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These Are the 5 US States Voting on Cannabis Legalisation This November

Alongside the election of a new president in November, millions of Americans will have the opportunity to scale back a significant tenet of the war on drugs: cannabis prohibition.

In November, five US states – Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada – will vote on the legalisation of cannabis. Each of these states differ in their current approaches to cannabis, their proposed models of legalisation, and the likelihood of their reform passing.



In Arizona, current cannabis laws are especially harsh. According to the National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), possession for personal use is a felony, and is punishable by a minimum sentence of four months imprisonment. In 2014, six per cent of all arrests in Arizona were for cannabis possession.

What has been proposed?

In November, Arizona residents will vote on Proposition 205 which, if passed, will allow adults to possess up to an ounce of cannabis, and grow up to six plants in their home.

The proposition specifies that public cannabis smoking would remain prohibited, cannabis stores would be forbidden from opening near schools, and all acquired sales tax revenue would be allocated to education and “substance abuse” programmes.

The proposed reform is clearly health-oriented. Among its stipulations, the initiative proposes that punishments must be given to any business that sells cannabis products that "are found to contain pesticides or additives that would make [the cannabis] injurious to a person's health".

Is it going to happen?

It’s not looking good in the traditionally Republican state. An April poll indicated that only 43 per cent of voters supported legalisation, compared with 49 per cent who opposed it.



In 2011, state law was reformed so that possession of less than an ounce would only be punishable as an “infraction” – resulting in a maximum penalty of $100, and no jail time. Cultivating or selling cannabis remains a felony (except when for state-sanctioned medical purposes), and 9,000 Californians were arrested for such crimes in 2015.

What has been proposed?

In November, Californians will vote on Proposition 64, which would permit adults to possess and cultivate small amounts of cannabis. It would also allow for the creation of strictly regulated businesses that sell recreational cannabis.

The proposition is supported by the California Medical Association for allowing “state officials to better protect public health”, and for “keeping [cannabis] out of the hands of children”. Indeed, a stipulation of the initiative is that it would prohibit any sale or advertising to minors.

The initiative also seeks to undo the damage wrought by cannabis prohibition; it will authorise the "resentencing and destruction of records" for prior cannabis convictions.

Is it going to happen?

Almost certainly. A poll undertaken by the University of California, Berkeley in early August 2016 indicates overwhelming support; 63.8 per cent – almost two thirds – of polled Californians expressed support for the legalisation of recreational cannabis.





In Maine, a person found possessing a "usable amount" of cannabis, with evidence of a doctor's recommendation to consume it, will not be punished. Possession of anything more than 2.5 ounces (71 grams) is a crime that may lead to incarceration or a fine. Cultivation and distribution are criminalised, and offenders may face prison sentences or large fines.

What has been proposed?

The Maine Marijuana Legalisation Measure, referred to as Question 1, will be voted on in November. If approved, the possession and use of recreational cannabis will be legalised for adults, and retail cannabis stores will be able to apply for licenses.

The initiative would place a 10 per cent tax rate on cannabis sales, and the revenue would be allocated to implementing and enforcing an extensive list of strict regulations.

If implemented, this legislation would prevent anyone with a “disqualifying drug offence” from acquiring a retail cannabis license; thereby preventing many people who have been marginalised by cannabis prohibition to directly benefit from legalisation.

Is it going to happen?

It’s looking good. In October 2015, Mic reports, a Critical Insights poll indicated that 65 per cent of Maine voters supported legalisation. A poll undertaken by the same organisation in May 2016 found that figure had dropped to 55 per cent, with 41 per cent opposing.



Possession of under an ounce of cannabis for personal consumption is a civil offence in Massachusetts, and violators don't face any more than a $100 fine. Cultivation and distribution, however, can be harshly punished; people found growing or selling 50 pounds (22 kilograms) or more of cannabis face a mandatory minimum sentence of a year or more.

What has been proposed?

Massachusetts Marijuana Legalisation, referred to as Question 4, will be voted on in November. If passed, Massachusetts adults will be permitted to possess up to one ounce of cannabis "outside of their residences", and up to ten ounces when at home. Cultivation of up six plants will also be allowed.

If passed, a Cannabis Control Commission would be created to oversee adherence to cannabis legislation, including the provision of retail licenses, health and safety standards, and accurate labelling of products.

The proposal also outlines the creation of a Marijuana Regulation Fund, in which revenue from state excise tax is deposited, and used for the administration costs of cannabis regulation.

Is it going to happen?

It is close, but the opposition have the lead. In a May 2016 poll by the Boston Globe, 43 per cent of voters claimed to support legalisation, while 46 per cent opposed it. In July 2016, a poll conducted by a conservative political action committee, found that around 51 per cent of voters opposed legalisation, while only 41 per cent supported it.



Nevada has some strict cannabis laws, many of which include mandatory minimum sentences. A person found in possession of cannabis will likely face a fine, but on a fourth offence, a sentence of at least one year in prison must be provided. Distribution of a small amount mandates a one year prison sentence, even if it is the person's first offence. Selling to someone under the age of 18 mandates five years of incarceration.

What has been proposed?

If passed, the Nevada Marijuana Legalization Initiative – also referred to as Question 2 – would legalise the possession and sale of cannabis.

The state's taxation department would provide licenses to potential cannabis retailers and impose a 15 per cent excise tax on all sales. The proposition outlines that tax revenue must be allocated to the administrative costs of implementing legalisation, and that all excess revenue must be used to fund children's education.

Is it going to happen?

It’s looking likely, but supporters shouldn’t be complacent yet. In a July poll conducted by a Nevada TV station, 50 per cent of voters claimed to support legalisation, while 41 per cent opposed it. Although positive, this marks a reduction in support; a March poll by Morning Consult indicated that around 60 per cent of Nevada residents supported legalisation, with only 29 per cent opposing.

If all these propositions are passed, almost one in four Americans will live in a jurisdiction where cannabis is legal. National sentiment is clearly turning; we are witnessing the beginning of the end of American cannabis prohibition.

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