Prohibitionists Are Trying to Strike Back Against the Marijuana Landslide of 2016
Political leaders in several states are threatening to thwart the implementation of voter-approved initiatives specific to the regulation of marijuana.
In Massachusetts, where voters decided 54 percent to 46 percent on election day to legalize the cultivation, use, and retail sale of cannabis by adults, politicians have suggested amending the law and delaying its implementation. Specifically, lawmakers have called for pushing back the date when adults may legally begin growing cannabis from December 15, 2016 to an unspecified point in time. Legislators have also called for delaying retail sales of cannabis until late 2018, and have proposed increasing marijuana-specific sales taxes. “I believe that when voters vote on most ballot questions, they are voting in principle. They are not voting on the fine detail that is contained within the proposal,” Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg said in regard to the proposed changes.
In Maine, where voters narrowly approved a similar ballot measure, Republican Gov. Paul LePage has said that he will seek federal guidance before moving forward with the law’s implementation. Governor LePage, who adamantly opposed the measure, said that he “will be talking to Donald Trump” about how the incoming administration intends to address the issue, and pronounced that he “will not put this (law) into play” unless the federal government signs off on it.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson made similar statements following voters’ decision to legalize the medical use of cannabis. “I don’t like the idea of implementing laws in Arkansas that violate federal law,” the Republican Governor and former head of the US Drug Enforcement Administration said. “This does not call for a state-by-state solution, it calls for … a national solution.”
During the Presidential campaign, Donald Trump voiced support for the authority of individual states to impose regulatory policies specific to the use and dispensing of medical cannabis, but was less clear with regard to whether he believed that state lawmakers ought to be able to regulate the adult use of cannabis absent federal interference. His nominee for US Attorney General, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, strongly opposes any liberalization in cannabis policy, stating in April, “[M]arijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized.”
In 2013, the Obama administration issued a memorandum directing US prosecutors not to interfere with statewide marijuana legalization efforts, provided those efforts did not undermine specific federal priorities – such as the diversion of cannabis to non-legal states. According to Gallup pollsters, nearly two-thirds of Americans support allowing states to decide their own cannabis policies.
Voters in eight states – Arkansas, California, Florida, Massachusetts, Maine, Montana, Nevada, and North Dakota – approved statewide ballot measures this November regulating marijuana for either medicinal or social use.