Legalization on the ballot: marijuana election results nationwide
Marijuana Moment is a wire service assembled by Tom Angell, a marijuana legalization activist and journalist covering marijuana reform nationwide. The views expressed by Angell or Marijuana Moment are neither endorsed by the Globe nor do they reflect the Globe’s views on any subject area.
Voters in several states are deciding on far-reaching marijuana ballot measures today, and the results of a number of congressional and gubernatorial races could have big consequences for cannabis policy.
Stay tuned here with Marijuana Moment all day for live updates — in reverse chronological order, with times listed in ET — on all the latest marijuana election night news.
Voters in at least 14 counties across Wisconsin have embraced various marijuana reform policies in the form of non-binding advisory questions. A total of 16 counties had questions about legalization or decriminalization on the ballot, but the results of two other questions are still being tracked.
And at last count, a total of five Ohio cities approved local marijuana decriminalization initiatives. Only one of six cities that had similar measures on the ballot rejected decriminalization.
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US Representative Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, has been elected governor of New Mexico, the Associated Press has projected. The congresswoman said she was open to signing a bill to fully legalize cannabis in the state, but that it’d be contingent on the legislation. Specifically, she wants to make sure that edibles are regulated, workplace safety is ensured, and the state’s existing medical marijuana program isn’t negatively impacted.
Lujan Grisham has backed several amendments in Congress that would protect state legal marijuana programs from federal interference. Her gubernatorial campaign was also endorsed by the pro-reform Drug Policy Alliance.
And US Representative Tim Walz, a Democrat, has been elected governor of Minnesota. The sitting congressman has been a decisively pro-legalization politician, and earlier this year his proposal to have the Department of Veterans Affairs study the benefits of medical marijuana for military veterans became the first-ever standalone cannabis bill to get approval from a congressional committee.
The time has come to “replace the current failed policy with one that creates tax revenue, grows jobs, builds opportunities for Minnesotans, protects Minnesota kids, and trusts adults to make personal decisions based on their personal freedoms,” Walz said.
Democrat Gavin Newsom has been elected governor of California. As lieutenant governor, he became one of the first mainstream Democrats to endorse legalization when he told the New York Times in 2012 that “these laws just don’t make sense anymore” and “it’s time for politicians to come out of the closet on this.”
Newsom then empaneled a blue ribbon commission on cannabis whose report informed the drafting of the state’s successful 2016 legalization ballot measure, for which he actively campaigned. As governor, he is expected to support legislation expanding the state’s marijuana laws and to work to protect them from any moves by the federal government to interfere with them.
He is one of several gubernatorial candidates running this year on platforms that include support for marijuana legalization.
North Dakota’s marijuana legalization ballot measure has failed, the Associated Press has projected. Read Marijuana Moment’s breaking news story for more details.
One of three initiatives seeking to legalize medical marijuana in Missouri has passed, the Associated Press has projected. Two other competing initiatives have failed. Read Marijuana Moment’s breaking news story for more details on the state’s new cannabis law.
Democratic US Representative Beto O’Rourke has lost his senate bid to US Senator Ted Cruz in Texas, the Associated Press has projected.
O’Rourke has been a leading voice for marijuana and drug policy reform since his days as an El Paso city councilman. He’s also cosponsored several marijuana bills in Congress. Cruz, meanwhile, has voiced support for letting states set their own marijuana laws, but he hasn’t ever cosponsored legislation to that effect.
Incumbent US Representative Scott Taylor, a Republican from Virginia, has lost to Democratic challenger Elaine Luria.
Taylor, a former Navy SEAL, is one of a handful of House Republicans who have backed legislation to reform federal marijuana laws. Luria, also a Navy veteran, has challenged the Department of Veterans Affairs over its refusal to recommend medical cannabis to patients.
Dayton, Ohio, voters appear to have approved a citywide measure to decriminalize marijuana. The measure was leading strongly with a 74-26 percent margin, with 83 percent of precincts reporting. Dayton is the sixth most populous city in Ohio. A similar measure also passed in Norwood, Local12 reported.
CNN is projecting that Republicans will win enough seats to retain control of the Senate.
NBC News is projecting that Democrats will win enough seats to retake control of the House.
Because Republican leadership has blocked all cannabis amendments from being voted in during the current session of Congress—more than three dozen altogether—many legalization supporters believe that a change in party control will benefit marijuana reform.
Democratic US Representative Earl Blumenauer released a step-by-step “blueprint” last month for how Democrats can legalize cannabis federally in 2019, from hearings to votes, all laid out on a timeline.
That said, party leaders haven’t been so enthusiastic when asked about the issue.
Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, a Democrat from Maryland, for example, said top Democrats “haven’t talked about that” when he was asked about pushing cannabis reform in next year.
And Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, the minority leader who is expected to seek the speakership again, suggested that marijuana bills’ success would largely depend on support from President Trump.
“I don’t know where the president is on any of this,” she said. “So any decision about how we go forward would have to reflect where we can get the result.”
US Representative Pete Sessions, a Republican from Texas, has been defeated by Democratic challenger Colin Allred, NBC News has projected.
As chairman of the House Rules Committee, Sessions is the key reason that his colleagues haven’t been able to vote on any cannabis amendments for the past two years. He has blocked every single one from advancing to the floor for consideration.
Regardless of whether the Democrats take control of the House tonight, the fact that Sessions won’t be in Congress next year means that marijuana reform already has a much greater chance of advancing.
Democratic US Senator Heidi Heitkamp lost her reelection bid to challenger US Representative Kevin Cramer, NBC News has projected.
Both candidates had said that states should be able to implement their own marijuana laws without federal interference, but they also each voted against the legalization measure that appeared on North Dakota’s ballot today.
Heitkamp’s loss makes it that much harder for Democrats to gain control of the Senate, already a questionable prospect in light of previous results in other states tonight.
And US Representative David Joyce, a Republican from Ohio, has been reelected, the Associated Press has projected. This year, he championed marijuana amendments in the House Appropriations Committee to protect state medical cannabis laws from federal interference and to protect banks that work with marijuana businesses.
West Virginia State Senator Richard Ojeda, a Democrat, has lost a US House race to Republican opponent Carol Miller.
The former Army paratrooper campaigned heavily on a pro-legalization platform, and he was the chief sponsor of a bill to legalize medical cannabis in the conservative state.
Miller, who serves on the GOP leadership team in the West Virginia House of Delegates, voted in favor of the medical cannabis bill, but she’s also peddled some dubious claims about the impact of consuming cannabis while pregnant.
US Representative Carlos Curbelo, a Republican from Florida, has been defeated by Democratic challenger Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, CNN has projected.
One of a handful of GOP lawmakers to have taken a leadership role on marijuana issues, Curbelo this Congress was the chief sponsor of legislation to repeal the 280E tax penalty on cannabis businesses and is a lead cosponsor of the Marijuana Data Collection Act, which would require the federal government to study the effects of legalization.
His absence from Capitol Hill next year means that cannabis reform supporters will need to work to find other GOP lawmakers to take the lead Republican role on key bills.
Polls just closed in Utah. We’ll bring you results on the medical marijuana ballot measure as soon as we have them.
Colorado voters have elected US Representative Jared Polis as governor, NBC News has projected. In Congress since 2009, Polis has a consistent record of sponsoring or cosponsoring legislation aimed at reforming federal marijuana laws, including a bill to regulate cannabis like alcohol.
And former Michigan lawmaker Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, has won the race for Michigan governor, Fox News has projected. She’s emphasized that, should Michigan voters also choose to fully legalize marijuana on Tuesday, it’s critical to implement the system properly. For her part, Whitmer said she’s a “yes” vote on the state’s legalization proposal.
Separately, a statewide initiative in Ohio to reduce penalties for select drug offenses from felonies to misdemeanors has been rejected, WPCO reported.
The night is still young, but early returns are showing that marijuana reform measures are enjoying more support than opposition in at least two states and one city.
In Michigan, a measure to fully legalize marijuana has a strong lead, 56-44 percent, with four percent of precincts reporting.
Two out of three initiatives seeking to legalize medical cannabis in Missouri are ahead, as well. Amendment 2, backed by New Approach Missouri, is up 70-30 percent. Proposition C, meanwhile, is ahead 54-46 percent. Less than one percent of precincts are reporting.
But in North Dakota, a measure seeking to fully legalize marijuana is down, 29-71 percent, with about seven percent of precincts reporting.
In Dayton, Ohio, the sixth most populous city in the state, a proposal to decriminalize marijuana is up 75-25 percent, with about 20 percent reporting.
One other drug reform measure, a bid to allow former felons to vote, has been approved, NBC News projected.
Incumbent New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, has won another term in office, CNN projected. Cuomo’s position on marijuana policy has evolved dramatically throughout his campaign, possibly in response to his progressive primary challenger Cynthia Nixon, who offered a full-throated endorsement of legalization early on.
NBC News projects that in Indiana’s US Senate race, Republican Mike Braun has defeated Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly.
In a debate earlier this year, former state representative Braun voiced soft support for medical marijuana, saying that the issue should be seen in terms of “free markets and freedom of choice” for patients.
