Pubdate: Tue, 06 Nov 2018
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA)
Copyright: 2018 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc
Author: Christopher Ingraham

It has been a big year for marijuana policy in North America. Mexico's
supreme court overturned pot prohibition last week, while Canada's
recreational marijuana market officially opened its doors in October.

Stateside, recreational marijuana use became legal in Vermont on July
1, Oklahoma voters approved one of the country's most progressive
medical marijuana bills in June, the New York Department of Health
officially recommended legalization to the governor and the
Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands legalized recreational

Now, legalization advocates are hoping to build on these successes
with a number of statewide ballot measures up for consideration
Tuesday, including full recreational legalization in two states and
medical marijuana in two more. Here's a rundown of what the measures
say and where the polling on them currently stands.

Michigan voters will consider a Colorado-style recreational bill that
would legalize the sale and use of marijuana for individuals over the
age of 21. Michigan's bill is more permissive than the law in other
states: It would allow individuals to possess up to 2.5 ounces of
marijuana at any given time (most other states allow 1 ounce) and
would allow them to grow up to 12 individual plants for their own
consumption (most other states permit six).

The latest polls all show the measure passing with a comfortable
margin. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer supports
legalization, while Republican candidate Bill Schuette released a
statement saying he does not "personally support legalizing
recreational marijuana but as governor he will respect the will of the

North Dakota's ballot measure came out of nowhere, taking much of the
marijuana policy world by surprise. The initiative was engineered by
local marijuana reform advocates, with no initial assistance from the
big national players like NORML and the Marijuana Policy Project.

As a result, the measure doesn't follow the template for recreational
marijuana programs set up in other states. It places no limits on
possession, and legalizes the sale and commercialization of the drug
without setting up a regulatory structure to govern those sales.
Supporters say they expect the legislature to iron out those details
if the bill passes. The measure would also expunge the criminal
records of individuals with prior marijuana convictions.

The polling on the measure is all over the place, with two surveys
fielded at roughly the same time in October yielding opposite,
lopsided results: One showed the initiative passing 51 percent to 36
percent, while the other showed it failing with 65 percent opposed.
With numbers like those it's hard to predict how this one will shake

Missouri voters will consider not one, not two, but three separate
medical marijuana initiatives at the polls Tuesday. The measures
differ on some details, like how much to tax medical pot and whether
patients are allowed to grow their own plants. The one with the
broadest range of endorsements from national drug policy groups as
well as local newspapers is Amendment 2, which is similar to other
states' medical policies: Doctors would be able to recommend marijuana
for a number of specified ailments, and patients would be able to
obtain the drug either through a dispensary or by growing it at home.

Polling on the issue has been scant, but a survey in August showed
that voters supported, in general terms, an amendment to the state
constitution that would legalize medical marijuana. If two or more of
the measures pass, it's likely that the measure that receives the most
votes will go into effect.

Utah voters will weigh in on medical marijuana, but the eventual
result is essentially a foregone conclusion. In October, supporters
and opponents of the medical marijuana measure struck a compromise:
the governor would convene a special session of the legislature
immediately after the election to craft a more limited medical
marijuana bill, regardless of the ballot item's outcome.

Backers of the ballot measure agreed to the compromise proposal
because in Utah, legislators have the power to overturn statutory
ballot initiatives with a majority vote. "If Proposition 2 passed
without any agreement on next steps, patients may have been left
waiting years to access legal medical cannabis," said the Marijuana
Policy Project's Matthew Schweich in an October statement. "This
compromise eliminates that uncertainty and ensures legislative leaders
are committed to making the law work."

Other medical marijuana supporters are unhappy with the proposed
compromise bill, which is more limited in scope than medical marijuana
programs in other states. It doesn't allow patients to grow their own
plants, and only allows for smoked marijuana in a few

There are also a handful of miscellaneous bills being considered at
the local level: Voters in a number of Ohio cities will weigh in on
measures to decriminalize marijuana use, which would essentially treat
minor infractions like a speeding ticket. Some Wisconsin towns,
meanwhile, will hold nonbinding referenda on whether marijuana should
be legalized for medical or recreational use. Activists hope the
results will help persuade Wisconsin legislators to consider
legalization at the state level.