Sunday, December 2, 2018

Marijuana wins again

  In the recent election, some Democrats won and some lost. Likewise, some Republicans won and some lost. There is one “candidate,” however, who won on most of the ballots “he” appeared on: marijuana.

  According to Ballotpedia, “Voters in 37 states decided 155 statewide ballot measures in November 2018.” A total of 167 statewide ballot measures were certified for 2018 ballots in 38 states, but 12 were decided at pre-November elections, and the validity of one measure in Kentucky was pending a court ruling scheduled for after the election.” Of those 155 ballot measures, “64 were citizen-initiated measures, 81 were binding measures referred to the ballot by state legislatures, 7 were referred to the Florida ballot by the Florida Constitution Revision Commission (CRC), and the remaining 3 measures were advisory votes or automatically referred to the ballot.” Of the 64 citizen-initiated measures, “62 were ballot initiatives — which propose new laws — and two were veto referendums — which challenge laws recently passed by state legislatures.” Of the total, “116 statewide measures were approved, and 50 were defeated.”

  In 2018, seven measures in five states concerned the legalization of medical or recreational marijuana.

  In Michigan, Proposal 1, the Marijuana Legalization Initiative, would legalize the recreational use and possession of marijuana for persons 21 years old or older and enact a tax on marijuana sales. The measure was approved by a vote of 56 to 44 percent.

  Missouri had three competing ballot initiatives to legalize medical marijuana: Amendment 2, Amendment 3, and Proposition C. All would legalize and tax medical marijuana, but at different rates and revenue distributions. Amendment 2 was approved by a vote of 66-34.

  In North Dakota, Measure 3, the Marijuana Legalization and Automatic Expungement Initiative, would legalize the recreational use of marijuana for persons 21 years old or older and create an automatic expungement process for individuals with convictions for a controlled substance that has been legalized. The measure was defeated by a vote of 59-41 percent.

  During a midterm primary election in Oklahoma in June, voters approved a ballot measure to legalize medical marijuana. The measure, which passed by a vote of 57 to 43 percent, allows doctors to recommend cannabis to treat any medical condition they see fit.

  In Utah, Proposition 2, the Medical Marijuana Initiative, would legalize the medical use of marijuana for persons with qualifying medical illnesses. However, qualified persons cannot actually smoke marijuana. Instead, during any one 14-day period, a person is allowed to buy either two ounces of unprocessed marijuana or an amount of marijuana product with no more than 10 grams of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or cannabidiol. The measure was approved by a vote of 53-47 percent.

  That means that thirty-three states and the District of Columbia have now legalized medical marijuana. Only Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, Nebraska, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming have not legalized medical marijuana.

  Recreational marijuana is legal in ten states and the District of Columbia: Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.

  In spite of these actions by the states, the federal government still considers the growing, distributing, buying, selling, possessing, or smoking of marijuana to be a criminal offense, punishable by fines and imprisonment. Police actually arrest more people for marijuana violations in the United States than for all violent crimes combined.

  Marijuana is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 801). As a Schedule I drug, marijuana is said to have “a high potential for abuse,” “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States,” and “a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug under medical supervision.”

  Other Schedule I drugs include heroin, LSD, and ecstasy. Schedule I drugs may never be prescribed by a physician. Schedule II drugs, which the federal government considers to be less dangerous than Schedule I drugs, include cocaine, methamphetamine, and fentanyl. A physician may prescribe Schedule II drugs. So even though no one has ever died from overdosing on marijuana, the federal government considers marijuana to be more dangerous than cocaine.

  In the Supreme Court case Gonzales v. Raich (2005), the High Court ruled, by a vote of 6-3, that the Controlled Substances Act did not exceed Congress’s power under the Commerce Clause as applied to the intrastate cultivation and possession of marijuana for medical use. Therefore, the federal government has the authority to prohibit marijuana possession and use for any and all purposes. Although the Trump Department of Justice has heretofore been committed to the enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act in the fifty states, the recent resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions could change things somewhat.

  All freedom-loving Americans should celebrate the approval of the marijuana ballot initiatives in Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma, Utah and condemn the rejection of the marijuana ballot initiative in North Dakota.


  Certainly not because any of the ballot measures were perfect or ideal. They are far from it. They are, in fact, seriously flawed because of their restrictions, taxes, and regulations. But, ultimately, such ballot measures can expand Americans’ access to marijuana and therefore significantly increase marijuana freedom in the United States.

  Why is that important?

  It is important, but not because marijuana is necessarily healthy, beneficial, wholesome, safe, or harmless. It is important because the real issue here is personal freedom, not marijuana.

  Americans who oppose the personal use of marijuana because they deem it to be harmful, addictive, dangerous, risky, immoral, or sinful should support ballot measures that increase marijuana freedom as much as Americans who want to use marijuana for medical reasons or simply to get high.

  It is not the business of the American government — at any level — to monitor, regulate, or restrict what Americans put into their mouths, noses, veins, or lungs. What Americans desire to eat, drink, smoke, inhale, or inject is simply none of the government’s business. For as economist Ludwig von Mises has well said, “If one abolishes man’s freedom to determine his own consumption, one takes all freedoms away.”

  About the author: Laurence M. Vance is a columnist and policy advisor for The Future of Freedom Foundation, an associated scholar of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, and a columnist, blogger, and book reviewer at He is the author of Gun Control and the Second Amendment, The War on Drugs Is a War on Freedom, and War, Empire and the Military: Essays on the Follies of War and U.S. Foreign Policy. His newest books are Free Trade or Protectionism? and The Free Society. Visit his website: Send him e-mail.

  This article was published by The Future of Freedom Foundation.

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