote.  This week, the Montana Supreme Court denied and dismissed a lawsuit seeking to remove CI-118 and I-190, the complementary marijuana legalization initiatives, from the November ballot. “This was an easy decision for the Montana Supreme Court,” said Dave Lewis, policy advisor to New Approach Montana, the campaign working to pass CI-118 and I-190. “At best, this lawsuit was a frivolous longshot. At worst, it was an intentional effort to create confusion right before the election.”

If New Jersey votes in favor of legalization, it is believed that Pennsylvania and New York could follow suit and legalize adult-use cannabis by legislative action, rather than ballot measure, which was how Illinois approved recreational use last year.

Ahrens said, “It’s important to note that neither party calls for full U.S. federal cannabis legalization. This means that Canadian LPs – companies such as Canopy Growth (CGC), Aurora Cannabis (ACB), Cronos Group (CRON), and Tilray (TLRY) – are expected to remain to do business in Canada and precluded from expanding into the U.S.  U.S. multi-state operators (MSOs) – those companies directly involved in the legal production and distribution of cannabis in states where approved – while not yet allowed to list on the NYSE or NASDAQ, are only expected to be strengthened through the continued state by state expansion and widely anticipated federal cannabis reform measures.” He believes U.S. companies like Curaleaf (CURLF), Green Thumb Industries (GTBIF), and Cresco Labs (CRLBF) become more attractive with their upside potential.

Joe Caltabiano, co-founder and former president of Cresco Labs said, “If Biden wins, we’ll certainly see more capital coming into the space. Biden has gone on record promising decriminalization if he wins, which generally kicks off the chain reaction towards full legalization. On the other hand, if Trump wins, then we’ll basically maintain the status quo for the next four years. It keeps the barrier to entry into the industry very high and keeps the MSOs even more entrenched. There won’t be any substantial program improvement and the amount of money that comes into the space will be significantly less than if Biden was in office.”

 Cannabis investment firm Mazakali provided this easy to understand breakdown of the pending legislation

Adult Use Ballot Initiatives:

MONTANA – Montana CI-118, Legal Age for Marijuana Amendment (2020); Montana I-190, Marijuana Legalization Initiative (2020)

  • Montana CI-118: would allow the legislature or a citizen initiative to establish the legal age for purchasing, consuming, or possessing non-hemp cannabis (similar to alcohol).
  • Montana I-190: would legalize the possession of use of 1oz or less of non-hemp cannabis or 8 grams of less of non-hemp cannabis concentrate by persons over the age of 21 in Montana. MT residents would also be allowed to possess, use, and grow non-hemp cannabis starting January 1, 2021.
  • The most recent poll conducted by the University of Montana (Feb 12-22, 2020) asking if non-hemp cannabis should be legalized resulted in 54% of respondents in favor, while 37% opposed.

ARIZONA – Arizona 207, Marijuana Legalization Initiative

  • Proposition 207: would legalize the possession and use of non-hemp cannabis for adults (age 21 and older) in Arizona.
  • The latest poll from Monmouth University (Sept 11-15, 2020) reflects a close call, with 51% supporting, 41% opposing, and 9% undecided.

NEW JERSEY – New Jersey Public Question 1, Marijuana Legalization Amendment (2020)

  • Question 1: would add an amendment to the state’s constitution that legalizes the recreational use of non-hemp cannabis for persons 21+. It would also permit possession, cultivation and sales of retail non-hemp cannabis. If passed, this constitutional amendment would take effect on January 21, 2020.
  • The last poll from Brach Eichler Cannabis Polls (collected July 7-12, 2020) suggested passage is likely with 68% supporting, 27% opposing, and 6% undecided.

Medical Use Ballot Initiative

MISSISSIPPI – Mississippi Ballot Measure 1, Initiative 65 and Alternative 65A, Medical Marijuana Amendment (2020)

  • Initiative 65: would allow medical non-hemp cannabis treatment for over 20 specified qualifying conditions, allow individuals to possess up to 2.5 ounces of non-hemp cannabis at one time, and tax non-hemp cannabis sales at the current state sales tax rate of 7%.
  • Alternative 65A: would restrict smoking non-hemp cannabis to terminally ill patients; require pharmaceutical grade non-hemp cannabis products and treatment oversight by licensed physicians, nurses, and pharmacists. The vote was 72-49 in the House (March 10, 2020) and 34-17 in the Senate two days later.
  • According to Politico, over 80% of MS voters favor medical non-hemp cannabis legalization of some degree.