In a subsequent debate, Braun underscored his support for states’ rights on the medical cannabis issue, asserting that “states are a great laboratory” and “if a state wants to go to medical marijuana, it ought to be their prerogative.”
As a House member, Donnelly voted against a measure to protect state medical cannabis laws from federal interference, but this year he signed onto a Senate bill to encourage more research on the medical benefits of marijuana for military veterans. His loss makes it harder for Democrats to capture the Senate.
Wisconsin polling places are now closed. Sixteen counties and two cities voted on marijuana advisory questions today. We’ll have the results when they come in.
Incumbent US Representative Andy Barr won reelection against Democratic challenger Amy McGrath, a former Marine fighter pilot.
Barr has voted against numerous bills and amendments seeking to reform federal marijuana laws. However, he did sponsor an amendment this year that would have at least enabled hemp businesses to access banks. There’s a “proud history in America and in Kentucky [for hemp] as an agriculture product,” he said at the time.
With polls closing in Kentucky before most other states tonight, the race was seen as an early bellwether of Democrats’ chances of taking control of the House. That said, the party has already flipped several other GOP-held seats this evening.
Democrat Ben Jealous, a former NAACP president, has lost his race for governor of Maryland, NBC News is projecting. Jealous campaigned on a platform to legalize marijuana and use revenue from cannabis sales to fund a universal pre-kindergarten program.
Incumbent Governor Larry Hogan has said that legalization is “worth taking a look at.”
Early returns show that a measure to fully legalize marijuana in Michigan is ahead 53-47 percent, with less than one percent reporting.
Venture capitalist J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, has beat out incumbent Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, NBC News projected. Marijuana legalization was a primary campaign promise from Pritzker, and he’s emphasized both the economic benefits of legalization as well as the racial injustice of prohibition.
“Criminalizing marijuana hasn’t made our communities safer, but has disproportionately impacted black and brown communities,” he said. “The criminalization of cannabis never has been and never will be enforced fairly, and it’s time to bring that to an end. To right past wrongs, we also have to commute sentences of people in prison who are there for marijuana offenses.”
US Representative Pete Sessions, a staunch prohibitionist who has systematically blocked votes on marijuana-related legislation, is trailing behind Democratic challenger Colin Allred, with less than one percent of precincts reporting.
Missouri polls are now closed. We’ll be watching for the results of the three separate medical marijuana ballot measures.
Polls also just closed in most of Michigan. Stay tuned to see if voters approved the marijuana legalization ballot measure. (Small portions of the state are still voting for another hour.)
Polling places just closed in Ohio. We’ll be watching to see how voters in six cities decided on local marijuana decriminalization ballot measures.
The Associated Press projects that US Representative James Comer has been reelected by a large margin. Comer is the chief sponsor of hemp legalization legislation in the US House, provisions of which are likely to be included in the Farm Bill, with the support of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Marijuana Moment asked our Twitter followers how they felt about voting on marijuana measures on their ballots today. Here are a few particularly interesting responses:
Voted for Amendment 2 in MO. Long lines but moved quick, no problems. Felt awesome, second time I got to vote for change. Lived in Washington state in 2012, voted for Rec. then 😉— Supergoose816 (@supergoose816) November 6, 2018
Voted yes on prop 2 here in utah. I took several first time voters who also voted in favor and was astounded by many others also at said polling location voting for prop 2.— Neonato1806 (@Neonato22) November 6, 2018
I voted for 3 measures, yes to one and no to two. No problems, it was certainly surreal. I triple checked my selections lol— Coinspinner (@Coinspinn3r) November 6, 2018
Another sign that voter turnout is surging in Missouri: “The Boone County Clerk, which is home to the University of Missouri, is now saying that voter turnout in the county might reach 80 percent,” Jack Cardetti, spokesperson for the pro-legalization New Approach Missouri, told Marijuana Moment. “Unheard of in a midterm.”
Josh Hovey, spokesperson for the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, told Marijuana Moment that the group is “cautiously optimistic at this point” about the prospect of Michigan passing the full legalization measure, Proposal 1.
“Polling has consistently shown the percentage of support for Proposal 1 to be in the high 50s to low 60s, but it’s important that every single one of our supporters get to the polls and have their vote counted,” he said.
Registering to vote is important, as this dispatch from Michigan shows:
Talked with two voters who wanted to know where to vote yes for legal weed. Neither were in SOS database.— Kathy Gray (@michpoligal) November 6, 2018
There are more signs that voter turnout in Utah, where medical cannabis is on the ballot, is especially strong this election. The state’s election office told reporter Ben Winslow that mail-in ballot turnout alone is over 50 percent at this point, which equates to about 725,000 ballots. That means mail-in turnout is higher than the total voter turnout in 2014 (557,973 ballots) and 2010 (653,274 ballots).
