Where will the Cannabis Legalization Debate Affect the Upcoming Elections?

With less than two months until the Midterm Election, Cannabis legalization may have election implications, especially for tight races across the country where the question of legalizing the substance is up to the voters to decide.

The debate between whether it should be downgraded from Schedule I to something else has many people talking. All this talk could impact and be impacted by the politics going on in this country today with Cannabis legalization on the ballot, there may be election implications especially for tight races across the country.

Governor’s Race: Florida

Right now marijuana legalization is popular among Americans, and medicinal marijuana is even more popular. This becomes significant because this debate could help certain people get elected in states where the race is tight. For example, look at the Florida senate race this November.

In Florida the incumbent Senator Bill Nelson (D) is known as a conservative Democrat, however he has come out in favor of medicinal marijuana. On the flip side, his challenger is current Florida Governor Rick Scott (R), who opposes medicinal marijuana in his state. Florida voted in 2016 to legalize medicinal marijuana within its borders with 70% of the vote, however Governor Scott has vetoed this referendum.

When this was taken to court, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that his veto was unconstitutional, however Governor Scott will appeal this decision. This puts him on the wrong side of 70% of potential voters, and in a tight race for the senate seat in Florida, could tip it towards Senator Bill Nelson. Now this topic may not tip the entire senate in the Democrats favor, but it could allow Democrats to hold the seats necessary to keep the senate within 2 swing votes.

Recreational Legalization: Michigan and North Dakota

Voters in Red States, Michigan and North Dakota, will be faced with ballot initiatives for adult use/recreational cannabis legalization. In Michigan, Proposal 1 would legalize cannabis for adults 21 or older, allowing flower, concentrates, and cannabis-infused edibles, as well as homegrow (up to 12 plants) for personal consumption.

The MI Legalize 2018 campaign includes buy-in from the Coalition To Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, Michigan NORML, the ACLU, the Drug Policy Alliance, the Marijuana Policy Project, the marijuana law section of the State Bar Association, and other groups are actively supporting the ballot proposal. While Medicinal Cannabis has been legal in the Mitten State since 2008, North Dakota voters will have the chance to decide on the “most progressive yet most conservative marijuana legalization bill” this year.

In North Dakota, Measure 3 is considered a tomato-plant initiative (where a measure that treats the cannabis plant like a tomato plant, free for all to grow, consume and distribute as any person sees fit, without any state or local regulation whatsoever), allowing the State Legislature to “do their job — regulations, taxes, zoning, whatever,” Cole Haymond, an adviser to the Legalize ND campaign.

How Could Marijuana Legalization be Affected by the Supreme Court?

Marijuana legalization could be impacted by the Supreme Court though; right now there is a vacancy on the Supreme Court and President Trump has nominated Brett Kavanaugh to fill the vacancy. While Kavanaugh has no previous record on marijuana cases, however, it should be noted that he is being nominated by an administration with Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, who has a history of being overly aggressive to any forms of marijuana legalization in the United States.

Furthermore, a conservative Supreme Court could drastically impact the legalization of marijuana within the country. At this moment there is a case being brought up in the second circuit courts about the validity of the medical benefits of marijuana. This case is over the FDA recognizing a drug that is marijuana based, even though marijuana is still considered Schedule I, which means it has no medicinal value.

If this case goes up the ladder to the Supreme Court, there could be a ruling that holds firm that there is no medicinal value to marijuana and, since Article V of the constitution states that federal law supersedes state law, there could be an end to medicinal marijuana as we know it in this country.

What is Being Done in Congress to Impact Marijuana Legislation?

Even though there are threats to marijuana legalization, either medicinally or medically, there is a bill in congress that would reaffirm the actions states have already made in the marijuana debate. The bill, titled “Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States Act” has been introduced to the House of Representatives by three Republicans and three Democrats, to show the bill is bipartisan.

This act will “ensure that each state has the right to determine for itself the best approach to marijuana within its borders.” However, there is pushback as opponents argue that the bill is contrary to Article V of the constitution, stating that marijuana is prohibited federally and must be prohibited in the states as well. This bill holds significance as it could either protect the states from federal prohibition, or it could leave the states in a sort of limbo as they are now with continued uncertainty.

There was also another bill in congress that would have been monumental for the legal marijuana cause, however it did not make it out of committee. This bill would have given protections to banks if they were to deal with marijuana companies. Right now, banks are under pressure not to have ties to marijuana companies because it is risky considering it is still federally prohibited.


Without permanent Federal protections, State legal companies will now have to mostly deal in uncertainty unless they find some favorable legislation from Congress who is willing to associate with the Industry. Cash is considered unreliable with obvious drawbacks like the difficulty of keeping track of the transactions these companies do, creating higher chances for diversion and violations from State licensees.


Authored by: Will Knight (Business Development Intern)