Adult and Medical Use Ballot Initiative

SOUTH DAKOTA – South Dakota Constitutional Amendment A, Marijuana Legalization Initiative (2020)

  • South Dakota is the first state to put both adult use and medical use initiative on the ballot. Currently, it has no legal cannabis policy.
  • The adult-use initiative is constitutional (proposed by citizens) – meaning the legislature could not repeal it if it passes in November. The medical initiative, however, is statutory – the legislative would have the power to repeal or amend that law.
  • Amendment A: would legalize the recreational use of non-hemp cannabis for individuals 21 years of age and older. If passed, the state legislature would plan to pass laws by April 1, 2022.
  • Initiated Measure 26, Medical Marijuana: would require the establishment of a MMJ program for individuals who have a debilitating medical condition as certified by a physician. The measure would require the Department of Health to enact rules related to implementing South Dakota’s new medical program no later than 120 days after the measure goes into effect.

 


Julie AitchesonOctober 26, 2020
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A recent report by analyst Bobby Burleson at Cannacord Genuity, an investment banking and financial services company, concluded that “the outlook for the legal US cannabis market is improving” both state and federal levels. Burleson cites polls that demonstrate strong support for ballot initiatives in states like Arizona and South Dakota, while governors of other states such as New York and Pennsylvania are making encouraging noises about rapid roll-outs for recreational programs. Burleson also references polling by aggregator FiveThirtyEight, which shows a 75% likelihood of a Democratic majority in the senate, boding well for cannabis legalization at the federal level. Recent statements by Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris about decriminalizing marijuana further improve the outlook.

It is not overly simplistic to equate a Democratic senate majority and executive office victory with a bright future for cannabis legalization, as historically Democrats have demonstrated more consistent support for legalization in greater numbers than Republicans. In fact, legalization has been one of the stand-out campaign issues polarizing Dems and Republicans over the last decade, though this gap seems to be shrinking as Republicans look to win battleground states like Pennsylvania. There, swing voters are in support of legalization and Governor Tom Wolf is calling on legislators to expedite legalization of recreational marijuana as one means of recovering from the economic hit of Covid-19.

A November 2019 Pew Research Study showed that two-thirds of Americans support marijuana legalization, with only 32% opposing. While proportions vary in terms of those who support legalization solely for medical use (32%) or medical and recreational use (59%), a survey conducted on Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel in September 2019 revealed that only 8% of those surveyed prefer to keep marijuana illegal in all circumstances. This trend showed no signs of changing course as 2019 rolled into 2020. In the run-up to the election, fifty-eight percent of all likely voters (54% of whom identified as Republican) supported legalization for adults use (Data For Progress). In addition, 60% of Republicans polled in support of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE) introduced to the senate by Kamala Harris, which would decriminalize marijuana and allow certain marijuana offenses to be expunged from an individual’s record.

As the clock ticks down to the final vote count, however long that may take, it appears that whether the executive branch and Congress go red or blue this election season, cannabis legalization is one campaign issue poised to benefit from growing bipartisan support and an impetus to be competitive in the cannabis market at the state level.

 


Debra BorchardtNovember 7, 2018
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More states legalized cannabis in yesterday’s midterm elections with Michigan becoming the latest one to legalize adult-use cannabis. Missouri and Utah approved medical cannabis, while North Dakota said no to adult use cannabis. A flurry of places voted to decriminalize cannabis in varying degrees as well.

Kris Krane, President at 4Front Ventures said “Last night was another good night for marijuana policy, as we’ve seen in nearly every election since 2012. The American Public continues to show that they are far ahead of too many of their elected leaders. The ballot initiatives passing in Michigan, Missouri, and Utah, and public rebuke of arch Prohibitionist Pete Sessions is more proof that it is far past time that we adopted sensible marijuana laws and regulations nationwide.”

Michigan

Michigan is now the 10th state to legalize cannabis possession for adults 21 and older, and it is the ninth state to create a program for regulating commercial cultivation and sales for adult use.

Voters passed a ballot initiative to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana for adult use through the measure known as Proposal 1. Prop 1 was leading 58-42 with 54 percent of precincts reporting when CNN called the election.

“This is yet another historic election for the movement to end marijuana prohibition,” said Steve Hawkins of the Marijuana Policy Project. “Voters have once again sent a message loud and clear that it is time to legalize and regulate marijuana. The victory in Michigan highlights just how widespread support is for marijuana policy reform. This issue does not only enjoy strong support on the coasts but also in the Midwest and all throughout the country.”

Missouri

MPP noted that Missouri is now the 31st state in the nation to pass medical marijuana laws. The measure was leading 64-36 with 49 percent of precincts reporting when The New York Times called the election.

Matthew Schweich, deputy director of the Marijuana Policy Project said,  “Thanks to the unflagging efforts of patients and advocates, Missourians who could benefit from medical marijuana will soon be able to use it without fear of being treated like criminals. We hope lawmakers will implement the measure efficiently and effectively to ensure qualified patients can gain access to their medicine as soon as possible.

Utah

Utah’s medical cannabis ballot measure was leading by a margin of 53 percent to 47 percent yesterday when news affiliates called the outcome a winner. MPP said that last month, backers of Proposition 2 reached an agreement with opponent organizations, legislative leaders, and the governor to support an alternative medical cannabis law that will be enacted in an upcoming special session, regardless of the outcome of the election.

