The Big Picture: State-by-state marijuana ballot initiative update

cannabis vote

By John Schroyer

This year could prove a turning point for the legal cannabis industry, with at least 13 potential ballot measures in 12 states that could go before voters in November.

If some or most are approved, that could translate into untold business opportunities for cannabis entrepreneurs across the nation.

But there are risks, too, particularly if California’s proposed recreational marijuana ballot measure is rejected on Election Day. That could set back marijuana legalization in California – and the entire country – by years.

As of now, the ballot initiative picture isn’t entirely clear. Most initiatives have earned a spot on their state ballots. But three remain a question mark as to whether supporters can navigate their respective state legal systems to make the November election.

Here’s an update on where the campaigns nationwide stand as of Sept. 15 (this story was updated from its original publication on June 23).

States where MJ will definitely be on the ballot

Arizona

  • Initiative: Proposition 205, The Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act, by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (run by the Marijuana Policy Project)
  • What it would do: Change state statute to legalize recreational marijuana.
  • Number of signatures needed: 150,642 (A campaign spokesman said in May it had surpassed that number.)
  • Number of signatures submitted: Almost 259,000.
  • Key business highlights: The rec system would be tilted in favor of existing medical businesses. They would be grandfathered into the adult-use market and get first crack at rec licenses. And, by law, they would enjoy an advantage over would-be newcomers. For example, current MMJ dispensaries, which already must be vertically integrated, would automatically have the authority to grow unlimited amounts of adult-use cannabis, while new market entrants would first have to prove their viability on a smaller scale before being granted the right to grow more plants. Also, only about 147 rec licenses would be permitted.
  • Latest polling: An April poll found that just 43% of voters support the measure, while 49% oppose it. The poll was paid for by legalization opponents. A July poll found that only 39% of voters support the initiative, while 52% oppose it, but a study in early September found that 50% of likely voters back the measure.

Arkansas

This is the only state where more than one legalization initiative has made the ballot. If voters approve both, the one with the most yes votes would supersede the other.

  • Initiative: Issue 6, Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, by attorney David Couch and Arkansans United for Medical Marijuana
  • What it would do: Amend the state constitution to legalize medical marijuana.
  • Number of signatures needed: 84,859
  • Number of signatures submitted: On July 8, the campaign submitted roughly 106,000 signatures, but was short of the necessary goal. After a 30-day grace period, the campaign handed in another 35,000 signatures and was certified for the ballot.
  • Key business highlights: The amendment would allow for eight cultivation facilities statewide, and the state Medical Marijuana Commission would determine the owners. That has opponents worried that it could turn into a pay-to-play system, and that politics would quickly corrupt it. The same commission would issue between 20 and 40 dispensary licenses. And the proposed amendment includes anti-monopoly language, so that a single company or individual could not own more than one dispensary and grow operation. For-profit businesses would also be permitted.

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  • Initiative: Issue 7, The 2016 Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act, by Arkansans for Compassionate Care
  • What it would do: Change state statute to legalize medical marijuana.
  • Number of signatures needed: 67,887
  • Number of signatures submitted: 117,469 
  • Key business highlights: Allows for up to 38 dispensaries across the state. The state could increase that to ensure patient access. Or the number could fall if local governments that choose to ban MMJ businesses. All dispensaries would be nonprofits. However, the patient pool could be sizable given the immense list of specific qualifying conditions, which range from asthma to intractable pain and post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Latest polling: A June poll found 58% of Arkansans support legalizing medical marijuana.

California

  • Initiative: Proposition 64, The Adult Use of Marijuana Act, by Let’s Get it Right CA (supported by billionaire Sean Parker)
  • What it would do: Change state statute to legalize recreational marijuana.
  • Number of signatures needed: 365,880
  • Number of signatures submitted: More than 600,000
  • Key business highlights: The initiative would establish a colossal 19 different business licenses, including 13 differing cultivation permits depending on size and whether an operation is indoor or outdoor. The regulations are intended to build on the medical marijuana industry rules the state approved last year. Licensing would begin around the same time, in January 2018. Anti-monopoly provisions in the initiative are designed to protect smaller operators, so big corporations can’t corner the market.
  • Latest polling: A pair of September polls found Proposition 64 passing, with 52% and 58%, respectively.

