What States Are Voting to Legalize Medical Marijuana in 2016?

marijuana cannabis cancer

By Jeffrey Green

After this coming election a majority of states will allow some form of legal cannabis.

This November, at least nine states will be voting on ballot measures to enter the civilized world of legal recreational or medical marijuana. A few more states are still counting petition signatures to see if they made the ballot. These states are in addition to the 25 states and Washington, DC that already freed the weed.

In Washington, I can buy cannabis at a cute shop in a strip mall. I’m greeted by an inviting smell, soothing music, smiling budtenders, and an unbelievably diverse selection of flowers and edibles. The experience is significantly more enjoyable than meeting some dude in a shady parking lot or back alley for an uncomfortable transaction.

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Sign in breezeway of legal cannabis shop in Washington state

Following the successful examples of Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska, five more states will be voting to legalize recreational cannabis this coming election day.

If you live in Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada, you get to save people from being thrown in cages for having a marijuana plant.  Each of these states has had legal medical marijuana for years, but this is a new level of freedom and a new potential source of tax revenue.

Before this coming election, half of the nation already allows access to medical cannabis. Following this election, pot will be legal in some form in a majority of the United States with as many as five states voting to allow medical pot for the first time.

Medical marijuana legalization will be on the ballot in at least three new states: Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota. Montana is voting on expanding medical use and recreational. Legalization for medicinal use may also be on the ballot in Oklahoma where petition signatures are still being verified, and in Missouri where signatures are being disputed.

See state-by-state medical cannabis 2016 ballot details below.

Arkansas

Arkansans will have a chance to vote on one of two potential medical marijuana bills. Organizers from Arkansans for Compassionate Care collected enough signatures for the 2016 Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act, a quasi-nonprofit model overseen by the Department of Public Health. The other measure to turn in enough signatures is a for-profit model called the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment.

If this 2015 poll – showing 68 percent of Arkansans would support a ballot measure legalizing medical marijuana, while only 26 percent would oppose it – is any indication, whichever measure is on the ballot appears likely to pass.

Florida

In 2014 a majority of voters, 57 percent, approved Amendment 2 to change the state constitution to allow the legalization of medical marijuana. However, amendments in Florida require a super majority of 60 percent to become law so the measure failed.

The Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative is back on the November 8, 2016, ballot in Florida. According to Ballotpedia:

A “yes” vote supports legalizing medical marijuana for individuals with specific debilitating diseases or comparable debilitating conditions as determined by a licensed state physician.

A “no” vote opposes the legalization of medical marijuana, keeping the state’s current more limited medical marijuana program in place.

Amendment 2 was also designed to require the Department of Health to regulate marijuana production and distribution centers and issue identification cards for patients and caregivers.

This amendment is likely to be successful this election. All eight of the most recent reputable polls show over 60 percent support, including multiple Quinnipiac polls showing 84 percent support medical marijuana.

Montana

Although Montana passed limited medical cannabis legislation in 2004 and is considered on the list of 25 legal states, restrictions have made the program largely ineffective.  The measure allowed patients to access seeds and plants or work but no dispensaries were permitted. Growers were limited to serving no more than three patients.

This year’s measure – Initiative 182, the Montana Medical Marijuana Act – would permit growers and providers to supply more patients. The measure also expands access to medical marijuana to people suffering with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and chronic pain.

There may be some confusion at the polls as two other marijuana initiatives may also qualify for the ballot. The first – Initiative 176 – would repeal all legalization. It calls for Montana to respect that marijuana is illegal under federal law. The second – Constitutional Initiative 115 – would permit adults to purchase, consume, or possess limited amounts of marijuana for recreational use.

A poll by ISideWith shows a strong 65 percent majority of Montana voters support some form of marijuana legalization, including 48 percent who support full legalization without regulations.

North Dakota

North Dakota voters will finally get to decide on a limited medical cannabis program. A 2012 petition failed to qualify after many signatures were disqualified.

The 2016 North Dakota Compassionate Care Act allows patients to possess up to three ounces for qualifying conditions such as AIDS, cancer, epilepsy and glaucoma. Patients who live far away (more than forty miles) from a dispensary will be permitted to grow eight plants or less.

North Dakota is the only state where passage appears questionable. The most recent poll is from 2014 and it shows a narrow 47 percent favored legalization of medical use over 41 percent who opposed. An overwhelming majority of 68 percent opposed recreation legalization in the same poll.

Oklahoma

Under the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative, State Question 788, doctors would be able to recommend state-issued licenses for patients at least 25 years old. Once licensed they’d be able to use it legally, possess up to three ounces, and grow 6 flowering plants and 6 seedlings.

It remains to be seen if the petition for State Question 788 reached the necessary amount of 66,000 signatures. Organizers are optimistic but they also have concerns that the signatures will be challenged by special interests like pharmaceuticals and law enforcement agencies.

An ISideWith poll shows a huge 65 percent majority supports legalizing medical cannabis versus only 34 percent who oppose it.

Missouri

The chief organizers of the Missouri Marijuana Legalization Initiative collected and turned in 275,000 signatures in May. About a week ago the Secretary of State disqualified 10,700 signatures, which left the measure just over 2,000 short of qualifying for the ballot. The organizers of New Approach Missouri are suing the state to overturn invalidated signatures and put the initiative on the 2016 ballot.

According to Ballotpedia the measure amends the Missouri constitution to:

  • allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes, and create regulations and licensing procedures for marijuana and marijuana facilities;
  • impose a 4 percent tax on the retail sale of marijuana; and
  • use funds from these taxes for health and care services for military veterans by the Missouri Veterans Commission and to administer the program to license and regulate marijuana and marijuana facilities.

There aren’t many recent formal polls for Missouri. However an informal media poll showed a whopping 84 percent support for the decriminalization of medical cannabis.

Marijuana legalization appears to be sweeping across the United States. Given the momentum of legalization at the state level, the DEA’s refusal reschedule marijuana last week seems inconsequential. The tide has turned.

Come November 9th, more states will allow marijuana use than prohibit it.

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