2016 is a big year for U.S. voters, with the general election and state ballot initiatives coming up in November – both of which could have significant effects on cannabis legislation in this country.
Elections, Ballots, and Legislation
The presumptive nominees for the Democratic and Republican parties, Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump respectively, have indicated support for moving forward with cannabis legislation. While Clinton wants to see cannabis rescheduled and more research conducted, both she and Trump have voiced support for states’ rights to decide their own cannabis policies. Regardless of who wins the general election, cannabis advocates are optimistic that the national narrative around marijuana consumption is changing.
Most important, then, is the role citizens can play in funding and supporting local cannabis initiatives. To date, seven states will be voting to allow adult use (i.e. recreational use), while four states will be voting for medical access. According to a report from ArcView Market Research and New Frontier Financials, “2016 will be the tipping point in which a majority of U.S. states transition from cannabis prohibition to some form of regulated legal markets.”
It’s an exciting time for cannabis enthusiasts, entrepreneurs, and activists. However, the report also cautions that these ballot initiatives face two substantial challenges: initiative funding and opposition campaigns. “The campaigns pushing the ballot initiative will need to raise enough capital to ensure they can fund a robust media and get-out-the-vote campaign during the election cycle,” the report continues. Furthermore, campaign funding laws allow wealthy donors or political action committees (PACs) to “spend large sums of capital on elections,” which could negatively impact these campaigns.
What Can We Do?
The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) is the largest pro-cannabis organization in the United States. They’ve been at the helm of the anti-prohibition movement in this country since 1995 and, according to their website, have been “responsible for changing most of the state marijuana laws that have been reformed since 2000, including the legalization of marijuana in Colorado in November 2012 and in Alaska in 2014.”
Not only do they provide incredible resources and information for citizens, but they also actively lobby for cannabis reform at Capitol Hill and various state capitals. Additionally, MPP raises funds for their various projects, which include efforts to decriminalize possession and end prohibition in numerous states.
The significance of these upcoming ballots – and cannabis reform in general – goes beyond giving ‘stoners’ the freedom to enjoy a toke without legal penalties. Medical marijuana is revealing cannabis’ potential as a medicine for a wealth of ailments – including cancer, HIV/AIDS, epilepsy and seizures, PTSD, depression and anxiety, traumatic brain injuries, glaucoma, arthritis, fibromyalgia, and more.
Furthermore, both the medical and recreational cannabis industries have far-reaching social impact. Wide-scale reform could mean an end to unnecessary arrests and prison sentencing and the ineffective War on Drugs, as well as bolstering local economies with the billions in revenue created by legal cannabis operations. In fact, the aforementioned report projects that combined medical and recreational sales in the U.S. could reach $22.8 billion by the year 2020.
By supporting the MPP and similar organizations, MassRoots users and readers can aid the upcoming ballot initiatives and help to push marijuana reform to the tipping point. Put your money where your mouthpiece is, and donate to the Marijuana Policy Project today.
This post was originally published on June 29, 2016, it was updated on March 15, 2017.