In an interview with Roll Call this month, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) described Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s dismay upon hearing that voters in Utah seem set to approve medical marijuana when they go to the polls on November 6. “I said that even Utah is most likely going to legalize medical marijuana this year,” Gardner recalled. “McConnell looks and me, and he goes, ‘Utah?’ [He had] this terrified look. And as he says that, Orrin Hatch walks up, and Mitch looks at Orrin and says, ‘Orrin, is Utah really going to legalize marijuana?’ And Orrin Hatch folds his hands, looks down at his feet, and says, ‘First tea, then coffee, and now this.'”
Notwithstanding opposition from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, polls indicate that nearly two-thirds of Utah voters think patients should be able to use marijuana if their doctors recommend it. Prospects for medical marijuana look dimmer in Missouri, where surveys indicate weaker public support and voters will face a potentially confusing choice of three separate initiatives on the subject. It seems even less likely that North Dakota voters, who just two years ago approved medical marijuana by a surprisingly large margin, are ready to legalize recreational use. But recreational legalization seems to have a pretty good shot in Michigan.
Here is a rundown of those measures, plus an arcane Colorado initiative that could have a big impact on that state’s hemp industry.
Proposal 1 would allow adults 21 or older to possess 2.5 ounces or less of marijuana in public, transfer that amount to other adults “without remuneration,” possess up to 10 ounces at home, and grow up to 12 plants for personal consumption. The initiative also would establish a licensing system for commercial production and distribution, subject to a 10 percent tax on retail sales.
Support for Proposal 1 averaged 54 percent in six polls conducted from late February to early October. A solid majority of Michigan voters (63 percent) approved medical marijuana in 2008. If they take this further step, Michigan will be the first state in the Midwest to legalize recreational use, joining nine states in the West and Northeast.
Measure 3 would go further than any initiative enacted so far by removing marijuana from the state’s list of prohibited substances and thereby legalizing “any nonviolent marijuana activity, except for the sale of marijuana to a person under the age of 21.” Possession of marijuana by minors would be treated the same as possession of alcohol.
The North Dakota initiative is also unique in requiring “automatic expungement of the record of an individual who has a drug conviction for a controlled substance that has been legalized.” So far California is the only state to approve a legalization initiative that addressed the lingering collateral consequences of a marijuana conviction, and even that measure put the onus on victims of prohibition to seek expungement or resentencing (although a law enacted last month will make the process easier).