Marijuana legalization on the ballot in four states

November 6, 2018

Voters in four states are casting ballots on measures to legalize marijuana Tuesday, further testing the Trump administration’s stance on the subject following the federal government’s reversal of Obama-era law enforcement policies.

Measures legalizing recreational marijuana are being considered during the midterm elections by voters in Michigan and North Dakota, potentially adding either to the list of nine states with similar laws currently in place.

Proposals legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes are pending in Missouri and Utah, meanwhile, where their passage would increase the number of states that permit medical cannabis from 31.

Ten months after Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded marijuana policies imposed during former President Barack Obama’s administration, the results of Tuesday’s midterm elections could reveal if Americans are wary of defying federal pot prohibition amid uncertainties caused by the Justice Department’s about-face.

Marijuana is illegal under federal law, though the Obama administration advised prosecutors against pursuing related cases in states that have passed legislation permitting the plant for medical or recreational purposes. Mr. Sessions ended that practice in January, however, and Tuesday’s midterms mark the first time states will vote on legalizing marijuana on the heels of his policy change.

In Michigan, passage of Proposal 1 would legalize marijuana use and possession for adults 21 while paving the way for the state to set up a system for taxing and regulating retail sales. More than half of likely voters support the measure, according to recent polling, and Michigan would become the first state in the Midwest to legalize recreational marijuana if the measure succeeds.

A recreational marijuana measure in North Dakota, Measure 3, would also legalize possession and sale of the plant, albeit without implementing a state-wide system to tax and regulate purchases. Adults would be able to sell tax-free marijuana is the bill passes, potentially creating a legal but unregulated marketplace unlike any of the existing systems in place among existing recreational weed states.

In Missouri, voters will be asked to chose between three separate proposals legalizing medical marijuana to varying degrees. In Utah, meanwhile, Gov. Gary Herbert said he would ask lawmakers to work on a bill legalizing medical marijuana if voters reject Proposition 2 at the polls Tuesday.

The Justice Department did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

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