• Taylor H.

Election 2018: These 4 States are Voting to Legalize Cannabis

Updated: May 26, 2019

Election day is less than a month away, and voters in four states will have the opportunity to weigh in on their respective states’ cannabis policies, and quite possibly join the cannabis movement. This November:

  • Michigan and North Dakota voters will decide on statewide measures to legalize recreational cannabis.

  • Utah and Missouri voters will consider medical marijuana legalization initiatives.

With the four ballot initiatives, combined with the Vermont Legislature’s passage of a non-commercial legalization bill in January, Oklahoma’s passage of a medical marijuana ballot initiative in June, and the potential for New Jersey to be the first state to legalize recreational use and production through a state legislature, 2018 may be one of the biggest years for cannabis reform yet.

Here's a look at the ballot initiatives in Michigan, North Dakota, Utah, and Missouri:


Michigan’s cannabis reform began in 2008 when the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act was passed into law; however, the original law lacked a regulated system for commercial cannabis businesses. In 2016, the Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act passed, thus implementing a state-licensing and regulation system for cannabis businesses.

This November, residents of Michigan will vote on legalizing cannabis for recreational purposes, otherwise known as Michigan State Proposal 18-1. Prop 1 would authorize and legalize possession, use and cultivation of marijuana products by individuals who are 21 years of age and older, and commercial sales of marijuana through state-licensed retailers.

Specifically, Prop 1 would:

  • Allow individuals 21 and older to purchase, possess and use marijuana and marijuana-infused edibles, and grow up to 12 marijuana plants for personal consumption.

  • Impose a 10-ounce limit for marijuana kept at residences and require amounts over 2.5 ounces be secured in locked containers.

  • Create a state licensing system for marijuana business and allow municipalities to ban or restrict them.

  • Permit retail sales of marijuana and edibles subject to a 10% tax, dedicated to implementation costs, clinical trials, schools, roads, and municipalities where marijuana businesses are located.

  • Change several current violations from crimes to civil infractions.

Residents of the Great Lakes State seem to be just as supportive of cannabis legalization as their West Coast counterparts. According to MJBizDaily, there is a strong support for recreational marijuana in Michigan, with 54% of voters support Proposal 1 and only 38% oppose.


Medical marijuana was legalized in North Dakota in 2016, but the state is still implementing the program after a series of modifications were made to the law. While two cultivation facilities and eight dispensaries will eventually be licensed and operational, registered patients currently don’t have legal access to medical marijuana.

The North Dakota Marijuana Legalization and Automatic Expungement initiative, or Measure 3, would amend the North Dakota Century Code to remove hashish, marijuana, and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) from the list of scheduled I controlled substances and legalize recreational use of cannabis for individuals 21 years of age and older. A unique aspect of this initiative is it would also create an automatic expungement process for individuals with convictions for a controlled substance that has been legalized.

Specifically, Measure 3 would:

  • Legalize the recreational use of cannabis in the state of North Dakota for people 21 years of age or older.

  • Create penalties for the possession or distribution to or by any individual under 21 years of age.

  • Create an automatic expungement process for individuals with convictions for a controlled substance that has been legalized.

  • Eliminate the state of North Dakota’s immunity from damages resulting from expungement lawsuits.

Unlike legalization measures approved in a number of other states, the North Dakota proposal would set no limit on how much cannabis people could possess or cultivate. Additionally, it would allow a system of legal commercial cannabis production and sales. If Measure 3 passes, North Dakota would set the record for the shortest time frame between legalizing medical marijuana and legalizing recreational use. North Dakota would be the most conservative state in the country to adopt full cannabis legalization, potentially paving the way for future red-state legalization and providing Republican politicians the opportunity to come out in favor of cannabis reform.


In March of 2014, Utah became the first state to enact a low-THC, high-CBD medical cannabis law known as Charlee’s Law to treat severe cases of epilepsy. However, cannabis legislation has progressively slowed down since then. Over the past three years, state legislators have attempted and failed to pass a full medical marijuana legalization measure. This year, cannabis advocates successfully rallied together to forge a route to legalization by placing the measure before voters. Utah Patient Coalition is leading the 2018 medical marijuana initiative campaign, known as Proposition 2, to establish a medical marijuana program for sick and suffering patients.

Proposition 2 would specifically:

  • Legalize the medical use of cannabis for individuals with qualifying medical conditions.

  • Establish a state-controlled process that allows persons with certain illnesses to acquire and use medical cannabis and, in certain limited circumstances, to grow up to six cannabis plants for personal medical use.

  • Authorize the establishment of facilities that grow, process, test, or sell medical cannabis and require those facilities to be licensed by the state.

  • Establish state controls on those licensed facilities, including:Electronic systems that track cannabis inventory and purchases; and requirements and limitations on the packaging and advertising of cannabis and on the types of products allowed

Gov. Herbert called for a special session of the Utah Legislature after the November election to debate an alternative medical marijuana proposal regardless if Proposition 2 is approved by voters. Proponents and opponents of Proposition 2 came to a mutual agreement with Gov. Herbert to pass a compromise bill, the Utah Medical Cannabis Act, in early 2019. A draft of the compromise legislation may be found here.

