Mixed Results For Marijuana Legalization At The Polls

By Kelly Burch 11/07/18

Advocates received a major win in Michigan, which became the first midwest state to legalize recreational marijuana.

people voting inside voting booths

Marijuana advocates hoping for a mandate on legalization instead got a mixed result at the polls on Tuesday, when Michigan became the 10th state to legalize recreational cannabis and voters in Missouri and Utah approved medical marijuana programs, but North Dakota residents rejected a legalization bid. 

Michigan became the first midwest state to legalize recreational marijuana, with 56% of voters coming out in favor. 

“Adults will no longer be punished for consuming a substance less harmful than alcohol, and rather than having to resort to the illegal market, they will be able to access it safely and legally from licensed businesses,” Marijuana Policy Project deputy director Matthew Schweich told The Washington Post

Michigan residents who are 21 and older will be able to legally posses up to 2.5 ounces of weed in public and 10 ounces at home as soon as the election results are certified, which is likely to be in early September, according to the Detroit Free Press. Commercial sale of marijuana is likely to begin in 2020, although public consumption will remain banned in the state. 

The change to the law in Michigan means that 25% of Americans now live in a state that has legalized recreational weed, despite the fact that cannabis remains a Schedule I substance under federal law. 

In Utah, a hotly contested measure to begin a medical marijuana program in the state was slightly ahead with 53% of the vote in unofficial reporting, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. The deeply conservative state is heavily influenced by the Mormon church, which opposed approval of the medical marijuana program. Advocates for cannabis reform say that the victory shows a wide-spread change in the public perception of marijuana. 

“When Utah flips, the whole country will be watching, and you all did that,” Christine Stenquist, a medical cannabis patient and founder of the advocacy group TRUCE Utah, told voters on Tuesday night. 

In Missouri, 65% of voters approved a measure to legalize medical marijuana and tax it at 4%, with the funds directed toward healthcare for veterans. Voters rejected two similar measures that also legalized medical marijuana, but taxed it at either 2 or 15%. 

However, the news was not rosy for marijuana advocates in North Dakota, where nearly 60% of voters rejected a ballot initiative that would have legalized recreational cannabis without establishing a marketplace or even regulations. 

“Tonight, parents can sleep easy knowing their children won’t wake up to more marijuana use in their schools,” Luke Niforatos, senior policy adviser to Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a group that opposes legalization, wrote on Twitter. “The sensible, wonderful people of North Dakota have rejected marijuana commercialization in their state.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.