Forget all this talk about blue waves and red waves. Here are the elections and ballot intiatives that could turn the tide for cannabis.
5 min read
Board up your homes, move to ‘higher’ ground. Cannabis is poised to have a Tsunami day on November 6.
On ballots across the U.S., many candidates and initiatives are pro-legalization, albeit in varying degrees. If voters come out in the record numbers they’re expected to, this could turn the tide towards a green wave.
I spoke with Sam D’Arcangelo, the Director of Headcount’s Cannabis Voter Project, a non-partisan voter engagement organization that educates Americans on how voting can impact cannabis policy. After watching the races closely and talking to voters, he believes marijuana is having a moment.
“There’s just been a general trend that politicians seem, in this election, more open than ever before to talk about marijuana and to take a position in favor of marijuana reform,” D’Arcangelo says. “Cannabis policy in the past hasn’t really been much of an issue in elections but it’s pretty recently gone to the forefront of a lot of races. Until recently that was kind of a third rail that politicians didn’t want to touch or talk about, but that’s changed pretty rapidly in the past couple of years.”
Case in point: At least 21 major party gubernatorial nominees on U.S. ballots this year support legalizing cannabis, according to an analysis by Marijuana Moment.
Here are some things to watch for on Tuesday.
Big ballot initiatives
Marijuana is on the ballot in four states: Michigan, North Dakota, Utah, and Missouri. In Michigan and North Dakota, you’ve got initiatives for full recreational legalization. Utah and Missouri voters will be deciding on whether or not medical marijuana should be legal in their states.
Some of the races are tight and contentious. Take Michigan. Although polls predict the state will go green, there has been some last-minute effort by prohibitionists to stomp the plant out.
A TV attack ad warns that legalizing marijuana would allow for the sale of ice cream and cookies with “unlimited potency making our way into our schools and playgrounds, putting the lives of our children and grandchildren at stake.”
Meanwhile, in North Dakota, voters could approve what would be the most open recreational marijuana laws in the country. Adults will be able to grow, consume and possess as much pot as they want, without government oversight.
Candidates duke it out
Many of the Senate, House, and Gubernatorial races have made cannabis a central issue. D’Archangelo points to a few key elections to watch.
- In Illinois, there’s a nasty race between the incumbent Bruce Rauner and his Democratic opponent, J.B. Pritzker. “There has been a pretty big line drawn there between where the two candidates stand on marijuana,” says D’Arcangelo. “Rauner is decidedly against recreational legalization, whereas Pritzker has come out in favor of recreational legalization. That’s something that’s been talked about the debates.”
- In Florida, Democrat Andrew Gillum and Republican Ron DeSantis are engaged in a bitter and close race that is predicted to go down to the wire. Says D’Arcangelo, “Gillum is in favor of recreational legalization. While DeSantis is not totally against medical, he’s not a supporter of recreational legalization”
- Perhaps the most-watched of all the Senate races is the one in Texas between incumbent Senator Ted Cruz and Democratic rising star, Beto O’Rourke who “has made his support for recreational marijuana legalization central to his campaign platform,” according to D’Arcangelo. As for Ted Cruz, “he hasn’t really said much about it on the campaign trail, though in the past he’s made comments to the effect that he believes it should be left up to the states.” And that, as a state senator, he would not vote for legalization.
What to expect
So how will cannabis fare on election day? While D’Arcangelo’s organization is non-partisan and doesn’t take a position on marijuana legalization, he points to some of the polling he has seen in recent weeks. For example, Lake Research Partners surveyed 800 likely 2018 general election voters in 60 “battleground districts,” and found that 60 percent support ending cannabis prohibition. Only 36 percent are opposed.
And these voters are motivated. “Cannabis policy is one of the few issues that has the ability to mobilize people who otherwise would go to the polls to go to the polls,” D’Arcangelo says.