Predictions for Cannabis Legalization In The 2020 Election
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The cannabis industry once again stands on the precipice of a historic moment. Today, five states will vote on seven ballot initiatives that, if passed, will legalize cannabis in some form. As evidenced by the 2016 Election, while nothing is guaranteed, the cannabis industry appears poised to make significant gains.
Here’s a quick rundown of every cannabis ballot measure up for vote in the upcoming election and its likelihood of success:
In 2016, Arizona was one of nine states with a cannabis initiative on the ballot. Losing by less than 70,000 votes, Proposition 205 was the only cannabis ballot initiative to fail that year. Now the state is taking a second crack at legalizing cannabis.
Proposition 207 would legalize adult-use cannabis for individuals over the age of 21 and permit residents to grow up to six cannabis plants per household. The measure would also impose a 16% tax on cannabis sales, allow the state to expunge cannabis-related offenses, and ban smoking cannabis in public.
Next week, heading into the election, Proposition 207 is polling at around 55% with voters, with only 37% of likely voters in opposition.
Prediction: Proposition 207 will pass.
While most legalization measures become law through a simple ballot initiative, New Jersey is looking to enshrine legal cannabis into its state constitution. New Jersey Public Question 1 would alter the state’s constitution to legalize the cultivation, processing, and sale of adult-use cannabis.
The measure sees overwhelming support from New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, the state legislature, and approximately 65% of the voting public.
Prediction: New Jersey Public Question 1 will easily pass.
In the great state of Mississippi, there are two competing ballot amendments aimed at legalizing medical cannabis. Initiative 65 would amend the state’s constitution to legalize medical cannabis for patients suffering from up to 22 debilitating conditions, allow patients to possess up to 2.5 ounces, and tax cannabis sales at 7%.
Alternative 65 is much more loosely defined, failing to name any qualifying conditions and leaving much of the regulatory effort to the state itself. Because there are two competing initiatives, voters will face two questions when they step into the ballot box.
The first question will be whether they generally support legalizing medical cannabis, and the second question will ask which initiative they prefer. If a majority of voters approve of legalizing medical cannabis, then the initiative that received the most votes will win.
Though polling is slightly behind in Mississippi, the most recent poll shows that 81% of voters approve of medical cannabis, with around 52% of voters supporting Initiative 65.
Prediction: Mississippi will legalize medical cannabis this November, with Initiative 65 being the prevailing ballot amendment.
Like Mississippi, Montana has two competing ballot measures to legalize cannabis. Both I-190 and CI-118 would legalize adult-use cannabis. However, I-190 is more specific. I-190 sets the minimum age to 21 years old, imposes a 20% tax on sales, and requires the state Department of Revenue to develop industry regulations.
Currently, cannabis legalization is polling with 49% in favor and 39% opposed. Unfortunately, the state does not have specific polling data regarding the individual ballot measures. To avoid confusion, the Marijuana Policy Project is encouraging all voters to vote yes on both measures.
Prediction: Montana has a strong chance to legalize adult-use cannabis this election, but the competing ballot measures may spoil those chances.
South Dakota has two cannabis ballot measures with slightly different goals. Amendment A is a ballot amendment that legalizes adult-use cannabis for adults over the age of 21. Under the amendment, individuals could legally possess up to one ounce of cannabis, grow up to three mature plants, and taxes on sales would be 15%. The amendment would also require the state legislature to create a medical cannabis program by April 1st, 2022.
The second ballot measure, Initiated Measure 26, would legalize medical cannabis for patients suffering from debilitating conditions, loosely defined as chronic conditions causing cachexia or wasting syndrome; severe, debilitating pain; severe nausea; seizures; or severe and persistent muscle spasms. The state Department of Health would be responsible for regulating the program.
Amendment A is currently polling with 51% in favor and 44% opposed. Initiated Measure 26 has considerably stronger support, 74% of voters in favor and 23% opposed.
Prediction: Initiated Measure 26 is will easily pass.
Prediction: Amendment A is a toss-up. While the amendment is polling favorably, a seven percent lead is not insurmountable, and Amendment A’s success will largely boil down to whether supporters show up to the polls on Election Day.
No matter how one looks at the polling data, the cannabis industry is poised to make significant gains on November 4th. At least four out of the seven ballot measures are all but assured to pass, and only one initiative, Amendment A, can truly be considered a toss-up. So, how will this affect the cannabis industry?
The biggest winners from this election cycle will be cannabis technology companies, like Akerna. With five new cannabis markets potentially opening, the need for in-depth seed-to-sale tracking and compliance will become increasingly vital to the success of multi-state operators. The technology companies that can scale effectively and offer Enterprise-level services will be the key to that success, especially if Congress acts on cannabis reform.
Congress will be under more pressure than ever to pass meaningful cannabis reform. As more states legalize cannabis, the federal government’s hardline stance against the substance becomes more untenable, and this upcoming election just may prove to be the tipping point.