WOW! I was just told by @ElectionsUtah that mail-in ballot turnout is now nearly 52%. That is roughly 725,000 ballots turned in statewide! It’s more than 2014 (46.25%, 577,973) and 2010 (51.55%, 653,274) total voter turnout!!! #utpol #Midterms2018 #ElectionDay pic.twitter.com/skbkOvDkMZ— Ben Winslow (@BenWinslow) November 6, 2018
Long lines to vote are being observed at the Salt Lake County Government Center and at a courthouse in Utah County, where the wait time is reportedly hovering around three hours.
Here’s a look at some of the pro- and anti-legalization ads that blanketed the airwaves in recent weeks in states with marijuana measures on the ballot.
Watch more marijuana campaign ads here.
Former Michigan police office Howard Wooldridge, who now lobbies for cannabis and drug policy reform in Washington, D.C. with the group Citizens Opposing Prohibition, is on the ground in his former state and told Marijuana Moment that he has a good feeling about the marijuana legalization ballot measure.
“My thoughts from the streets of [Michigan]… feels much like [Colorado] in 2012,” he said in a e-mail. “That, plus the polls hanging very steady for 9 months . . . I feel very good that Prop One will pass, most of the credit going to the MI activists over the past 10 years + the last 10 months.”
Detroit News reporter Jonathan Oosting is also on the ground in Michigan. He’s been asking voters which candidates or issues motivated them to hit the polls and wrote that he’s “hearing a lot about marijuana legalization Proposal 1, both from supporters and opponents.”
I usually startexit interviews by asking voters if any particular candidate or issue motivated them this election. I'm hearing a lot about marijuana legalization Proposal 1, both from supporters and opponents— Jonathan Oosting (@jonathanoosting) November 6, 2018
Voter turnout is way up in North Dakota, where marijuana legalization is on the ballot.
According to the secretary of state’s office, more than 144,000 people filed their ballots early in the midterm election, a number that exceeded those for two previous presidential elections in 2012 and 2016.
Meanwhile, election day turnout seems robust as well, according to reports from local journalists. One reporter cited a Republican election observer who said the legalization measure itself is driving “strong turnout.”
And columnist Rob Port, who predicted on his blog this morning that voters will approve legal cannabis, also documented big lines at his polling place.
Here’s a look at the actual ballot language of the cannabis initiatives that voters in seven states will be deciding on today.
Fun fact: Voters in Racine, Wisconsin will see six separate marijuana measures on their ballots today because the city and county each approved three nonbinding cannabis questions.
Utah voter turnout is exceptionally high so far. A Salt Lake Tribune columnist predicted that, at this rate, 800,000 residents will be casting their ballot this election. That would represent a 39 percent increase from the 2014 election.
Big turnout and a surge of newly registered voters participating in the election could help give Utah’s medical cannabis measure a boost.
One more I should’ve mentioned … Prop 2!— Robert Gehrke (@RobertGehrke) November 6, 2018
Really high turnout + lots of first-time voters probably bodes very well for the fate of the medical marijuana ballot initiative, and potentially the other initiatives, as well.
But a reminder: even if Proposition 2 fails, advocates and opponents reached a compromise earlier this year that effectively guarantees Utah patients will have access to medical cannabis down the line. Lawmakers are working on a bill to achieve just that, and an updated draft of the legislation was released on Monday.
Some news on the medical cannabis front. In recent weeks, advocates and lawmakers have continued fine-tuning the bill made public in early October, and they released the latest draft yesterday evening. Here's what they changed:https://t.co/1hPV2W8EMl— Bethany Rodgers (@BethRodgersSLT) November 6, 2018
While most of the language of the initial draft remained intact, the new draft strikes a provision that would have required criminal background checks for patients and increases protections for pharmacists and physicians who become involved in dispensing cannabis.
Michigan residents shouldn’t be deterred from voting if they see reports about power outages due to strong winds at their polling location, a spokesperson for the Michigan Secretary of State told MLive. Tabulators have backup batteries, and poll workers should be prepared in the event of an outage.
One area that doesn’t need to be reminded of that fact is Lansing, Michigan, where several precincts are reporting strong turnout in spite of the bad weather.
That said, other precincts—particularly those around Detroit—are experiencing problems with malfunctioning voting machines that have left voters waiting in “seemingly interminable lines.”
Good morning, California! Time to vote. Statewide, there are 78 jurisdictions — 10 counties and 68 cities — voting on a total of 94 ballot measures concerning marijuana tax rates and the licensing of cannabis businesses.
