The future of pot policy in America hinges heavily on the election this year. Marijuana law reform is on the ballot in nine states, and has momentum at the federal level in the form of several bills pending in Congress, including ones to deschedule cannabis, reschedule cannabis, legalize hemp and prioritize research trials.
California, Arizona, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts will vote on adult-use pot legalization on Election Day, while North Dakota, Arkansas, Montana and Florida are considering medical marijuana. Combined, these states comprise about a quarter of the country’s population. With widespread support across the nation – 57 percent of U.S. adults say weed should be legal – the issue of marijuana policy reform has achieved bipartisan regard, prompting active discussion among both laymen and legislators.
Nearly 20 percent of states will be deciding on drug policy this election – “a reflection of the fact that we’ve long passed the tipping point [and] that marijuana advocacy has evolved and matured in the past few years,” says Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML. But on the flip side, he says, it also represents a failure of the democratic process, since elected (federal) officials have yet to enact marijuana policy reform comporting with what polling indicates are their constituents’ increasingly progressive views.
“If an overwhelming number of states that have marijuana-specific initiatives on the ballot pass those measures, that could be interpreted by federal lawmakers as a mandate,” says Armentano. “But if several of them do not pass, then it is likely that lawmakers will continue to be reluctant to address marijuana law reform at the federal level.”
Experts, including Drug Policy Action’s Michael Collins and Marijuana Majority’s Tom Angell, agree that California and Florida may be the two most critical states voting on cannabis. They think the initiatives in those states have a decent chance of passing.