Nine States Voting on Marijuana Measures in 2016

This election season, nine states will be voting on ballot initiatives related to legalizing and regulating cannabis in some form. This is an unprecedented opportunity for medical marijuana activists and entrepreneurs who are looking at legalization as an opportunity for new businesses. While it is unlikely that all of these ballot initiatives will pass, recent polls suggest that many of them have enough backing among voters. Below we have gathered facts and information on each of these initiatives, and we will update this article as new polls and developments come to light.

Jump to state: California, Nevada, Arizona, Massachusetts, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Arkansas, Florida


Recreational initiatives

In 2016, five states will be voting on recreational cannabis ballot measures. If all of them passed, that would bring the total number of states with recreational markets in the USA to nine! So far, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska are the only states where people over 21 can purchase cannabis at state-licensed retail stores.

California Recreational Cannabis 2016 Initiative AUMA
Photo by Ian D. Keating

California, Proposition 64, “Adult Use of Marijuana Act.”

Polls: 61 percent approve, 36 percent oppose (aggregate of May 26, Public Policy Institute of California; Aug. 10, Problosky Research).

Summary: The AUMA would legalize marijuana and hemp, permitting recreational use of the former for adults (aged 21 or older) beginning in 2018, with no public use provisions. The dispensaries would be supervised by the Bureau of Marijuana Control, while the Department of Food and Agriculture would license and oversee commercial cultivation. Adults would be able to cultivate up to 6 plants for personal use, though municipalities may regulate aspects of home-growing. The act provides for marketing standards, barring advertising and dispensaries 600 feet from schools.

The measure would force patients enrolled in the current system to obtain a new doctor’s recommendation that meets the strict standards – enacted in 2015 – by Jan. 1, 2018. Tax exemptions would be available for medical marijuana providers. It also provides for resentencing and destruction of records for minor marijuana convictions.

Personal possession limits: 28.5 grams of flower, 4 grams of concentrates.

Taxes: 15 percent retail sales tax plus state sales tax, $9.25 tax per ounce of flower, $2.75 tax per ounce of leaves. Municipalities can impose local taxes.

Fees: The bill does not outline a fee structure; it delegates power to Bureau of Marijuana Control.

Revenue disbursement: 60 percent, Youth Education, Prevention, Early Intervention Account; 20 percent, Environmental Restoration and Protection Account; 20 percent, State and Local Law Enforcement Account.


Nevada Recreational Marijuana Initiative 2016
Photo by Felipe Valduga

Nevada, Question 2,Initiative to Regulate and Tax Marijuana.”

Polls: 50 percent approve, 41 percent oppose (July 24, KTNV-TV 13Action News/Rasmussen).

Summary: The Department of Taxation would be responsible for determining qualifications and issuing licenses under the program, which would permit adult use and possession. The measure provides for individuals to grow up to six plants – 12 per household – if the cultivator is 25 miles from a retail marijuana store.

Public use is not permitted and carries a $600 fine. The initiative provides for local government to pass zoning and land use laws banning marijuana businesses and such businesses are prohibited 1,000 feet from schools. Additionally, the measure provides for 80 retail licenses to be issued in counties with a population of more than 700,000 people; 20 licenses will be available in counties with populations less than 700,000 but more than 100,000. A maximum of four dispensaries would be allowed in counties with a population less than 100,000 but more than 55,000; and two will be available for counties with populations less than 55,000. The Tax Department will begin accepting applications on Jan. 1, 2018.  

Personal possession limits: 1 ounce of flower, 3.5 grams of concentrates.

Taxes: 15 percent excise tax, plus state sales tax

Fees: $5,000 application fee for retail, cultivation, product manufacturing, distributor, and testing licenses.

Distributor and testing fees cannot exceed $15,000 for the initial license; $5,000 for renewal.

Retail fees cannot exceed $20,000 for the initial license; $6,000 for renewal.

Cultivation fees cannot exceed $30,000 for the initial license; $10,000 for renewal.