North Dakota

North Dakota voted down adult-use cannabis with 59% against it versus 41% in favor. The legislation was pretty broad with no limits on cultivation or possession. It would also automatically expunge previous cannabis convictions.

Politicians

Representative Pete Sessions from Texas who had been instrumental in blocking cannabis legislation from votes in Congress was defeated. Sessions chaired the House Rules Committee. He lost to a former NFL player and civil rights attorney Colin Allred.

California’s Dana Rohrabacher has been a long-time legalization supporter, but he potentially lost as well. Rohrabacher was an early supporter of changing laws on cannabis, long before it was popular. However, Rohrabacher’s close association with Russia and President Trump caused many to turn on him. Democrat Harley Rouda appears to have won, but late mail-in ballots haven’t been counted and the candidates weren’t declaring a victory yet.

More Changes

Colorado voters approved a proposal to change the definition of help and Wisconsin voters approved several nonbinding cannabis questions on the ballot. Several counties indicated positive responses to various questions about legalization. These positive votes could motivate legislators to pass laws in favor of legalization.

Ohio voters moved to decriminalize cannabis in several cities. Dayton, Fremont, Norwood, Oregon, and Windham all passed measures lowering penalties.  Garrettsville was the only city that rejected the local measure. While it doesn’t change the state law for punishment, it does help people in those local towns.

While it isn’t decriminalizing cannabis convictions, Florida voters did approve an amendment to restore voting rights to people with felony convictions.

 


William SumnerNovember 6, 2018
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Today, millions of Americans will head to the polls to cast their vote in the U.S. 2018 Midterm Elections. As is often said, many are calling this one of the most important elections in a generation; and for the cannabis industry, it might actually be true.

On the ballot in four U.S. states are measures that are measures that would legalize either adult-use or medical cannabis in some shape or fashion. Those four key states are Michigan, North Dakota, Utah, and Missouri. Here’s a quick look at each ballot initiative and their odds of successfully passing.

Michigan

Resident in Michigan will be voting on Proposal 1, a ballot initiative legalizing cannabis for adults over the age of 21. If passed, the measure will allow adult-use cannabis sales through state-licensed dispensaries and, levy a 10% excise tax, and allow individuals to grow up to 12 cannabis plants for personal use. Current polling for the measure shows strong support among likely Michigan residents, with approximately 57% of respondents in favor of the measure and 40% opposed.

North Dakota

Similarly, Proposition 3 in North Dakota would legalize adult-use cannabis sales and cannabis paraphernalia for adults over the age of 21. Unlike previous legalization measures, Proposition 3 would expunge the criminal record for every individual arrested for cannabis possession, provided that they were over the age of 21 when the arrest took place. Skewing uniquely Libertarian, the measure is largely silent on cannabis sales, home cultivation, or possession limits. Polling has been all over the place with Proposition 3, with some polls showing it passing by 51% while others have the measure only garnering 26% of the vote. Given the erratic polling, this race is truly a toss-up.

Utah

In Utah, Proposition 2 would somewhat legalize medical cannabis for patients suffering from debilitating conditions. Instead of creating a taxed and regulated dispensary-based system, Proposition 2 would allow patients to obtain medical cannabis through a designated caregiver. Earlier this year support for Proposition 2 was relatively high, but in the intervening weeks before the election, support for the measure has waned to around 51%. Aggravating this declining support is the fact that patient advocates and Utah state legislators have already agreed to make changes to the legislation once passed, which has rankled cannabis supporters. Proposition 2 is still expected to pass, but what that means for patients or the industry is still unclear.

Missouri

There are three cannabis initiatives on the ballot in Missouri; Amendment 2, Amendment 3, and Proposition C. As the names imply, Amendment 2 and 3 would enshrine medical cannabis laws into the state’s constitution while Proposition C would merely change the law. All three measures would legalize medical cannabis, establish state dispensaries, and tax medical cannabis sales. For the most part, the only key differences are how high the taxes are and where they are distributed. The measure which has the most support is Amendment 2, and many outside observers expect that it will be the one to pass out of the three. Unlike the other two, Amendment 2 would allow patients to grow up to six plants and patients could grow up to 18 plants. Polling for this initiative has been somewhat spotty, with most simply asking about the public’s general support for cannabis. However, the most recent poll from Emerson College found that 63% of state residents supported legalizing medical cannabis; indicating that all three measures have a strong chance to pass.

With the exception of the toss-up in North Dakota, all of the proposed cannabis initiatives show strong signs that they will pass; giving many in the cannabis industry a feeling of cautious optimism. In a statement, Kevin Love, Director of Product Development for Cannabiniers, said that his company feels confident in the outcome of this upcoming election.

“We are optimistic for the election outcomes due largely in part to the fact that there are more candidates running in favor of cannabis reform than ever before,” said Love. “General public support of cannabis legalization is the greatest that it has ever been. As we bring our cannabis brands nationally, we are excited for more states to expand access to legal cannabis.”


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