Unless you have been living under a rock for the last five years, then you know that there are now 8 states that have legalized cannabis for adult use. Colorado and Washington State legalized cannabis in 2012, Oregon, Alaska (and Washington D.C.) legalized cannabis in 2014, and Massachusetts, Maine, Nevada, and California legalized cannabis in 2016. All of those states (and D.C.) legalized cannabis via the citizen initiative process.
Going into 2017 it seemed like at least one state would legalize cannabis via legislative action, and Vermont was very close to doing so until its Governor vetoed a legalization bill that was passed by Vermont’s Legislature. With 2017 coming to a close and 2018 right around the corner, many people are wondering which states will legalize cannabis in 2018. 2018 is a mid-term election year, and at least one state seems likely to see legalization on the ballot.
Will Michigan legalize marijuana in 2018?
Michigan came close to putting a cannabis legalization initiative on the ballot in 2016, but due to various factors, it didn’t happen. Michigan activists refocused for 2018 and turned in 360,000 signatures. At least 252,000 of the signatures need to be valid in order for the initiative to make the ballot (70%). A determination on the signature validation process is expected soon.
If ultimately passed by Michigan voters in November 2018, the initiative would:
- Legalize personal possession, cultivation and use of limited amounts of cannabis for adults 21 and older;
- Legalize the cultivation of industrial hemp (used to make textiles, biodegradable plastics, food, construction materials and even fuel);
- License marijuana businesses that cultivate, process, test, transport and sell marijuana;
- Protect consumers with proper testing and safety regulations for retail marijuana;
- Tax marijuana at retail levels with a 10 percent excise tax and 6 percent sales tax; and
- Local governments will have the choice of whether and where to allow marijuana businesses in their community. (This takes marijuana sales out of neighborhoods and into a regulated space where IDs are checked and products are tested for safety.)
Assuming that the signature threshold has been met, what are the odds of Michigan voters approving the legalization measure? A poll from earlier this year showed 57% support for the legalization initiative. Legalization in Michigan is overdue, and I am confident that if the initiative makes the ballot that it will pass by a hefty margin.
Will Vermont approve marijuana legalization via legislative action in 2018?
As previously stated in this article, Vermont’s Legislature approved marijuana legalization in 2017. Unfortunately, the legislation was vetoed by Vermont’s Governor. 2018 is looking very promising for legalization in Vermont. Tom Angell pointed out in an article for Forbes that Vermont has a great chance of legalizing in 2018, with Vermont House Speaker Mitzi Johnson, Vermont Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe, and very importantly, Vermont Governor Phil Scott having all recently expressed support for legalization in Vermont in early 2018.
The details of what exactly Vermont’s legalization model would look like is not 100% clear. Using the 2017 version as a guide is not all the way helpful because after all, it was vetoed by Vermont’s Governor. But it seems like a massive overhaul of what Vermont’s Legislature passed in 2017 is not needed, just some strategic tweaks. Vermont’s Governor cited the need for tougher penalties for illegal sales of marijuana to minors as grounds for his veto, so I assume that will happen in the 2018 version.
Vermont will most likely see a legalization model that does not involve the creation of a taxed and regulated system, at least not at first, but would end cannabis prohibition on personal possession and cultivation for adults. For some reason, staunch cannabis opponent Kevin Sabet seems to be confused about what legalization means, per his tweet below:
Mr. Sabet, allowing personal possession of cannabis plants is legalization…nice try though (slaps forehead). Legalization in Vermont seems to be a virtual guarantee in 2018 (whether Sabet likes it or not), but what exactly it will look like will have to wait until the Governor’s signature is applied to the legislation.
Will New Jersey legalize marijuana in 2018?
Arguably my favorite moment of 2017 was seeing New Jersey voters approve a pro-legalization candidate for Governor to replace outgoing New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Chris Christie has been one of the biggest legalization opponents in the country, perhaps tied with Kevin Sabet and Jeff Sessions. He has stated that he may be the only thing keeping legalization from happening in New Jersey and that he is fine with that. Seeing him being replaced with pro-cannabis legalization candidate Phil Murphy is outstanding on a level that cannot be properly captured in words.