Product manufacturing fees cannot exceed $10,000 for the initial license; $3,300 for renewal.

Revenue disbursement: Revenues support K-12 education.


Arizona Recreational Cannabis Initiative 2016
Photo by Phillip Capper

Arizona, Proposition 205, “Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act.”

Polls: 51 percent approve, 44 percent oppose (aggregate of Apr. 21, Data Orbital commissioned by Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy; July 11, O.H. Predictive Insights; Dec. 1, 2015, Morrison Institute for Public Policy at Arizona State University).

Summary: Prop 205 would establish a Department of Marijuana Licenses and Control as well as a seven member Marijuana Commission comprised of three industry representatives and four members with no financial industry ties to develop rules and police the industry. Adults would be permitted to grow up to six plants and buy cannabis from licensed retail shops. It provides for medical marijuana dispensaries currently operating in the state to transition to the retail model. Local governments would have control over whether to allow for marijuana businesses.

The measure also makes manufacturing concentrates “by chemical extraction with a flammable solvent” a class 6 felony in the state. Delivery and cannabis clubs are banned under the measure until at least 2020 and the fine for public use is $300. The department is not permitted to issue more marijuana retail licenses than 10 percent the number of liquor licenses.

If the department does not have industry regulations in place by Mar. 1, 2018, businesses could submit their application for local government approval, who would write their own rules.

Personal possession limits: 1 ounce of flower, 5 grams of concentrates.

Taxes: 15 percent excise tax.

Fees: Distributor and product manufacturing fees cannot exceed $15,000 for the initial license; $5,000 for renewal.

Retail fees cannot exceed $20,000 for the initial license; $6,000 for renewal.

Cultivation fees cannot exceed $30,000 for the initial license; $10,000 for renewal.

Revenue disbursement: 80 percent allocated for education; 20 percent, Department of Public Health.     


Massachusetts Recreational Marijuana 2016 Regulations
Photo by Tim Sackton

Massachusetts, Question 4, “Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act.”

Polls: 48 percent approve, 43 percent oppose (aggregate of Feb. 25, UMass:Amherst/WBZ; Apr. 14, Western New England University Polling Institute; May 10, Suffolk University/Boston Globe; July 19 Gravis Marketing for Jobs First).

Summary: Adults would be permitted to grow, buy, and legally possess cannabis under the proposal, which would create a Cannabis Control Commission to oversee the industry. The commission would be comprised of a commissioner and two associate commissioners. The commissioner would serve co-terminus with the state treasurer – who would appoint the commission members. Associate commissioners would serve four-year terms.

Home-grows are restricted to six plants, 12 per household. Tax exemption provisions are made for medical marijuana providers. Cannabis businesses and home grows must be 500 feet from schools.

A 15-member Cannabis Advisory Board appointed by the governor would be created under the act. It would include five cannabis industry experts, two law enforcement members, two social welfare representatives, two attorneys experienced in providing legal services to the cannabis industry, and one patient. Board members would serve two-year terms. A Marijuana Regulation Fund would be created to pay for administrative costs.  

Legalization would take effect Dec. 15.  

Personal possession limits: 1 ounce of flower in public, 10 ounces at home, 5 grams of concentrates in public.

Taxes: 3.75 percent excise tax, plus state sales tax. Local government can add up to a 2 percent tax.

Fees: $3,000 retail, product manufacturer, cultivator, and testing application fee.

$15,000 for retail, cultivation, and product manufacturing licenses.

$10,000 for a testing license.

Revenue disbursement: Does not specify, will be determined by commission.


Maine Recreational Cannabis Initiative 2016
Photo by Paul VanDerWerf

Maine, Question 1, “Marijuana Legalization Act.”

Polls: 55 percent approve, 42 percent oppose (aggregate: Mar. 18, Maine People’s Resource Center; May 12, Critical Insights).

