While there were no big election issues for the cannabis industry in the states with November general elections, there were a few related issues of note. One of which was Massachusetts, where although recreational cannabis has been legal for five years, two Boston suburbs continue to dig in their heels and ban the bong.
Voters in Methuen and Randolph failed to overturn their town local bans on adult-use cannabis businesses. The repeal effort lost by 2,266 to 1,681 in Methuen, and by 1,437 to 1,314 in Randolph, disappointing both mayors who had hoped to finally profit from the increased tax revenues that cannabis businesses could bring. The towns will continue to be among the 55 Massachusetts municipalities with facility bans, although these bans are increasingly irrelevant as consumer access is also provided through home cannabis delivery.
Meanwhile in Ohio, decriminalization measures were on the ballot in 14 small municipalities, and passed in half —seven communities ranging from Martins Ferry, where the vote was 435 to 404, to Murray City with a vote of 35 to 29. While low-level possession has been decriminalized in the state to a misdemeanor, these measures were designed to similarly lower penalties for 100 to 200 grams. A full proposal for adult-use legislation is still waiting for signatures to be collected before the legislature can consider it.
Nearby, Michigan’s largest city did pass decriminalization, but for a cannabis relative — psychedelics. While not the same as legalization, it specifies that the therapeutic use of hallucinogenics such as magic mushrooms will be low priority for law enforcement. And in Philadelphia, 73% of voters said “yes” to Question 1 on the ballot — amending the city’s charter to allow for a future legislative effort to legalize, decriminalize and regulate the sale of adult-use cannabis. The vote is non-binding, but it does show voter intent to Pennsylvania Governor Wolf who has said he would be in favor of legalization.
And in Colorado, where cannabis sales for 2021 are expected to exceed $2.2 billion dollars, voters rejected Proposition 119 which would have raised taxes on adult-use cannabis sales. The measure was rejected by a 54.5% majority, and was intended to increase the state sales tax by 5% to fund new education programs for children living in low-income households.
A final wild card is Republican Glenn Youngkin’s surprise win of the governorship in Virginia over Democrat Terry McAuliffe. Cannabis legalization was passed earlier this year in the Democratic-controlled chambers, but is subject to a second reenactment vote in 2022. Although Youngkin has publicly said he won’t try to repeal the legislation, he does hold the executive branch pen.