Florida

  • Initiative: Amendment 2, by United for Care (supported by millionaire attorney John Morgan)
  • What it would do: Amend the state constitution to legalize a broader medical marijuana system than the one already in place.
  • Number of signatures needed: 683,149
  • Number of valid signatures submitted: 716,270
  • Key business highlights: The initiative would legalize one of the largest medical marijuana systems in the country and establish an enormous market, perhaps including out-of-state residents looking to enter the industry. The legislature would have to write many of the regulatory details if the measure wins. But the potential patient pool is in the hundreds of thousands.
  • Latest polling: 69% of voters support Amendment 2, according to a May study by Gravis Marketing. But the campaign faces a big hurdle to win, because Florida law requires a 60% supermajority to pass a constitutional amendment.

Maine

  • Initiative: Question 1, The Marijuana Legalization Act, by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (run by the Marijuana Policy Project)
  • What it would do: Change state statute to legalize recreational marijuana.
  • Number of signatures needed: 61,123
  • Number of valid signatures submitted: 62,848
  • Key business highlights: Maine could be one of the first states to license “marijuana social clubs,” which would be allowed under the initiative. Such business models have been attempted in states such as Colorado – with little to no success – although Alaska has been working on a similar licensing system for lounges.
  • Latest polling: Two March polls found majority support for legalizing recreational cannabis, with the Maine People’s Resource Center pegging support at 54% and a Critical Insights tracking poll putting it at 55% support.

Massachusetts

  • Initiative: Question 4, The Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act, by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (run by the Marijuana Policy Project)
  • What it would do: Change state statute to legalize recreational marijuana.
  • Number of signatures needed: Initially, 64,750 by Dec. 2, 2015, and another 10,792 by June 22
  • Number of signatures submitted: 70,739 in December and then an additional 25,000 in June
  • Key business highlights: The initiative doesn’t have a residency requirement or a long-term numerical cap on permits. But local governments could establish such limits. The measure would give existing medical cannabis dispensaries the first crack at rec licenses. If 75 dispensaries are licensed by October 2017 (173 dispensary applications had been filed by June 2016), the next round of businesses would have to wait at least a year before applying, and new cultivators would have to wait until October 2019 to apply for business permits.
  • Latest polling: According to a May poll by Suffolk University and the Boston Globe, 46% of voters oppose the initiative and 43% support it.

Montana

  • Initiative: I-182, by the Montana Cannabis Industry Association
  • What it would do: Amend state statute to essentially legalize MMJ dispensaries by overturning a 2011 law passed by the state legislature that was upheld in February by the Montana Supreme Court. That law limits medical cannabis providers to three patients apiece, effectively regulating dispensaries out of business.
  • Number of signatures needed: 24,175
  • Number of signatures submitted: More than 40,000
  • Key business highlights: The measure is largely designed to give cover to existing dispensaries in Montana, but many of them will be forced to close by the end of this August. That could provide an opening for new industry entrants (though there is a residency requirement). But even if the market remains dominated by longtime players, the initiative would provide new legal stability for the MMJ industry. There’s no set limit on how many business licenses could be issued.
  • Latest polling: An August 2015 survey by Public Policy Polling paid for by Marijuana Policy Project found that 65% of voters support allowing dispensaries.

medical marijuana in nevadaNevada

  • Initiative: Question 2, by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (run by the Marijuana Policy Project)
  • What it would do: Change state statute to legalize recreational marijuana.
  • Number of signatures needed: 101,666
  • Number of signatures submitted: Approximately 200,000
  • Key business highlights: A limited number of retail business licenses would be available, and for the first year and a half of the licensing process only existing MMJ companies in Nevada would be allowed to apply. But the measure contains no residency requirement, meaning out-of-state owners and/or investors could play a big role in the Nevada industry’s development.
  • Latest polling: 60% of voters back the initiative, according to a March poll by Ralston Reports.