Summary: The act would leave industry oversight to the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, treating cannabis like an agricultural product. It would permit adults to purchase, possess, grow, and transfer limited amounts. Localities can impose their own licensing requirements and fees. Individuals would be allowed to grow up to six flowering and 12 immature plants.

The measure would provide for social club licenses; no cigarettes or alcohol would be permitted at such establishments. Public use is banned, and carries a $100 fine.

Two types of retail cultivation permits would be available – one for more and on for less than 3,000-square-feet of plant canopy. Police would be barred from owning cannabis businesses, and preference would be given to cultivators with two years’ experience under current Maine statutes, with 40 percent of the licenses being issued to commercial grows less than 3,000-square-feet. No more than six licenses will be available for grows larger than 3,000-square-feet.

Personal possession limits: 2 1/2 ounces (includes transfer without renumeration).

Taxes: 10 percent retail sales tax.

Fees: Application fees for any industry license could range from $10 to $250.

License fees for retail locations and marijuana social clubs range from $250 to $2,500.

License fees for testing facilities are $100.

Cultivation license fees range $10 to $100 per 1,000-square-feet.

Product manufacturing licenses range from $100 to $1,000

Revenue disbursement: Revenues will be deposited into the General Fund.


Medical initiatives

In addition to the states that are vying for a legal recreational market, several states will be deciding whether to enact or expand medical marijuana programs as well. Learn about the states that will be voting on medical cannabis measures this election season below:

Montana Medical Marijuana Initiative 2016
Photo by Always Shooting

Montana, I-182, “Montana Medical Marijuana Act.”

Polls: No recent polling data.

Summary: The act aims to revive the medical cannabis program in the state which was decimated by the passage of the Montana Marijuana Act by the legislature in 2011. The Montana Marijuana Act removed most of the provisions allowed under the Medical Marijuana Act passed by voters in 2004.

The measure repeals rules set by the 2011 statute, including the three patients limit and the requirement that physicians who certify more than 25 patients be referred to the Board of Medical Examiners. The act would allow medical marijuana providers to hire employees to cultivate, dispense and transport products, and removes the authority of law enforcement to conduct unannounced inspections of medical marijuana facilities, instead requiring annual inspections by the Health Department.

The plan also adds post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of eligible conditions and removes the conditions forcing patients with chronic pain to get a second doctor’s recommendation. The measure includes language requiting testing of medical marijuana by licensed laboratories.

A cardholder’s ability to possess four mature plants, 12 seedlings, and 1 ounce of cannabis is maintained. The new regime would take effect on June 20, 2017.

Taxes: There are no changes to the tax structure.

Fees: License fees for providers and producers may not exceed $1,000 for 10 or fewer registered cardholders; no more than $5,000 for more than 10.

Lab license fees cannot exceed $1,200.

Revenue disbursement: A special revenue account will be created to pay any administrative fees associated with the changes.


North Dakota Medical Cannabis Legalization 2016
Photo by Andrew Filer

North Dakota, Measure 5, “North Dakota Compassionate Care Act.”

Polls: No recent polling data.

Summary: The medical marijuana program would be regulated by the state Department of Health, and requires Compassionate Care Centers to operate as not-for-profits. Designated caregivers could serve no more than five qualifying patients

The measure would allow medical marijuana use for “debilitating medical conditions” including cancer and it’s treatments; HIV/AIDS; Hepatitis C; ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease; post-traumatic stress disorder; Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and its treatments; Crohn’s disease, fibromyalgia; spinal damage/stenosis; chronic back pain; glaucoma; epilepsy; neuropathy; and wasting syndrome. The Health Department would be able to add conditions, and citizens would be permitted to petition for condition approval under the program. The department would have six months to make that determination. A nine-member advisory board will be created to evaluate and make program recommendations. The board will be chaired – and appointed – by the governor.

