The 2018 midterm elections have come and gone leaving behind increased opportunities for cannabis entrepreneurs with three more states passing legalization initiatives and several unseated prohibitionists including governorships and congressional seats. And the day after the election, President Trump fired cannabis industry enemy number one, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
The major news of the day was that although voters in North Dakota turned down a wildly unregulated initiative, a much more reasonable legalization measure passed in Michigan. Meanwhile in both Utah and Missouri voters passed medical initiatives.
The biggest opportunity advancement for cannabis entrepreneurs came in Michigan where 57 percent of voters approved an adult recreational use initiative. Strongly in favor of the measure is incoming Governor Rebecca Whitmer.
In Missouri, a constitutional amendment creating a medical marijuana program in the state passed with 64 percent in favor. Also, 53 percent of voters in Utah approved the medical initiative. However, Utah officials came to a compromise pre-election which includes oils but prohibits smokable and edible forms of cannabis.
Further shaking things up, every single one of the Republican House chairs who have been fighting progress on federal cannabis reform were swept away leaving behind a 32-seat gain (preliminary) by House Democrats. And the fact that Democrats led by Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer are already talking about a long-term plan to increase states’ protections and end federal prohibition is music to the ears of American cannabis entrepreneurs.
Republican gubernatorial candidates who are expected to continue their anti-cannabis stances won in Florida (preliminary), Arizona, and Texas, however pro-marijuana governors were elected in more than 20 states including Michigan, Illinois, California, Maine, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, New Mexico, Wisconsin, and Vermont, with governors-elect in New York, Minnesota, and even Kansas pledging their support for cannabis reform measures. In Maine, Democratic governor Janet Mills who is outspokenly anti-prohibition will replace staunch anti-pot Republican Paul LePage who has engaged in a protracted three-year battle against his own state’s voters.
In Texas, Democrat Colin Allred defeated cannabis reform foe Pete Sessions. Allred has been instrumental in organizing the Texas cannabis and hemp sectors. Over the past 3 years, as House Rules committee chair, Sessions has killed most cannabis measures from moving ahead in the House.
Also defeated were two Republican friends of cannabis reform. California Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R) was beaten by Democrat Harley Rouda, and in Florida, MJ champion Carlos Curbelo lost to new challenger Debbie Mucarsal-Powell.
In Washington DC, incoming Mayor Muriel Bowser has stated that she will pursue the development of a regulated market there. Currently, only personal home grows are allowed.
Given the two-year “reign of terror” by AG Jeff Sessions, his firing was generally met with applause by cannabis advocates. In his 2014 run for office in Iowa, acting AG Matt Whitacre made strong statements in support of the federal legalization of CBD and has made virtually no threats to states with recreational cannabis programs. However, cheers of “ding dong the witch is dead,” were tempered by rumors from Washington insiders that Chris Christie — who has been a vociferous opponent to legalization in his home state of New Jersey — is on the short list of permanent AG’s.
The next two years leading up to the 2020 elections are bound to continue to create more and more opportunities for cannabis growers, processors, labs, distributors, and retailers across the U.S. For example, Virginia and New Jersey are both working on adult recreational use legislation. Meanwhile, many other Prohibition-busting efforts are underway across the nation including the seemingly eminent passage of the 2018 Farm Bill which includes language which removes hemp from the DEA’s list of controlled substances.