Election night 2018 brought about several changes in the legal landscape, but probably none so stark or so surprising as the spread of recreational marijuana laws. States that have voted conservatively in recent elections voted on ballot measures supporting the legalization of recreational marijuana, with one “red” state voting to legalize recreational marijuana. A ballot measure that would have approved medical marijuana use went down to defeat in another state, but it is surprising that North Dakota considered such a measure at all.
In Michigan, legalization took the form of a ballot proposal that passed by a 56-44 margin. Medicinal marijuana has been legal for a decade, but this new law allows adults over the age of 21 to buy and possess marijuana in different forms (including cigarettes and edibles) for non-medicinal use. The law also allows Michigan citizens to grow up to 12 marijuana plants for personal use. Michigan also took steps to control commerce in marijuana. Some jurisdictions (including Vermont and D.C.) that permit recreational use of marijuana do not allow the sale of non-medical marijuana. However, Michigan’s new law regulates legal sales of recreational marijuana, establishing a state licensing system for commercial sales and imposing a 10-percent tax that will benefit education and infrastructure. Michigan joins nine other states (Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington) and the District of Columbia that have legalized recreational use of marijuana by adults over the age of 21.
The North Dakota measure was defeated by a wide margin (59 percent against, 41 percent in favor). However, the defeat might be attributable to the ballot measure’s vague language. The measure did not include any limits on the amount that a person could possess or grow and did not describe how the marijuana trade would be taxed. Proponents of legalization have promised to try again, aiming to craft a measure that looks more like the proposal that succeeded in Michigan, incorporating plans for tax revenue from sales and defining limits on the amount that can be possessed or grown.
Kathleen Davies is a Staff Writer for GetLegal.com. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan Law School and has practiced law and taught legal writing and advocacy.