The most contentious election in decades happened on November 3, 2020. And while the fight for Electoral College Seats was fierce, there was another silent winner in the election. Five states created new cannabis laws that were on the ballot for constituents.
In 2022, thirty-six states have legalized medical cannabis programs. And the remaining states are watching the success of these new markets carefully. For some states like Oklahoma and Colorado, the pandemic resulted in astronomical and record-breaking sales. Proving that recreational weed was not the driving force behind cannabis generated tax revenues. Patients with medical cards were instead.
Depression and anxiety are two of the most commonly accepted qualifying health conditions in legalized states. Getting a medical card with a mental health diagnosis is not difficult. And with the impact of the pandemic on employment, food security, and social isolation, it is no wonder that more Americans are self-medicating with medical marijuana.
The frustration and inequity of access to alternative medicine are evident. If you are a patient, or a caregiver of a patient with a chronic, debilitating disease, you want the option. But you may not be able to source it legally. There are many studies and polls that suggest Americans with medical conditions are using cannabis for symptom management. Whether it is legal or not. But at great risk to themselves and their families. Cannabis possession can be a misdemeanor or a felony charge, depending on the jurisdiction.
The Battle for Legalization at the 2022 Midterms Begins
The next opportunity to introduce cannabis legislation is on the November 2022 primaries. That is when state Legislatures will present the next ballot items for voting by constituents. For many cannabis supporters and patient advocates, placing a state question about legalization may have taken seven years or longer. There are many difficult steps and hurdles involved in getting cannabis on a state ballot.
But which states are ‘next up’ to vote on cannabis legalization? And what obstacles do citizens who want legal weed face in each state? It is a tug of war between lobbyists, patients, and legislators that may not be supportive of legalized cannabis. From now until the 2022 midterms, state constitutional reforms will either support or block legalization.
It will be the second or third time that cannabis advocacy groups have attempted to put the matter to a public vote for some states. First, the state House of Representatives must review the proposed legislation. Writing it is complicated and concise. The state House votes on any caveat within the proposed constitutional reform. And then, it must move to the respective Senate to be approved before it can be added to the ballot.
The House of Representatives can block it. It can also be blocked by a majority vote to dismiss in the Senate. And even if both executive branches of government pass a cannabis reform bill, it can still be vetoed by the State Governor.
A Contentious Battle Over Medical Marijuana Heats Up in Idaho
When you think of Idaho, you may not think of political furor. The state seems to be very conservative; however, it comes to the question of cannabis legalization. The journey to legalize medical cannabis in the state of Idaho began in 2012 when advocacy groups failed to get enough signatures to propel the legislation to a state ballot. The same problem happened in 2014, and in 2016, the petition to add medical cannabis to the ballot was withdrawn.
Then in 2013, the state Legislature made a statement that said the majority of representatives were against any cannabis legalization in Idaho. The only alternative medicine available to patients with chronic or rare diseases and symptoms would be 0% CBD.
Senate Bill 1146a would have made clinical or medical-grade CBD oil (i.e., 0.30%) legal for therapeutic use. Unfortunately, Idaho Governor Otter vetoed it. This was later overturned by the Idaho Attorney General, indicating that the ban was unconstitutional.
Idaho Lawmakers Try to Constitutionally Ban Cannabis
In February 2021, Idaho legislators further confused state residents. They moved to introduce legislation that would make any kind of cannabis (medical, adult-use, or CBD oil with THC content) illegal. Permanently, by placing a constitutional ban. This attempt to block cannabis legalization has not been approved yet.
In the same month, the House Health and Welfare Committee produced a bipartisan bill. It was introduced on February 8, 2021. The proposed legislation would allow adults in Idaho over the age of 21 years to be prescribed cannabis. Exclusively by a physician, and dispensed not through conventional retail dispensaries; from designated pharmacies. Twenty-eight pharmacy locations were provided for authorization in the proposed legislation.
In a further step to obstruct medical cannabis on the 2022 primary ballot, the Idaho House is passing a new law that makes gathering signatures harder. Now, any state question must not only meet the minimum number of signatures, but they must also be collected from all thirty-five (35) counties in the state.
Nebraska Cannabis Advocates to Write a Better an Iron-Clad Cannabis Measure
Writing proposed legislation is difficult. After all, you are composing a potential law that could impact every citizen’s lives in the state. But after the legislation is written comes the drafting of a state measure. A short three to five sentences that summarize what the legislation would change.
There are very specific rules about writing state measures. For example, each state measure must only address one legal change. You aren’t allowed to write it in a way that addresses more than one legal change. It has to be unilateral to be legal.
While cannabis legalization advocates in Nebraska collected more than enough signatures, they made a mistake in writing the state measure. Consequently, the Nebraska Supreme Court rejected the ballot request. The measure violated the single-subject rule. Voters did not see the question of medical cannabis legalization on the November 3, 2020 ballot in Nebraska. But they will, on the 2022 primaries.
Will medical cannabis legalization get enough voter support in Nebraska in 2022? There was a great deal of protest against the fact that the ballot was dismissed on a technicality. Caregivers and patients will continue to lobby hard to educate and inform, and garner support for a majority vote in 2022.
Missouri Paused for the Pandemic
In Missouri, the journey to the legalization of cannabis began in 2014. Lawmakers passed HB 2238, which created the Missouri Hemp Extract Registration Program (MHERP). This provided clinical grade CBD oil (0.30%) for patients with epilepsy.
The next step in Missouri was to decriminalize cannabis possession. In 2014, SB 491 made first-time possession of 10 grams or less a misdemeanor only punishable by a fine. Any possession greater than 10 grams was still considered a felony offense, however.
In 2018, Missouri successfully passed the legislation to legalize doctor-supervised medical cannabis. Amendment 2 to the Medical Marijuana and Veteran Health-Care Service Initiative went into effect on December 6, 2018. The state program is administered by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS). The state health fund is supported by a 4% tax on all cannabis sales.
The goal for 2020 in Missouri was to add the question about recreational or adult-use cannabis on the ballot. However, precautions regarding the Covid-19 health emergency and canvassing for signatures postponed gathering signatures. Activists in Missouri plan to resume in 2021 to place recreational cannabis on the ballot for 2022 primaries.
The Other States Eyeing Cannabis Legalization
The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on state fiscal resources has been catastrophic. The increased cost of healthcare delivery and prevention measures have strained most American states. However, states that have successfully legalized cannabis (medical, adult-use, or both) had a viable tax revenue source to soften the blow.
And other states made a note and are eyeing cannabis legalization as a much-needed injection of funds to help with the growing expense of fighting Covid-19. Some of those states include Wisconsin, which may move forward in 2021 with legalization. Marijuana Moment reported that New Mexico is another state that is ‘highly’ motivated to move the dial on legalization as well.