Cannabis enthusiast celebs are urging their supporters to get out to the polls.
Vote today please!!!!— Seth Rogen (@Sethrogen) November 6, 2018
Marijuana Moment took a final pre-election look at campaign finance reports for and against cannabis ballot measures. We found that the opposition outraised marijuana reform supporters almost everywhere.
Missouri voters are hitting the polls in seemingly record numbers this morning, but not without a few hitches. One voting machine went down at Lee’s Summit City Hall, and others were on the fritz at the Don Bosco Senior Center. And election monitors have reportedly received complaints that poll workers at locations across the state are “wrongly telling voters they need to present photo ID.”
More polling problems we're reporting on now. Machines not working at polling locations in Lee's Summit and Excelsior Springs. One voter told me she was "furious." A poll worker in Clay County joked that paper ballots were going into a shredder. https://t.co/AObAfFXfm9— Ian Cummings (@Ian__Cummings) November 6, 2018
What’s more, at least five polling locations in St. Louis “are inaccessible to people with disabilities,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Blyth Bernhard wrote. That could prove especially onerous for patients with disabilities who want to vote on one of the cannabis measures on the ballot.
The good news is that, by all accounts, voters are turning out in high numbers.
Kevin Sabet, president of the prohibitionist group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, has already signaled that he anticipates at least some defeats after the group spent millions funding anti-legalization campaigns in states with marijuana on the ballot. In a tweet, he wrote that success “doesn’t hang on a ballot measure, a vote, a fleeting day.”
Our success doesn’t hang on a ballot measure, a vote, a fleeting day.— Kevin Sabet (@KevinSabet) November 6, 2018
Our success depends on the strength of our ideas, our principles, and our genuine desire to help EVERYONE and put #PeopleOverProfits.
That fight. Never. Ends.@handpmichigan @HPNorthDakota @learnaboutsam
NO MATTER what happens tonight I’m so proud of our diverse teams in Michigan and North Dakota. We’ve been down in the polls since day one, & were totally counted out. But we fought on...built unprecedented coalitions...& no matter what we will hang heads high. So much work to do!— Kevin Sabet (@KevinSabet) November 6, 2018
Similarly, Sabet downplayed the significance of a “yes” vote for California’s 2016 adult-use legalization measure — four days before Election Day.
Most already think pot is legal in CA - bc it has been, pretty much, to any1 w/a headache 4 yrs. Tues will be interesting,not life-changing— Kevin Sabet (@KevinSabet) November 5, 2016
Polling places just opened in Utah, where voters will see a medical marijuana measure on their ballots.
Local journalists are reporting that electricity is out in parts of Michigan as a result of high winds, with a restoration of power not estimated until later this afternoon.
For what it’s worth, executives for the local power company, DTE Energy, as well as its affiliates, have donated significant funds against the state’s marijuana legalization ballot measure.
—> @DTE_Energy has put 2,000 workers on standby, including 900 linemen, in the event of power outages at polling precincts because of high winds. In the event of outages, the utility company has 100 gas-powered generators to power precincts. https://t.co/odjceMC1mT— Chad Livengood (@ChadLivengood) November 6, 2018
Jack Cardetti, spokesman for New Approach Missouri, released an Election Day statement urging voters to support his group’s medical cannabis measure over that of another competing campaign, which he called “self-centered and nonsensical.”
“Today is a big day for Missouri patients and veterans. Voters finally have the opportunity to decide whether Missouri will become the 31st state to allow doctors to recommend medical marijuana to patients and veterans with serious and debilitating illnesses.
“We believe Missouri voters are ready to have this safe, compassionate option available to suffering patients through Amendment 2.
“We also believe Missourians will reject Amendment 3, Brad Bradshaw’s self-centered and nonsensical attempt to become Missouri’s medical marijuana czar. Missouri patients and veterans deserve a common-sense medical marijuana law designed for them, not to benefit one individual.
“We feel confident Missourians today will pass Amendment 2 to help patients and veterans, and also give it more votes than Amendment 3.”
Polls just opened in much of North Dakota, where voters will have a chance to enact a marijuana legalization measure. People in Wisconsin can now head to their voting booths as well, where counties and cities representing roughly half the state’s population will have nonbinding cannabis questions on the ballot.
Polls are now open in most of Michigan, where voters will decide whether to make the state the next to legalize marijuana.
Election day also just began in Missouri, where there are three separate medical cannabis measures on the ballot.
Marijuana election day has officially begun! Voters in Ohio can now head to the polls, with those in six cities having the chance to approve cannabis decriminalization measures.