The compromise bill differs in a number of ways from Proposition 2 though, and every regulation set out in Proposition 2 will be superseded by the ones in the compromise bill. Unlike the initiative, which allows for qualifying patients to purchase a variety of cannabis products from privately owned dispensaries, the state’s alternative will establish a centralized pharmacy to supply health departments with cannabis and cannabis products. The centralized state pharmacy would package individual medical cannabis orders and ship them to a local health department for qualifying patients to pick up. Additionally, the bill would allow fewer dispensaries than Proposition 2 and would add several regulations, such as dosage requirements.

Proposition 2, as originally written, will still be on the Utah ballot; despite consensus on a compromise bill that would supplant Proposition 2. The new bill is not binding and there is no guarantee the compromise bill will pass in Gov. Herbert’s special session. There is still a chance, however small, that the legislature will throw the compromise bill out and stick with Proposition 2. Therefore, how Utah citizens vote on Proposition 2 remains important, with the potential to dramatically affect how the Legislature, and ultimately the Governor, respond to the compromise initiative.


New Approach Missouri successfully secured a spot on the November 2018 ballot; however, it's going to share the cannabis spotlight with two other medical marijuana ballot initiatives. Missouri voters have three options to legalize medical marijuana during November's election: two constitutional amendments and one statutory amendment. The three measures were among the five initiatives certified by Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft. This opens the door for some potential complications though; if all three pass, constitutional amendments take precedence over state law, and whichever amendment receives the most votes would overrule the other. The three measures are as follows:

NEW APPROACH MISSOURI: Constitutional Amendment 2

A "yes" vote will amend the Missouri Constitution to allow the use of cannabis for medical purposes under state laws. Amendment 2 creates regulations and licensing procedures for medical marijuana and medical marijuana facilities – dispensary, cultivation, testing, and cannabis-infused product manufacturing facilities.

Specifically, Measure 2 would:

  • Allow the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes and create regulations, licensing and certifications procedures for marijuana and marijuana facilities.

  • Impose a 4% tax on the retail sale of medical cannabis.

  • Use funds from the tax revenue generated for health and care services for military veterans by the Missouri Veterans Commission and to administer the program to license, certify and regulate cannabis and cannabis facilities.

  • Permit no less than 24 dispensaries in each congressional district, based on 2018 boundaries.

Only New Approach Missouri Measure 2 would allow for registered medical marijuana patients to cultivate up to six (6) plants at home. 10 qualifying medical conditions, ranging from cancer to PTSD, would be covered by Measure 2 with a possession limit of up to four ounces of dried marijuana. Measure 2 is estimated to generate annual taxes and fees of $18 million for state operating costs and veterans’ programs, and $6 million for local governments. Annual state operating costs are estimated to be $7 million. The full initiative may be found here.

FIND THE CURES: Constitutional Amendment 3

Amendment 3 would create a Biomedical Research and Drug Development Institute (BRDDI), a new government institution that would be tasked with finding cures for diseases and generate income for the state from cures developed. A "yes" vote makes Brad Bradshaw, an attorney, physician, and leader of the Find The Cure initiative, the research chairperson of a newly created research institute to be funded by fees and taxes on medical marijuana.

Specifically, Measure 3 would:

  • Allow the use of cannabis for medical purposes and create regulations and licensing procedures for marijuana and marijuana facilities.

  • Impose a 15% tax on the retail sale of cannabis, and a tax on the wholesale of cannabis flowers and leave per dry-weight ounce to licensed facilities.

  • Use funds from the tax revenue generated to establish and fund a state research institute to conduct research with the purpose of developing cures and treatments for cancer and other incurable diseases or medical conditions.

  • Permit no less than 2 dispensaries per 20,000 residents in counties and cities.

This proposal is estimated to generate annual taxes and fees of $66 million. State governmental entities estimate initial implementation costs of $186,000 and increased annual operating costs of $500,000. The full initiative may be found here.


Proposition C would amend Missouri statute to allow the use of cannabis for medical purposes under state laws. This amendment creates regulations and licensing procedures for medical marijuana and medical marijuana facilities – dispensary, cultivation and production, and testing facilities.

Specifically, Proposition C would:

  • Remove state prohibitions on personal use and possession of medical cannabis with a written certification by a licensed physician who treats a patient diagnosed with a qualifying medical condition.

  • Remove state prohibitions on growth, possession, production and sale of medical marijuana by licensed and regulated facilities, and a facility’s licensed owners and employees.

  • Impose a 2% tax on the retail sale of medical cannabis

  • Use funds from this tax for veterans’ services, drug treatment, early childhood education, and for public safety in cities with a medical marijuana facility.

State government entities estimate initial and one-time costs of $2.6 million, annual costs of $10 million, and annual revenues of at least $10 million. Local government entities estimate no annual costs and are expected to have at least $152,000 in annual revenues. The full initiative may be found here.


Election day is Tuesday, November 6, 2018. If voters in all four states approve their cannabis questions, 2018 will end with 32 medical marijuana states and 11 recreational states. This would add even more momentum to the cannabis movement and one step closer to national reform.

Election day is Tuesday, November 6, 2018. Voters in all four states have the opportunity to add immense momentum to the cannabis movement by approving their respective ballot questions. Should all four states positively affirm cannabis initiatives, 2018 will end with 32 medical marijuana states and 11 recreational states, progressing the efforts towards national reform.

THE J.WHITNEY GROUP is a full service consulting firm working with purpose driven cannabis businesses, including new cannabis ventures and existing dispensaries, cultivation and production facilities. Our areas of expertise include licensing application, operation set up, and facility management. Contact us today to see how we can help you start and operate a successful and thriving cannabis business in your state!

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