Pivotal Election Year for Marijuana Initiatives
The general election next week could prove a turning point for efforts to legitimize the sale and use of cannabis products.
Presidential hopeful Joe Biden has offered up a broad plan of action that includes decriminalization as well as federal legalization of medical cannabis. Biden’s running mate, Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) is a co-sponsor of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act. That bill would remove cannabis from the federal Controlled Substances Act, remove federal penalties for marijuana possession, expunge the records of those convicted of marijuana possession under federal law, and prohibit denial of any public benefits due to marijuana use. The bill also would impose a 5% federal tax on sales of cannabis products, earmarking that money for criminal and social reform initiatives.
Voters in 5 States Consider Legalization Initiatives
Meanwhile, five states are asking voters next week to weigh in on marijuana legalization initiatives.
Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota all have adult-use legalization initiatives on the ballot, while Mississippi voters have a chance to approve medical marijuana uses. If all these initiatives garner approval, states allowing some sort of legal marijuana use will total of 38 , plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. In 14 of those states, plus D.C., adult recreational use of marijuana will also be legal.
Legal marijuana sales have been surging since states first began implementing stay-at-home orders in March to stem the spread of the virus. Illinois reported its fifth straight month of record-breaking marijuana sales in September, when dispensaries rang up a staggering $67 million in marijuana sales. In Oregon, recreational marijuana sales have grown 30% over forecasted sales since the pandemic began, averaging about $100 million a month, according to news outlet CNBC.
The big selling point for states considering legal marijuana sales is tax revenues. Marijuana Business Daily, estimates legal marijuana sales in New Jersey could total $400 million next year and $950 million by 2024, when legal sales are expected to generate $82 million in state and local tax revenues.
Legal marijuana sales, nationwide, this year are projected to reach $15.8 billion, according to Arcview Market Research, up from $12.1 billion in 2019.
As CNBC put it in a recent report: “In an economy shattered by the coronavirus pandemic, legal weed looks like a great idea.”