Patients with PTSD would need to get a recommendation from a licensed psychiatrist. Patients would be permitted to purchase and possess up to 3 ounces. Compassionate Care Center inventory would be capped at 1,000 plants “irrespective of the stages of growth” and no more than 3,500 ounces. Cannabis businesses would be licensed for two years and not permitted 1,000 feet from a school.

Patients are permitted to grow eight plants in an enclosed facility if they are 40 miles from the nearest Compassionate Care Center, and they must notify law enforcement of the operation. The Department of Health would be permitted to interview potential patients and caregivers at their home, but the visits are not mandatory and require 24 hours’ notice.

Taxes: There are no tax implications.

Fees: $25,000 license fees following Health Department approval.

Revenue disbursement: A Compassionate Care Fund will be created, comprised of donations, fees, and civil penalties imposed.


Arkansas Medical Marijuana 2016
photo by Cliff

Arkansas, “Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment

Polls: 58 percent approve, 34 percent oppose (June 21, Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College polling general medical marijuana initiative).

63 percent approve, 35 oppose AMMA; 68 percent support, 30 percent oppose AMCA (Aug. 4 Public Opinion Strategies polling ballot medical marijuana ballot initiative preference).

Summary: Voters in Arkansas originally expected two measures to legalize medical marijuana on this November’s ballot, but on October 27 one of the initiatives — the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act — was struck down by the state’s Supreme Court.

The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment would create a five-member Medical Marijuana Commission to oversee the program and advise the Department of Health. The commission would include two members appointed by the President of the Senate, two appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and one by the governor. Citizens could petition for conditions to be added to the qualifying list, but the department would have 120 days to make a decision.

The AMMA does not have a grow-your-own provision. It provides for at least 20 dispensaries, but nor more than 40; and at least four but no more than eight cultivation facilities – both are barred from 1,500 feet from schools and churches. Potential owners must have been Arkansas residents for seven consecutive years. The Alcohol and Beverage Control Division will establish operational rules for dispensaries and cultivation facilities.

Under the measure, patients would be able to purchase and possess 2 1/2 ounces.

Taxes: The AMMA invokes local and state taxes.

Revenue disbursement: AMMA – 5 percent to the Department of Health; 4 percent to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Administration, and Enforcement divisions; 1 percent to the Medical Marijuana Commission; 10 percent to the Skills Development Fund; 50 percent to the would-be-created Vocational and Technical Training Special Revenue Fund; 30 percent to the General Revenue Fund.


Florida Marijuana Legalization 2016
photo by Chad Sparkes

Florida, Amendment 2, “Use of Marijuana for Debilitating Conditions.”

Polls: 68 percent support 23 percent opposed (aggregate of Mar. 1, Public Policy Polling; Mar. 9 and June 30, News 13/Bay News 9; Mar. 11, The Ledger/10 News WTSP; May 6, Quinnipiac University; May 9, Bendixen & Amandi International; May 18, Gravis Marketing; July 21 Anzalone Liszt on behalf of United for Care; Aug 23, Saint Leo University).

Summary: The initiative being considered in Florida is a constitutional amendment, meaning that it will require 60 percent of voter support in November to become law.

Under the measure a “debilitating medical condition” is defined as cancer; epilepsy; glaucoma; HIV/AID; post-traumatic stress disorder; ALS; Crohn’s disease; Parkinson’s disease; multiple sclerosis; “or other debilitating medical conditions of the same kind or class.”

The Department of Health would be tasked in rolling out much of the program details, which need to be in place 6 months if the measure is passed by voters.

The amendment text permits Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers and caregivers, but it does not lay out any of the details included in other ballot initiatives, such as fees, taxes, possession limits and revenue disbursement.


Do you have new information regarding the upcoming election season? Shoot us an email at [email protected]!

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Authored By

Staff writer for Ganjapreneur. TG Branfalt Jr. is a Detroit, MI-based reporter, specializing in public policy. He covered the passage and implementation of New York's medical marijuana law and earned his master’s degree from the College of Saint Rose. A life-long baseball fan, TG collects vintage baseball cards.

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