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

By John Schroyer

This year could prove a historic turning point for the legal cannabis industry, with pro-cannabis ballot measures in front of voters in nine states Tuesday.

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.

Below is Marijuana Business Daily’s latest update on the states that have cannabis on the ballot, following our last snapshot on June 23.

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
  • 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 Arizona Republic/Morrison/Cronkite News poll conducted Oct. 10-15 found that 50% of voters support Prop 205, while 42% are against it and 8% are undecided.

ARKANSAS

Image of Arkansas medical marijuanaThis is the only state where more than one legalization initiative has made the ballot. But while Issue 6 may succeed, the state’s Supreme Court disqualified Issue 7 in October. The latter will still appear on the ballot, but even if voters approve it, the court’s ruling prevents it from becoming law.

  • 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 20-40 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.

***

  • 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 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 Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College poll conducted Oct. 21 found both ballot questions behind, with Issue 6 polling at 45% support and 50% against, and Issue 7 polling at 40% support and 53% opposed. It’s worth noting, however, that the study was conducted before the Arkansas Supreme Court disqualified Issue 7 from the ballot.

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 about 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 SurveyUSA poll released Nov. 1 found Prop 64 passing with 54% approval and only 39% opposed, with just 6% undecided.

FLORIDA

FloridaMedicalMarijuana

  • 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: A whopping 69% of Florida voters back Amendment 2, with just 24% opposed, according to a WESH 2 News/Public Policy Polling study conducted Oct. 12-13. 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: The race is closer than expected, with 50% of voters behind Question 1, while 41% oppose it and 9% are undecided, according to a poll by the Survey Center of the University of New Hampshire conducted Oct. 20-25.

MASSACHUSETTS

Massachusetts MMJ news, medical marijuana industry updates, MMJ dispensary developments

  • 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: Just under 49% of voters are support Question 4, while 42% are opposed and 8% are undecided, according to a Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll released Oct. 27.

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 were forced to close by the end of 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: 51% of voters are against I-182 and 44% are supportive, with 5% undecided, a study commissioned by Lee Newspapers in mid-October found.

NEVADA

medical marijuana in nevada

  • 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: About 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: 47% of voters favor Question 2, while 43% are opposed and 10% are undecided, according to a poll commissioned by the Las Vegas Review-Journal and conducted Oct. 20-23.

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: About 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 there is 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.

John Schroyer can be reached at [email protected]

Daily News | Arizona Medical Cannabis Business & Marijuana Legal News | California Medical Cannabis Business & Marijuana Legal News | Election News | Florida Medical Cannabis Business & Marijuana Legal News | Maine Medical Cannabis Business & Marijuana Legal News | Massachusetts Medical Cannabis Business & Marijuana Legal News | Montana Medical Cannabis Business & Marijuana Legal News | Nevada Medical Cannabis Business & Marijuana Legal News | News by State

 4 Comments

  1. Julie Marie November 3, 2016
  2. Ned Frisius November 3, 2016
    • Ron Youngblood November 4, 2016
  3. howard carpenter November 4, 2016

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