2016: The Year of Cannabis Referendums

By OCC Staff


August 20 – This truly is the year of change in the cannabis law across the country. There has already been major movement by states with many legislatures acting without a voter backed initiative. Pennsylvania, Illinois, and even in Ohio after a bad defeat of a poorly written initiative on November 4, 2015.

Still, the most substantial improvements in marijuana laws still come from the initiative of voters. Through referendum driven laws in states that allow voter initiated measures, major change can happen. This year will see at least nine states consider initiatives (We reported seven in the print issue of OCC this month, but Arizona and North Dakota), with FIVE of them adult use legalization laws that will drastically change the landscape of cannabis across America. Oklahoma still may have a shot for a medical marijuana initiative, too.

Below is a summary of the nine current initiatives that will appear on the November 8th ballot. As we note below, Arkansas has one, but may actually have two separate medical initiatives to choose from, one a statutory amendment and the other a full constitutional amendment.

2016 Cannabis Initiatives on November 8th ballot:

Arkansas – One on ballot, second one possible

The Medical Marijuana Act is on the November 8, 2016, ballot in Arkansas as an initiated state statute. The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment of 2016 may likely be on the Arkansas ballot as an initiated constitutional amendment, also. Marijuana Policy project has stated they believe BOTH measures will fail if both appear on the ballot. They supported dropping the Amendment signature drive since The Medical Marijuana Act has already been placed on the ballot. If both initiatives reach the ballot and receive majority approval, the one with the most “yes” votes would supersede the other.

The Medical Marijuana Act would:

  • Be implemented by the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)
  • Permit some patients, who live more than 20 miles from the nearest dispensary, to grow their own marijuana for medical purposes and create a payment system for low income patients to afford their medication.
  • Patients would be required to obtain a prescription from an Arkansas physician as well as an ADH identification card.
  • Thirty-eight medical marijuana dispensaries were specified in the full text of the initiative, but the ADH would retain the authority to increase that number.

The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment of 2016 would:

  • Set a cap on the fee required to acquire a dispensary or cultivation license, but no limit on the cost for patient card fees;
  • Establish a Medical Marijuana Commission
  • Dictate that the state’s Department of Health must set rules for patient cards and medical conditions that qualify a patient for medical marijuana use;
  • Dictate that the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control establish operating rules for dispensaries and cultivators;
  • Require sales tax revenue to be divided up in the following way:
    • 10 percent to the medical marijuana program;
    • 10 percent to the Skills Development Fund;
    • 30 percent to the state’s General Fund;
    • 50 percent to the state’s Vocational and Technical Training Special Revenue Fund.


California – Proposition 64

The California Marijuana Legalization Initiative, or Proposition 64, will be on the ballot in California as a voter initiated state statute. The initiative is commonly referred to as the “Adult Use of Marijuana Act“., or AUMA.

Summary from CA-NORML:

The Adult Use of Marijuana Act is a marijuana legalization initiative that is on the November 8, 2016 California general election ballot.

AUMA is an elaborate, 62-page initiative which writes hundreds of new provisions and regulations into state law. Its basic thrust is to:

(1) allow adults 21 years and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and cultivate up to six plants for personal use;

(2) regulate and tax the production, manufacture, and sale of marijuana for adult use; and

(3) rewrite criminal penalties so as to reduce the most common marijuana felonies to misdemeanors and allow prior offenders to petition for reduced charges.

AUMA’s regulatory provisions are largely patterned on the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA), recently passed by the legislature and effective Jan 1, 2016. Licenses for medical and adult-use would be distinct, but managed by the same agency in the Department of Consumer Affairs (the legislature and agency may move to consolidate these two systems if AUMA passes).

Due to its extraordinary length and complexity, AUMA contains a number of glitches and inconsistencies that will have to be ironed out by the courts or the legislature. It also includes a number of restrictions and oversights that many users find objectionable (for example, it makes it illegal to consume in any public place except for specifically licensed premises; continues to let local governments ban medical marijuana cultivation and sales; bans vaporization in non-smoking areas; and imposes an unduly high, 15% + tax increase on medical marijuana). Fortunately, Section 10 of the act allows for most provisions to be modified by the legislature.

AUMA will not be the last word on marijuana reform; further changes in state and federal law will be needed to guarantee affordable medical access, protect employment and housing rights, facilitate banking and allow interstate commerce. Regardless of these problems, AUMA compares favorably to similar legalization measures in other states. If California voters approve AUMA, the pressure for federal marijuana law reform could finally become irresistible to politicians in Washington; if not, it will no doubt be interpreted as a major setback for marijuana reform at the national level.


Florida – Amendment 2

The Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative, also known as Amendment 2, is on the ballot in Florida as an initiated constitutional amendment.

The legal language of Amendment 2 was written to explicitly allow medical marijuana to be provided as a treatment for patients with the following specific diseases:

  • cancer
  • epilepsy
  • glaucoma
  • HIV
  • AIDS
  • post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • multiple sclerosis

Amendment 2 would also allow licensed physicians to certify patients for medical marijuana use after diagnosing them with some “other debilitating medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to those enumerated.”

