Cannabis Report: The 2016 Election and Ballot Initiatives
Welcome to the first edition of the Cannabis Report, providing our readers with up-to-date news and analysis on the current state of cannabis policy. This year an unprecedented number of states will vote on medical and recreational cannabis initiatives, reflecting the increasing importance of cannabis policy as a national point of contention. Nine states will vote on cannabis initiatives November 8: five (California, Nevada, Arizona, Massachusetts, and Maine) on commercial access for all adults, four (Florida, Arkansas, Montana, and North Dakota) on some version of availability for medical use only. California, with an eighth of the nation’s population and an even larger share of its cannabis consumption and production, is clearly the biggest prize, but Massachusetts also looms large because of its proximity to the other East Coast population centers. We break down all of the ballot initiatives and presidential candidate positions below.
Commercial (“recreational” or “adult use”) initiatives:
This November, citizens of Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada will vote on recreational cannabis initiatives. The proposed referenda will amend state criminal code to allow adults over 21 to possess a personal amount of cannabis and grow up to six mature plants at home. Additionally, each proposal establishes a commercial system of regulated production and supply by private, licensed firms. The initiatives are similar in broad terms and leave many details to future regulations that will establish requirements on product and inventory control, restrictions on advertising, health and safety standards, packaging and labeling, and restrictions on edibles. Arizona, California, and Massachusetts will delegate such regulatory authority to new state bodies, while Maine and Nevada assign such responsibility to existing departments. Most initiatives will impose an ad valorem excise tax on the final sales price. California is the only to employ a specific per unit wholesale tax, in addition to an excise tax as a percentage of the retail price. One marked shift in this generation of initiatives has to do with on-site consumption. Currently, Alaska is the only jurisdiction that permits cannabis users to consume at certain establishments. Three initiatives this November will allow users to consume the drug at retail or specifically licensed establishments. Though these initiatives vary slightly in terms of certain regulatory mechanisms, broadly speaking, voters will decide on wholly commercial initiatives not unlike alcohol.