Multiple 2018 marijuana legalization campaigns already underway

(This is the first installment of a two-part series on state-level marijuana legalization efforts coming in 2018. Part I looks at ballot measure campaigns. Part II looks at legislature-driven measures.)

By John Schroyer

It won’t be easy to top the landslide 2016 electoral victories for marijuana, but advocates are looking to make serious headway across the country once again on statewide ballots next year.

Campaigns are underway in at least five states to legalize either medical or recreational cannabis.

And, according to early polling numbers, most if not all stand a good chance of getting the thumbs-up from voters in November 2018.

If successful, these campaigns could further open up new markets for significant business opportunities in the cannabis industry.

Here is Marijuana Business Daily’s roundup of the top state cannabis campaigns for 2018. The list doesn’t include some smaller-level movements that are more symbolic attempts at legalization.


Initiative: Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act, by the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol.

What it would do: Change state statute to legalize recreational marijuana.

Number of signatures needed, deadline: 252,523 signatures by Nov. 22.

Status: Over 100,000 collected so far, and a campaign spokesman predicted signatures will be submitted to the secretary of state by mid-October. The campaign’s goal is to reach 360,000 signatures.

Key business highlights:

  • The initiative specifies at least six different rec business license types, including grower, compliance facility, processor, microbusiness, retailer and transporter.
  • The ballot measure would establish a free market system with no license caps at the state level, although local governments could establish their own limits on the number of marijuana businesses allowed in their jurisdictions – or just ban them altogether. However, local MJ advocates could overturn such a move by forcing a municipal or county vote on the matter.
  • The initiative includes a residency requirement, but after the first 24 months, the market would be open to out-of-state entrepreneurs and companies.
  • If the measure succeeds and Michigan becomes the first Midwestern state to legalize adult use, the potential for tourism traffic from nearby states would likely be enormous.

Latest polling: A phone poll conducted by Educational, Political, Industrial, Consumer Market Research Analysis (EPIC-MRA) in January and February 2017 found that 57% of Michigan voters support legalizing rec cannabis.


Initiative: An untitled, proposed constitutional amendment, by New Approach Missouri.

What it would do: Amend the state constitution to legalize medical marijuana.

Number of signatures needed, deadline: 160,199 signatures by May 6, 2018.

Status: A campaign spokesman said volunteers have already collected more than 50,000 signatures, meaning the campaign is well on its way to making the ballot. New Approach Missouri intends to employ paid signature gatherers beginning this fall.

Key business highlights:

  • The amendment would set up a limited but business-friendly cannabis industry, with five different license types, fairly low permitting fees (e.g. $10,000 for growers to apply and then an annual $25,000 fee) and vertical integration.
  • There would, however, be some restrictions on the number of licenses allowed in given categories. For instance, the measure would allow a single company to operate up to three cultivation sites, five dispensaries and three infused products manufacturing centers.
  • The measure contains no specific state license caps, but it prohibits the state from licensing less than one grow per 100,000 residents, one dispensary per 70,000 residents and a minimum of 192 infused product makers (24 in each of the state’s eight congressional districts).
  • There would be a one-year residency requirement, but out-of-state companies and individuals could own minority stakes in an MMJ business.
  • The measure’s qualifying condition list is extremely broad, meaning the patient pool could easily grow into the tens of thousands.

Latest polling: A July 2016 survey by Public Policy Polling found that 62% of Missouri voters support legalizing medical cannabis.


Initiative: State Question 788, by Oklahomans for Health.

What it would do: Change state statute to legalize medical marijuana.

Status: The Oklahoma ballot measure is the only one so far assured of a place on the 2018 ballot, since the campaign gathered and submitted all the necessary signatures to make the 2016 ballot. Only a last-minute legal fight kept the initiative from appearing on that year’s ballot, so it’ll go before voters in November 2018.

Key business highlights:

  • The initiative would create at least six different license types, but it’s quite broad and was deliberately written to be as business-friendly as possible, a campaign spokesman said.
  • The measure contains no qualifying conditions but leaves the determination up to physicians as to whether cannabis could help a given patient.
  • Business license fees are just $2,500, and there are no statewide license caps.
  • There is a residency requirement for business owners, but out-of-state residents can own up to 25% of an MMJ company.

Latest polling:2015 survey by SoonerPoll found that roughly 59% of voters support legalizing medical cannabis.


There are at least two potential cannabis legalization ballot measures that are gaining steam – one to legalize medical and another to legalize recreational – and both are being pushed by the same campaign.


Initiative: An untitled law, by New Approach South Dakota.

What it would do: Change state statute to legalize medical marijuana.

Number of signatures needed, deadline: 13,871 by Nov. 6, 2017 (same for both measures).

Status: A spokeswoman said the campaign has already collected about three quarters of the signatures needed to make the 2018 ballot, for both initiatives.

Key business highlights:

  • The initiative leaves much of the industry regulations up to the state Department of Health to craft, with few business details enumerated in the ballot measure.
  • Companies interested in dispensary, cultivation, manufacturing or testing lab licenses would pay a maximum of $5,000 to apply, but annual license fees would be left to the state to determine.
  • Local governments wouldn’t be allowed to ban dispensaries, and there would be no limits on how many businesses could be licensed. But both state and local governments could enact their own boundaries on how big the MMJ trade could become.
  • There’s no specific residency requirement, meaning out-of-state companies could expand directly into South Dakota. But there is a restriction that “at least one principal officer” of any MMJ company must be a state resident.

Latest polling: No scientific polling data from South Dakota on marijuana is available.


Initiative: An untitled law, by New Approach South Dakota.

What it would do: Change state statute to legalize recreational marijuana.

Key business highlights:

  • The rec measure is similar to the medical proposal and leaves most industry regulations up to the state Department of Revenue to develop.
  • Four different business licenses are identified – retail, cultivation, manufacturer and testing lab – and local governments are granted wide powers to regulate MJ companies operating within their jurisdictions, including setting licensing fees.
  • There is no residency requirement in the rec legalization measure, no license cap and a suggested limit of $5,000 for business license fees.


Initiative: Utah Medical Cannabis Act, by the Utah Patients Coalition.

What it would do: Change state statute to legalize medical marijuana.

Number of signatures needed, deadline: 113,143 signatures by April 15.

Status: The campaign just began circulating petitions in mid-August, so it’ll be a while until it makes serious headway. But a campaign spokesman said its goal is to have more than enough signatures to make the ballot by January, before the next state legislative session begins.

Key business highlights:

  • Plant-touching business opportunities under Utah’s structure would be limited, with only 15 growers allowed in the entire state and either one dispensary per each of the 29 counties, or one dispensary per 150,000 residents (for more populous counties).
  • Local governments wouldn’t be allowed to ban MMJ businesses, although they could add more restrictive ordinances for companies to comply with.
  • There would be no residency requirement, meaning MMJ companies worldwide could possibly compete for business permits.
  • There would be a high threshold for market entrance: Each cultivation applicant would have to demonstrate a minimum of $500,000 in liquid assets, while dispensary applicants would need $250,000 in liquid assets.
  • The qualifying condition list would be quite broad, meaning the potential patient pool could reach the tens of thousands.

Latest polling: According to two surveys conducted earlier this year, support for the MMJ initiative is already at 77%-78%.

John Schroyer can be reached at