By Judge Mary Celeste (ret.)

As more and more states legalize medical and recreational marijuana, the probability of more drivers driving under the influence of marijuana also increases. States may then need to address their drugged driving laws. There are several states that attempted or succeeded on placing recreational or medical marijuana laws on the ballot for 2016. Missouri for medical marijuana and Michigan for recreational marijuana had the required number of petitions; however, there were technical problems that failed to qualify them for the ballot. In Missouri, a judge upheld a ruling that determined that the disqualification by election officials who disqualified thousands of petition signatures because voters had mistakenly signed forms indicating that they resided in the wrong county.

[i] Missouri polling indicated that over 60 percent of voters backed the proposal[ii] In Michigan, state rules invalidated the signatures that were older than 180 days, thus disqualifying it for the ballot;[iii] the Michigan proponents vow to bring it forward again 2018.[iv] Oklahoma’s medical marijuana measure had the required signatures and qualified but was stymied by their state attorney general.[v]

The Arizona Marijuana Legalization Initiative, known as Proposition 205 would allow medical marijuana dispensaries already in place the first opportunity to sell recreational cannabis. Adults over the age of 21 will be allowed to grow 6 plants, while a 15 percent tax is levied on the plant.[vi]  An August 2016 poll found 50 percent of registered voters favor legalization, 40 percent oppose the measure and 10 percent are undecided. [vii] In Arkansas, Issue 7, also known as the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act, will allow patients with an extensive list of qualifying conditions to consume marijuana with a doctor’s approval.[viii] The Arkansas citizens are about evenly split on whether they will support the measure.[ix]

Voting “yes” on California Proposition 64 will legalize recreational marijuana while enacting a 15 percent sales tax and a $9.25 per ounce cultivation tax. “The law will also prevent licenses that would allow corporate money to create a monopoly on the industry.”[x]  The Proposition will have a unique provision that would allow for re-sentencing and destruction of records for prior marijuana convictions.[xi] Polling data compiled by two polling entities show the measure leading among voters by some 30 percent.[xii] Like California, Nevada is vying for recreational marijuana with Question 2. It will tax cannabis sales and reallocate the revenue to K-12 education.[xiii] According to polling data, the Nevada Marijuana Legalization Initiative leads by a margin of 57 percent to 33 percent. [xiv]

Florida’s Amendment 2 medical marijuana initiative would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana to those affected by “cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, PTSD, Crohn’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, ALS, multiple sclerosis or other debilitating medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to those enumerated.”[xv] A recent survey shows 70 percent support for the initiative.[xvi] In Maine, Question 1 will legalize, regulate, and tax cannabis. Fifty-three percent of voters support the measure while 38 percent oppose it.[xvii] In Massachusetts, Question 4 recreational marijuana will allow residents to possibly possess less than 10 ounces in their homes and up to one ounce in public.[xviii] Voters back Question 4 by a margin of 53 percent to 40 percent, according to polling data released in September, 2016.[xix]

While North Dakota is seeking a new medical marijuana law, Montana is tweaking their existing medical marijuana law. The North Dakota Compassionate Care Act, or Initiated Statutory Measure 5, will set up a system of nonprofit “compassion centers” to make medical cannabis available to people with a long list of qualifying conditions. It will also allow patients to grow up to eight plants if they live more than 40 miles from a “compassion center.”[xx] The polling data from 2014 had support for medical marijuana at 47 percent, with 41 percent opposed.[xxi] “I-182 renames the Montana Marijuana Act to the Montana Medical Marijuana Act and amends the Act. I-182 allows a single treating physician to certify medical marijuana for a patient diagnosed with chronic pain and includes post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a ‘debilitating medical condition’ for which a physician may certify medical marijuana.”[xxii] There doesn’t appear to be any recent polling on the initiative’s prospects.

Along with those states that failed to qualify for a ballot measure this election cycle and will probably be back, the next wave of states that seem ripe for recreational marijuana laws are those states that already have in place medical marijuana laws and have decriminalized possession. Don’t be surprised to see the following states with measures on the ballot over the next couple of years: Connecticut; Delaware; Illinois; Maryland, Montana; New York; Rhode Island; and Vermont.[xxiii] Perhaps at some point in the future, all of the U.S. will have medical and recreational marijuana laws, which would be in keeping with our neighbor to the north. Canada, unlike the U.S., will soon have uniform marijuana laws.[xxiv]

[viii] Patients will be able to possess 2-½ ounces or grow up to 5 plants and 12 seedlings if they live more than 20 miles from one of the at least 39 care centers. A designated caregiver would also be able to grow for up to 5 patients.
[xix] WBZ-TV.