Canada became the second and largest country in the world to bolster a national marijuana marketplace after legalizing cannabis possession and use from Wednesday.
Canada’s framework for launching legal marijuana sales, including taxing, monitoring and regulating the drug’s distribution and sale, could serve as a reference for the United States if the government were to declassify and decriminalize the drug.
While 30 states around the country have already adopted some form of legal marijuana use, whether recreational or medicinal, the leafy plant remains illegal at the federal level. The Food and Drug Administration, which is responsible for scheduling and classifying narcotics, says that marijuana is as dangerous and addictive as heroin and ecstasy.
But the upcoming midterm elections could cause some major changes in America’s marijuana policy.
It may not be as strong of a national campaign issue as immigration or health care, but marijuana policy has made it onto the ballot in a handful of states where voters will be able to decide for themselves whether the drug should be legalized. Initiatives in Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota and Utah will offer voters the opportunity to expand legal weed.
The high-inducing plant may also have some influence in the battle for the House of Representatives and the Senate this November.
While the Republican Party has radically adjusted its point of view on the drug, becoming more ambivalent to legalization efforts over the past five years, establishment GOP members continue to take a hard-line stance. But the overwhelming public support in favor of ending marijuana prohibition, with about six-in-10 Americans supporting legalization, could spell even more trouble for the GOP this election cycle.
Democrats, on the other hand, have been much more supportive of marijuana legalization over the years but have not made cannabis reform a top priority heading into Election Day. But in states where marijuana issues are on the ballot, there could be a potential surge in liberal voters that may help boost Democrats flip Republican-held seats in the House and Senate. Marijuana could also help moderate Democrats in red states keep their congressional seat, like Senators Claire McCaskill in Missouri and Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota.
Here’s where weed is already legal in the United States and where it could be legal after the 2018 midterm elections this November.
Nine states and Washington, D.C., have legalized marijuana for recreational use, including:
Alaska: Adults age 21 and up can smoke marijuana legally for recreational use.
California: The first state to legalize medicinal marijuana in 1996, California became even more pot-friendly in 2016 when it made it legal for adults to use and carry up to an ounce of marijuana. However, some cities in the state, including Fresno and Bakersfield, have moved to ban recreational sales.
Colorado: The state legalized the drug fully in 2012.
Maine: A ballot initiative in 2016 gave Mainers the right to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana. Lawmakers also reached an agreement on legalization, and marijuana dispensaries are expected to open by 2019.
Massachusetts: Recreational sale of marijuana began in July 2018.
Nevada: Residents and tourists can buy marijuana legally for recreational use.
Oregon: Marijuana has been legal for recreational use in Oregon since 2015.
Vermont: Lawmakers in Vermont voted to legalize recreational marijuana use in January 2018.
Washington: The state allows residents to buy and carry marijuana for recreational use, but they must have a medicinal need for the drug in order to be eligible for a grower’s license.
Washington, D.C.: Those in the nation’s capital have been able to enjoy marijuana recreationally since 2015.
Twenty-two states have legalized marijuana in some form for medicinal use, including Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia.
2018 Midterm Elections: Marijuana Reform Ballot Measures
Michigan: Voters on November 6 will decide on Proposal 1, which would allow Michigan residents over the age of 21 to possess and grow a certain amount of cannabis for personal use. Polling done earlier this month indicated that the law has a good chance of being approved by voters, with 62 percent of registered voters saying they intend to support the measure.
Missouri: Voters will have the opportunity to decide on ballot questions focused specifically on medicinal marijuana access. There are three separate ballot proposals for voters to weigh in on that include different taxes on the drug for veterans services, biomedical research, drug treatment, education and law enforcement. Currently, all three proposals are polling over 60 percent.
North Dakota: While North Dakota already legalized marijuana for medicinal use in 2016, voters will now have the chance to support full legalization for recreational adult use. If the measure is enacted, not only would adults be able to buy and use the drug legally, but also most prior cannabis convictions would be expunged. The limited amount of polling in North Dakota make the likelihood of the measure passing difficult to predict. But those who oppose the initiative are fighting hard to block it and have raised more campaign cash than marijuana supporters.
Utah: Right now, marijuana in any form is outlawed in Utah. But in November voters will be deciding on Proposition 2, which would regulate the production and distribution of medicinal cannabis products for qualifying patients. Smoking marijuana would still be illegal even if the measure is passed, meaning that qualifying patients would need to consume edibles or use vaporizers in order to ingest the drug. The measure seemed sure to pass, but a poll released on Tuesday shows that support for the initiative was at 51 percent.