It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.
OK, sure, there are one or two issues more important than cannabis legalization. Maybe three. And while the idea of making America great again seems horribly ironic to many right now, cannabis legalization scored unprecedented victories across the country this November.
On the medicinal front: A stunning 63.8 percent of North Dakota voters legalized medicinal use. The state has 90 days from the election to implement the law statewide.
However, Arkansas was the big surprise, as it became the first Bible Belt state to legalize cannabis for medicinal use. Arkansas’ governor, former Drug Enforcement Administration chief and outspoken cannabis opponent Asa Hutchinson, has indicated he will accept the will of the people and allow the law to go into effect without interference.
After failing in 2014 (even though a majority of voters said yes; a 60 percent supermajority was required), Florida voted overwhelmingly to legalize medicinal weed: 71 percent of voters were in favor, but much remains to be seen regarding how Gov. Rick Scott’s administration will implement the law.
As for recreational marijuana, Nevada was a big question mark heading into Election Day, but despite casino mogul Sheldon Adelson’s best efforts (he supplied 97 percent of the opposition funding), 54 percent of Silver State voters ended up in favor of legalization. Nevada was already ahead of the cannabis-tourism game by accepting medical recommendations from other states, and recreational use will surely be a further boon for the travel industry. The personal use and possession components of the law go into effect on Jan. 1, 2017. However, lighting up in public will still get you a $600 fine. Also: Don’t expect pot shops to start popping up on The Strip anytime soon. The state is not expecting to start taking license applications until the beginning of 2018.
Some 54 percent of Massachusetts voters thought legalizing was a good idea, too. Once the law goes into effect in December of this year, adults 21 and older can possess up to 10 ounces of cannabis at home, and 1 ounce in public.
Maine approved legalization in a real nail-biter of an election. The measure passed by just more than 2,600 votes—less than 1 percent. Opponents of the law have already demanded a recount, and anti-pot crusader Gov. Paul LePage has indicated he may challenge the law.
Arizona’s failed Proposition 205 was the low point of the state elections; it was the only cannabis-related state initiative to fail, receiving just 48.5 percent of the vote.
Here in California, Proposition 64 passed by a comfortable margin—surprising no one. The home cultivation, possession and consumption components went into effect immediately.
- Consumption of cannabis in private homes.
- Possession of up to an ounce of flower and up to 8 grams of concentrate.
- Growing up to six cannabis plants and keeping the harvested product in a private home. (Product harvested from your own grow is exempt from the one ounce limit.)
- Giving up to an ounce of flower and up to eight grams of concentrate to another adult.
The first commercial-permit applications are expected around the beginning of 2018, with stores opening a couple of months later. If the Washington and Colorado examples hold true, demand will skyrocket, while newly licensed commercial growers get up and running, resulting in a temporary shortage.
Prop 64 removes virtually all penalties for those 21 and older, and replaces criminal charges with drug education for those younger than 18. You can get busted for smoking in public, and you can still get fired for failing a drug test. In a weird loophole … if you’re 18-20 years old, you got screwed: Possession of more than an ounce can now mean 6 months in jail. If an adult shares cannabis with someone younger than 21, he or she could face six months behind bars and a $500 fine. Something to think about the next time you’re passing a joint around at a concert …
California is the sixth-largest economy in the world, so Prop 64 passing is the brass ring for the legalization movement.
In Colorado, the push toward further legalization received a boost when Denver passed Initiative 300, which allows businesses to permit social consumption of cannabis on their premises. This opens the door to smoking weed in bars, cafes and other public spaces.
While the news regarding legalization was great on the state and local levels (outside of Arizona, that is), the national results were not quite as encouraging: With election of The Donald and Republicans in control of both houses of Congress, don’t expect federal prohibition to end any time soon. While Trump himself has indicated he would defer to the states to set medicinal cannabis law, Vice President-elect Mike Pence’s influence remains to be seen. Pence is a long-time proponent of the War on Drugs and believes in jail time for minimal possession. Pence’s role in leading Trump’s transition team indicates he will have an active role in the administration. This also means the DEA will be under no pressure to remove marijuana from Schedule 1 for at least the next four years—which will complicate cannabis-industry banking and deter major investment in the industry for the foreseeable future due to a continued lack of Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation coverage.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness …