Washington, DC: Voters on Election Day expressed unprecedented support for removing criminal penalties for cannabis consumers.
Voters in Colorado and Washington approved ballot measures allowing for the personal possession and consumption of cannabis by adults. In Colorado, 55 percent of voters decided in favor of Amendment 64, which allows for the legal possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and/or the cultivation of up to six cannabis plants in private by those persons age 21 and over. In Washington, 55 percent of voters similarly decided in favor of Initiative 502, removes criminal penalties specific to the adult possession of up to one ounce of cannabis for personal use (as well as the possession of up to 16 ounces of marijuana-infused product in solid form, and 72 ounces of marijuana-infused product in liquid form.) Both measures will take effect in approximately 30 days.
Longer-term, both Amendment 64 and I-502 seek to establish statewide regulations governing the commercial production and distribution of marijuana by licensed retailers. State regulators have up to a year to complete the rulemaking process regarding the commercial production, sale, and taxation of cannabis.
Neither measure amends the states’ existing medical marijuana laws.
Commenting on the historic votes, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: "Amendment 64 and Initiative 502 provide adult cannabis consumers with unprecedented legal protections. Until now, no state law has defined cannabis as a legal commodity. Some state laws do provide for a legal exception that allows for certain qualified patients to possess specific amounts of cannabis as needed. But, until today, no state in modern history has classified cannabis itself as a legal product that may be lawfully possessed and consumed by adults."
Armentano continued: "The passage of these measures strikes a significant blow to federal cannabis prohibition. Like alcohol prohibition before it, marijuana prohibition is a failed federal policy that delegates the burden of enforcement to the state and local police. Alcohol prohibition fell when a sufficient number of states enacted legislation repealing the state’s alcohol prohibition laws. With state police and prosecutors no longer engaging in the federal government’s bidding to enforce an unpopular law, the federal government had little choice but to abandon the policy altogether. History is now repeating itself."
Voters in several additional states also decided on various statewide and local measures specific to cannabis. In Massachusetts, 63 percent of voters approved Question 3, which eliminates statewide criminal and civil penalties related to the possession and use of up to a 60-day supply of cannabis by qualified patients. It also requires the state to create and regulate up to 35 facilities to produce and dispense cannabis to approved patients. Massachusetts is the 18th state since 1996 to authorize the physician-recommended use of cannabis.
Massachusetts voters in over 40 municipalities – representing approximately one-fifth of the electorate – also voted overwhelmingly in favor of local public policy questions in favor of ending the criminalization of cannabis for adults. Voters in Burlington, Vermont also passed a similar non-binding legalization measure.
In Michigan, voters in four cities – totaling over a million people – also decided on Election Day to legalize or depenalize the adult use of cannabis. Voters in Detroit approved Proposal M, removing local criminal penalties pertaining to the possession on private property of up to one ounce of marijuana by adults over age 21. In Flint, voters approved a citizens’ initiative to amend the city code so that the possession on private property of up to one ounce of marijuana or cannabis paraphernalia by those age 19 or older is no longer a criminal offense. Grand Rapids voters approved Proposal 2 to allow local law enforcement the discretion to ticket first-time marijuana offenders with a civil citation, punishable by a $25 fine and no criminal record. In Ypsilanti, voters decided on a municipal proposal to make the local enforcement of marijuana possession offenses the city’s lowest law enforcement priority.
Not every marijuana law reform measure was successful at the ballot box. Only 45 percent of Oregonians approved Measure 80, the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act, which sought to allow for the state-licensed production and retail sale of cannabis to adults. In Arkansas, voters narrowly (49 percent to 51 percent) rejected Measure 5, The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act of 2012, which sought to authorize the state-licensed distribution of medical marijuana. In Montana, voters approved Initiated Referendum 124, which affirms legislative restrictions to the state’s 2004 voter-approved medical cannabis law.
For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, at (202) 483-5500 or Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: email@example.com.