United for Care successfully placed a similar initiative on the November 4, 2014, ballot in Florida, but the measure was defeated on Election Day. Although a 57.62 percent majority voted in favor of the amendment, Florida’s state constitution requires a 60 percent supermajority vote for an amendment to pass. Thus, the measure failed by a little over 139,000 votes, or 2.38 percent.


Maine – Question 1

The Maine Legalize Marijuana Initiative, also known as Question 1, is on the ballot in Maine as an indirect initiated state statute.

Although petitioners submitted more than the required signatures to qualify Question 1 for the ballot, the Maine secretary of state initially invalidated more than half of them and disqualified the measure. The support campaign filed a lawsuit challenging the decision, and ultimately the court overturned it. After a second review of signatures, Question 1 qualified for the ballot on April 27, 2016.


If enacted by voters in November, the measure would allow adults to legally possess up to two and one-half ounces of marijuana and to cultivate marijuana (up to six mature plants and the entire yields of said plants) for their own personal use. The measure would also establish licensing for the commercial production and retail sale of cannabis. Retail sales of cannabis would be subject to a ten percent sales tax. Non-commercial transactions and/or retail sales involving medical cannabis would not be subject to taxation.


Massachusetts – Question 4

The Massachusetts Marijuana Legalization Initiative, also known as Question 4 (2016) is on the ballot in Massachusetts as an indirect initiated state statute. It will be Question 4 on the ballot.


The initiative allows adults 21 years of age and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana outside of their residences and up to 10 ounces of marijuana in an enclosed, locked space within their residences, which mimics the current in-residence allowance established by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health for medical marijuana patients. It allows adults 21 years of age and older to grow up to six marijuana plants in an enclosed, locked space within their residences and possess the marijuana produced by those plants in the location where it was grown.


Montana – Initiative 182

The Medical Marijuana Initiative is on the ballot in Montana as an initiated state statute.


I-182 repeals the limit of three patients for each licensed provider, and allows providers to hire employees to cultivate, dispense, and transport medical marijuana. I-182 repeals the requirement that physicians who provide certifications for 25 or more patients annually be referred to the board of medical examiners. I-182 removes the authority of law enforcement to conduct unannounced inspections of medical marijuana facilities, and requires annual inspections by the state.


Nevada – Question 2

The Nevada Marijuana Legalization Initiative will be on the ballot in Nevada as an indirect initiated state statute. This measure will be on the ballot as Question 2 .

The initiative would tax marijuana sales and allocate revenue from such tax to education. The Nevada Department of Taxation would issue licenses to marijuana retailers, suppliers, testing facilities and distributors. The department would determine the qualifications for licensing and limit the number of licenses issued. Local governments would control marijuana business locations. Marijuana businesses would be forbidden to operate near schools, childcare facilities, houses of worship or certain community facilities. A 15 percent excise tax would be imposed on wholesale sales of marijuana. The existing sales tax would apply to retail sales of marijuana. Revenue generated from these taxes would be used to support K-12 education.


North Dakota – North Dakota Compassionate Care Act (cited name)

The Medical Marijuana Initiative will be on the November 8, 2016, ballot in North Dakota as an initiated state statute.

Petition Title – This initiated measure would add a new chapter to Title 19 of the North Dakota Century Code creating an Act providing for the medical use of marijuana for defined debilitating medical conditions, such as cancer, AIDS, hepatitis C, ALS, glaucoma, and epilepsy. To participate in the program, the Act would create identification cards with specific criteria before they can be issued by the Department of Health for patients, caregivers, compassion centers and other facilities. The Act would create procedures for monitoring, inventorying, dispensing, and cultivation and growing of marijuana to be regulated and enforced by the Department of Health. A qualified patient could be dispensed up to three ounces of usable marijuana. For violations, the Act would authorize the Department of Health to provide for corrective action, suspension, revocation, appeal, hearings, and referral for criminal prosecution. The Act would require the Department of Health to submit an annual report to the legislature regarding program statistics.


Arizona – Proposition 205

The Arizona Marijuana Legalization Initiative, also known as Proposition 205, is on the November 8, 2016, ballot in Arizona as an initiated state statute.

The Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act: (1) establishes a 15% tax on retail marijuana sales, from which the revenue will be allocated to public health and education; (2) allows adults twenty-one years of age and older to possess and to privately consume and grow limited amounts of marijuana; (3) creates a system in which licensed businesses can produce and sell marijuana; (4) establishes a Department of Marijuana Licenses and Control to regulate the cultivation, manufacturing, testing, transportation, and sale of marijuana; and (5) provides local governments with the authority to regulate and limit marijuana businesses

A competing initiative called the Legalization and Regulation of Marijuana Act was proposed by the Campaign to Legalize and Regulate Marijuana, but did not meet the signature requirements
© 2016 Oregon Cannabis Connection. All rights reserved. Source: Ballotpedia unless otherwise noted above.

Keith Mansur

Keith Mansur is the founder, publisher, and editor of Oregon Cannabis Connection newspaper. The print publication has been serving Oregon since 2010. He has been a Oregon medical marijuana patient, grower, and caregiver since 2006. Find him on Facebook or email him at occnewspaper420@gmail.com

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