Phil Murphy made cannabis legalization in New Jersey a big part of his campaign, and during his victory speech after winning on Election Day he reiterated his support for legalization by demanding that New Jersey legalize cannabis within 100 days of him taking office. Some gentle opposition has been expressed by members of New Jersey’s Legislature, but the pushback has been directed more towards the idea that New Jersey needs to not proceed too quickly versus outright opposition to New Jersey legalizing at all.
I don’t think the question in New Jersey is whether or not New Jersey will legalize cannabis, but instead is will New Jersey legalize cannabis by the end of 2018? Support for legalization in New Jersey is strong both inside and outside of New Jersey’s government, but as is always the case in politics, the devil will be in the details. New Jersey’s legalization model will likely be unique since it would likely create a taxed and regulated system unlike what will probably occur in Vermont, but the model will come via legislative action versus a citizen initiative like other states that have legalized thus far, which may result in it having stricter provisions compared to other states.
Will New Jersey’s legalization model include a home cultivation provision? How much cannabis will New Jersey adults be able to possess? Will the taxed and regulated system be such that the barrier to entry to New Jersey’s adult-use industry is low enough for small businesses to obtain licenses, or will it only be geared towards entities with deep pockets? What about an equity program? What about social use? Those are just a handful of things that New Jersey’s Legislature will have to work out as they push to make legalization a reality in the Garden State.
Will Ohio legalize marijuana in 2018?
The latest state to see a viable 2018 legalization effort announced is Ohio. The people behind Ohio’s failed 2015 legalization effort recently announced that they would be pushing for a signature drive in 2018 with the goal of making the 2018 ballot. The 2015 effort was riddled with self-inflicted issues, not the least of which where Buddie the Marijuana Mascot and the most profiteer legalization model that has ever made a state ballot.
I am happy to see that the 2018 version will reportedly be much different than the 2015 version. The specific language of the initiative is still being drafted. However, the initiative is expected to have all of the usual limitations for cannabis legalization initiatives, such as:
- Local control – municipalities can ban cannabis businesses from operating in their jurisdictions
- No public consumption
- Businesses cannot be located near certain things such as schools
- Landlords can still ban cannabis consumption and cultivation on their rental properties
- Employers can still prohibit cannabis consumption by employees
- Marijuana DUI laws still apply
The proposed restrictions above, provided by the campaign when it announced the effort, are expected and are in place in every other state that has legalized marijuana. The legal age for cannabis in Ohio would be set at 21 years old, like every other legal state in America. The Ohio initiative will not make any changes to Ohio’s medical marijuana program. Home cultivation will be legal if the initiative passes. The initiative would also legalize hemp cultivation if it passes.
The campaign needs to gather 305,592 valid signatures in order to make the 2018 ballot, which is no easy task and will not be cheap. But considering that the effort is backed by deep pockets, I expect the signature-gathering effort to succeed. Whether or not Ohio voters will approve it if/when it makes the ballot, only time will tell. I think that Ohio voters want legalization, but it’s unclear if the 2018 ResponsibleOhio version will be the version that Ohio voters ultimately want.
Those four states would be the most likely to legalize marijuana in 2018 in my opinion. If anyone feels that other states have a viable chance of legalizing in 2018, by all means, express which state(s) you think will do so, and why you feel the way you feel. In a perfect world, every state would legalize cannabis in the near future, but some states are much farther away from victory than others.
Right now, 68,678,064 out of 323,100,000 Americans live where cannabis is legal (roughly 21%). If all four states above legalized, it would raise the percentage of Americans living in legal states to over 30%. If that proves to become the case, an end to federal prohibition would be sped up considerably. If one or more states legalizes cannabis via legislative action in 2018, I would expect a number of states to follow suit in 2019. That would create a level of momentum for 2020’s election that would be unreal, likely resulting in federal reform occurring not too long after.