California, Massachusetts, Nevada and Maine approved adult-use marijuana initiatives last night. Florida, North Dakota and Arkansas also approved medical marijuana initiatives. Unfortunately, Arizona failed to garner enough support to pass adult-use. Clearly, these votes are a watershed moment for cannabis reform in the United States. As I have stated before, California passing adult-use marijuana will likely signal the true beginning to the end of federal prohibition of marijuana. However, Donald Trump also pulled off a monumental victory for the GOP and won the White House which has created uncertainty for the industry.
What does this mean?
With the approval of adult-use marijuana in the states, the percentage of Americans living in states where marijuana use is legal for adults rose above 20 percent, from 5 percent. A recent Gallup Poll found nationwide support for legalization at 60%, the highest it likely has ever been. Florida passed its’ initiative by a 71% – Florida also voted for Trump.
As we all know, Trump is a wild card but he has not publicly taken any prohibitionist stance on cannabis. Trump recently was quoted as: “In terms of marijuana and legalization, I think that should be a state issue, state-by-state,” Trump told The Washington Post. “… Marijuana is such a big thing. I think medical should happen — right? Don’t we agree? I think so. And then I really believe we should leave it up to the states.”
I would also like to point out that the recent FY2016 omnibus appropriations bill contains the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment which prohibits the Department of Justice from interfering with state medical cannabis laws was also widely supported by a GOP controlled Congress (passed in the House by a vote of 242-186, and the Senate Appropriations Committee approved it 21-9).
Based on all of this, I would like to remain optimistic for the cannabis industry. The United States has never been more supportive for legalization, the 6th largest GDP in world – California – approved adult-use, and Florida, who also voted for Trump, approved medical use by over 70%. The real questions will be: Does the Trump administration leave marijuana legalization up to the states and treat it like alcohol? Or does Trump appoint Christie or Giuliani as Attorney General and unwind years of hands-off federal policy towards state-legal cannabis?
I would hope the Trump White House listens to the will of the people by leaving legalization of cannabis to the states and pioneers new federal regulations that will allow for states with legal adult and medical use to opt out of the Controlled Substances Act. Trump has marketed himself as a president to shake up the establishment, lets hope he is willing to do so to end the war on drugs.