North Dakota

  • Initiative: Initiated Statutory Measure 5, the North Dakota Compassionate Care Act, by a committee chaired by Ray Morgan
  • What it would do: Change state statute to legalize medical marijuana.
  • Number of signatures needed: 13,452
  • Number of signatures submitted: Roughly 17,600
  • Key business highlights: All dispensaries would have to be vertically integrated not-for-profit models, and inventory would be limited to 1,000 growing plants and 3,500 ounces (218.75 pounds) of “usable” marijuana at any given point. The measure contains a residency requirement, but no cap on the number of dispensaries that may be permitted.
  • Latest polling: A 2014 poll by the University of North Dakota College of Business and Public Administration found that 47% of voters at the time supported legalizing medical cannabis, with 41% opposed and 9% neutral. The same study found that 68% of voters opposed legalizing rec.

States where campaigns are awaiting outcomes of legal battles

Missouri

  • Initiative: No title, by New Approach Missouri
  • What it would do: Amend the state constitution to legalize medical marijuana.
  • Number of signatures needed: 157,788
  • Number of signatures submitted: Approximately 260,000
  • Key business highlights: The initiative has a residency requirement for plant-touching companies, and allows the state and counties to cap the number of businesses. There’s also a limit to how many licenses a single company could hold, though vertical integration would be an option. The patient pool could be sizable, because the MMJ qualifying condition list is extensive, and includes permissive language that would allow for a physician to recommend cannabis for a wide range of ailments. The permitting process would start as soon as mid-March 2017.
  • Latest polling: Support for the amendment is at 59%, according to a May poll by Missouri Scout Political Intelligence and Analysis.
  • Status: A group of prosecutors have sued to try to block the initiative from being placed on the ballot. New Approach is fighting the move in court, and the outcome is uncertain.

Michigan

  • Initiative: The Michigan Marijuana Legalization, Regulation and Economic Stimulus Act, by MILegalize.
  • What it would do: Change state statute to legalize recreational marijuana.
  • Number of signatures needed: 252,523
  • Number of signatures submitted: Approximately 354,000
  • Key business highlights: Michigan would be the first state to leave the regulation of a new rec industry completely to local governments, without any state-level oversight. All licensing would be done through local governments, which could ban cannabis companies or regulate them. Local governments also would be in charge of determining any license caps, and the licensing process would have to begin by June 1, 2017. The initiative doesn’t have a residency requirement.
  • Latest polling: 53% of voters support the initiative to legalize recreational marijuana, according to a March poll by EPIC-MRA.
  • Status: On June 7, the state Bureau of Elections declared that the campaign was approximately 106,000 signatures short. MILegalize filed suit, which means the initiative may still make the ballot, but its only recourse now is the U.S. Supreme Court, since the Michigan Supreme Court ruled in favor of the state on Sept. 7.

Oklahoma

  • Initiative: State Question 788, by Oklahomans for Health
  • What it would do: Change state statute to legalize medical marijuana.
  • Number of signatures needed: 65,987
  • Number of signatures submitted: Roughly 68,000
  • Key business highlights: The initiative would prohibit vertical integration and establish four key business license types: dispensaries, growers, processors (infused-product makers) and transporters. The measure doesn’t contain numerical license caps, but any businesses would have to be at least 75% owned by Oklahoma residents. The entire system would have to be up and running quickly: The measure calls for the state to make business license applications available within 30 days of the law’s passage, and then to either grant or reject submitted applications within two weeks.
  • Latest polling: A 2013 Sooner Poll found that 71% of voters would have supported a proposed 2014 ballot measure to legalize medical cannabis.
  • Status: The initiative is unlikely to be placed on the ballot this year, due to finagling over the ballot title between the campaign and the state attorney general, who rewrote the title. The fight will almost certainly push any resolution past Election Day, and a campaign spokesperson told Marijuana Business Daily that supporters will push for a special election to get MMJ before voters.

John Schroyer can be reached at [email protected]

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 3 Comments

  1. Roger Barbour June 23, 2016
  2. Kathleen June 23, 2016
  3. BOB June 25, 2016

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