The NCSL Blog


By Karmen Hanson

While states continue to watch how things develop with Colorado and Washington’s retail marijuana programs, some states will once again have their own marijuana-related ballot initiatives to track this election season.

There are a few ballot measures similar to Colorado and Washington’s programs for consideration that would legalize marijuana for adults similar to alcohol. Voters in Alaska (Measure 2) and Oregon (Measure 91)  will decide if the state will tax and regulate the production, sale and use of marijuana for adults over 21.

Voters in the District of Columbia will have their say on Initiative 71, which would legalize possession of up to 2 ounces of cannabis for adults, as well as allow home cultivation of up to six marijuana plants for personal use.

The Florida electorate will decide on Amendment 2, which would allow for medical use of marijuana for a specific list of debilitating diseases and conditions. It would not allow for home cultivation as some other state programs do.

Guam will have its first medical marijuana-related measure on the ballot after the territory’s Supreme Court ruled that the legislature can use its power to submit a piece of legislation to a vote of the people. The referendum will need 50 percent plus one vote approval to pass. A legislative measure requires only a simple majority of votes.

If approved, these measures would add states to the current list of over 22 states and the District of Columbia with legal access to marijuana for medical or adult-use.

Since 2013, at least 11 states have proposed and passed new, limited medical marijuana programs to allow for a type of low-THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and high-CBD (cannabidiol) to be used by a limited scope of patients with severe seizure disorders. The cannabis used in these programs contains very little of the psychoactive chemical THC which causes the “high” for most users.

Even though many marijuana programs started as citizen-led ballot measures, the legislatures still have a role to play. Most marijuana programs are subject to legislative oversight. Rules and regulations need to be developed by either the legislature, various departments within the state, or by a task force, depending on the enabling language.

In recent years, the time to establish medical marijuana programs has ranged from six months to two years. Please see the NCSL state marijuana policy page for more information.

For these and all statewide ballot measures this year, please see NCSL’s Ballot Measures Database.

Karmen Hanson tracks marijuana and other health issues for NCSL. Email Karmen.

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About the NCSL Blog

This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.