Amidst the shock of last night’s presidential election, a silver lining remains. Eight of the 9 states with marijuana (both medical and recreational) initiatives on the ballot passed those initiatives. Voters in California passed Prop 64, Maine passed, voters in Massachusetts Maine and Nevada voted yes on Question 4, Question 1 and Question 2, respectively – all the aforementioned being recreational marijuana ballot measures. Last night’s election brought the total number of states with legalized recreational marijuana to a whopping 8 states, including the entire west coast.
North Dakota, Arkansas, Florida, Montana and even Arkansas passed ballot measures to legalize medical marijuana. However, voters in Arizona rejected Prop 215, which would have legalized marijuana on a recreational basis in the state.
Regardless of Arizona’s failed legislation, last night’s results are a landslide victory on the marijuana legalization front across the county and even into the deep south. Yet, a very real cause for concern shadows such a progressive movement – president elect Trump and his projected cabinet members will seek to rescind the Cole Memo. The Cole Memo is a statement by the Justice Department that the federal government does not intend to prosecute residents of states who lawfully comply with a well regulated marijuana system, inclusive of 8 listed enforcement points. Although the Cole Memo does not provide statutory protections to those who produce, distribute and possess marijuana lawfully (under state law), it does provide a measure of security for residents and direction for States. Although President elect, Trump has indicated that he has no intention to circumvent state marijuana laws, Vice President elect Pence, has publicly stated his desire to prosecute those involved in the marijuana trade. Further, likely appointees to senior law enforcement positions, such as Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie are opposed to marijuana reform.
Even with last night’s victory, marijuana legalization still sits in a precarious position, and those involved in the marijuana industry continue at this point to operate without significant lasting federal security.