Leaders, It’s Time to Follow the People Toward Legalization
Are you an elected official who opposes marijuana reform? Based on what I’ve been noticing this election cycle, you may be in jeopardy of becoming a victim of your own anti-marijuana propaganda.
Voters in Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota, and Utah will vote Nov. 6, 2018, on measures to legalize some form of marijuana use. Accomplished by voter initiatives, the ballot measures in Michigan and North Dakota would legalize recreational marijuana for those 21 and older. Meanwhile, voters in Utah and Missouri will cast their ballots for or against medical marijuana.
We seem to be at the marijuana-reform crossroads in this country. While it’s been incredible to witness the demise of prohibition and the start of legalization, it’s disheartening and disturbing to know that some elected officials are made uncomfortable by the idea of informed adults turning to marijuana for medicinal or recreational use.
With that thought in mind, here are a few things to consider before the November vote.
Anti-Marijuana Candidate Trailing in Michigan Governor’s Race
Republican Bill Schuette and Democrat Gretchen Whitmer, Michigan’s two leading gubernatorial candidates, were asked by the Lansing State Journal whether they “support the ballot proposal to make recreational marijuana use legal in Michigan.”
Schuette offered a terse “No,” but clarified, “I will respect the will of the people.” Meanwhile, Whitmer unequivocally stated she would cast her ballot for legalization.
“Michigan has a chance to get marijuana legalization right. I will be a yes vote on legalizing recreational marijuana when it appears on the ballot this November,” Whitmer told the newspaper Oct. 9, 2018.
As of Oct. 15, 2018, Whitmer had a 9.2 percent lead over Schuette, according to RealClearPolitics’ poll aggregator. And it would appear the voters are ready to cast their ballots for both the Democratic candidate and legalization. In an Oct. 3, 2018, poll published by The Glengariff Group Inc. and reported on by Detroit NBC affiliate WDIV-TV, the data suggest voters support the legalization of recreational marijuana by a margin of 62 percent to 35 percent.
The bad news for Schuette is obvious: He’s already nearly 10 points behind Whitmer and the poll shows that 63.4 percent of those who self-identify as leaning Republican support legalization.
Polls are Hazy for North Dakota Marijuana Legalization
North Dakota’s Measure 3 has a relatively good chance of being passed Nov. 6, 2018, according to one poll.
In an Aug. 13, 2018, survey conducted by Polco, the poll indicated 82 percent of those surveyed support legalization. However, another statewide poll conducted by Odney Inc. and published by the Bismarck Tribune, suggests only 38 percent of North Dakota’s residents want marijuana legalized. Odney has a history of working with North Dakota Republicans, according to ND xPlains, a political content website founded by Tyler Axness, a former Democratic state senator. The president of Odney Advertising, Pat Finken, is currently the campaign manager for Republican Congressman Kevin Cramer, according to ND xPlains. And Cramer is battling to unseat North Dakota’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp.
FiveThirtyEight has Cramer leading Heitkamp in the latest polls. But depending on which poll is right, Polco or Odney, Heitkamp could receive of a surge in independent voters hitting the polls to support legalization come Nov. 6, 2018.
Marijuana is significantly less destructive than alcohol; that’s an important distinction in a state that ranks high for heavy drinking. According to U.S. News and World Report, North Dakota is the fourth-booziest state in America. And while Cramer remains ambiguous on the public health advantages to a regulated marijuana market, North Dakota remains a leader in drunken-driving fatalities nationwide, according to a 2017 report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Missouri Has 3 Options for Medical Marijuana
Missourians won’t vote for their next governor until 2020, but they will have three different ballot initiatives dedicated to legalizing medical marijuana on the November 2018 ballot. All three of the initiatives would legalize possessing, consuming, purchasing, and selling medicinal cannabis, and allow the state to license and regulate dispensaries through a regulated system. The primary difference among Amendment 2, Amendment 3, and Proposition C is that they would establish a different tax structure on medicinal cannabis to fund various programs.
An Aug. 9, 2018, poll conducted by TJP strategies on behalf of news service Missouri Scout found that medical marijuana has the majority of support in Missouri. Fifty-four percent of those surveyed indicated they’d vote for medical marijuana. The remaining 46 percent said they were either undecided or would vote against medical marijuana legalization.
The encouraging data was derived from just one poll. As such, the outcome of Missouri’s medical marijuana vote remains hazy at best. But with three initiatives on the same ballot, the chances are good that a majority of voters will ultimately support at least one of the ballot of measures during the midterm vote.
Utah’s Leaders May Be Picking the Wrong Fight
Utah’s medical marijuana ballot initiative has been routinely scorned and dismissed by the Republican Gov. Gary Herbert, the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Utah Medical Association, and the Utah Sheriffs Association. But despite their vocal opposition to medical marijuana, 64 percent of Utah’s voters still view Proposition 2 favorably, according to a poll conducted Oct. 9, 2018, by Deseret News, a Salt Lake City newspaper owned by the Mormon church. That palpable sense of inevitability led to a marijuana détente.
The compromise between the Utah Patients Coalition, the Mormon church, and leaders of the Republican-led state legislature provides further evidence that voters have the power to persuade conservative groups and elected officials to change the political course.
As voters in Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota, and Utah head to the polls to cast their ballots for or against marijuana reform in November 2018, our elected officials would serve themselves well to remember the popularity of reform among a majority of America’s law-abiding citizens.
Lead, follow, or get out of the way. Our elected politicians will either have a philosophical epiphany, or be held accountable and removed from office by the very same voters that support marijuana reform.