The 2016 election brought about some definitive progress in statewide efforts to legalize both medical and recreational marijuana. Four states voted to permit the use of cannabis to treat medical conditions, and another four states voted to legalize recreational use for adults and establish a formal and regulated system of cannabis production and sales. Following this election, 29 states now have approved medical marijuana programs and eight states have approved recreational use, with variations of regulated sales and production.
However, as President-Elect Donald Trump begins to clarify his previously vague positions with cabinet appointees, these gains may be in jeopardy. Trump’s selection of Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions for the position of attorney general could lead to reversals at the federal level. Sessions is an outspoken opponent of medical and recreational cannabis.
Four States Join the Medical Marijuana Program
In Arkansas, voters chose to legalize medical marijuana by a vote of 53 to 47 percent. Issue 6, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, amends the state constitution to permit qualified patients who possess a physician’s recommendation to legally obtain medical cannabis from state-licensed dispensaries. The home cultivation of cannabis is not permitted under the law. Under the law, regulators will license up to 40 dispensary providers and up to eight marijuana cultivators. The state has struggled with widespread opioid addiction and hopes that medical cannabis may curb.
Arkansas Sen. John Boozman speaks to a crowd of supporters. (Credit: Source.)
Montana voters approved an initiative to legalize medical cannabis by a margin of 58 to 42 percent. Initiative I-182 expands the existing Montana medical marijuana program, initially enacted in 2004, but subsequently deemed excessively limiting to doctors and patients. Initiative I-182 permits licensed medical marijuana providers to serve more than three patients at one time and allows for providers to hire employees to cultivate, dispense, and transport medical marijuana. It repeals the original requirement that physicians who certify 25 or more patients annually be referred to the board of medical examiners. It also prohibits law enforcement from conducting unannounced inspections of medical marijuana facilities, and requires annual inspections by the state.
Florida voters approved Amendment 2, which enables people who suffer from a “debilitating medical condition” to obtain medical marijuana from state licensed dispensaries. A previous medical marijuana law gave access to a more limited range of