It has been called the “green wave” in the months leading up to the November 2020 election. In this case, we are not talking about sustainability or environmental protection. It is about whether your vote will help legalize cannabis in your state. And at the federal level.
In the weeks leading up to the November 2020 vote, we hear, read, and watch increased professions from political candidates in support of medical cannabis. Some are also supporting the deregulation of cannabis at the federal level—many, with an eye on the potential economic boon of marijuana tax revenues.
Marijuana legalization gains support from patients who use cannabis to moderate health symptoms, as a safer alternative to opioid medications. Compassionate care legislation made it possible for states to implement legalized medical cannabis programs. With the pandemic and the health crises very much in voters’ minds, the political pressure is on during the lead up to the 2020 election, with many electoral seats determined by the “green” vote for federal legalization of cannabis.
The Pandemic Highlights the Need for Affordable Healthcare
When we started the year, no one guessed that we would be fighting an invisible enemy. Or that the world would be facing the first global health pandemic since the Spanish Flu in 1918. The Covid-19 epidemic has changed every facet of life in the United States.
Stressing healthcare resources beyond limits. Exposing weaknesses in our National pandemic response. Unemployment, financial insecurity, and the tragic loss of almost 200,000 citizens (at the time of writing) succumbed to the coronavirus. The year 2020 will go down in history as a long war against an invisible virus. One that America was not prepared for.
Affordable healthcare remains a priority concern in our country. The cost of care has impacted individuals without health insurance. Is there a future where all Americans can enjoy Universal Healthcare like other G20 nations?
Maybe. But how will the cost of government-provided healthcare work without what many economists believe would be a tax increase that would cripple the U.S. economy? Canadian universal healthcare sounds enviable until you realize that our northern neighbors pay an average of 15% sales tax on all goods and services. And a combined provincial and federal income tax (for those earning more than $70,000 per year) of roughly 53%.
Try implementing that kind of tax model in America when the average household gross income is $59, 039 for a two-income family. Increased taxes for Americans already experiencing a poverty rate of 11.8% (2018 Census Bureau) would be an act of war.
Universal Healthcare and the Conversation About Taxing Cannabis to Pay for It
The debate about the need for universal healthcare is negligible; it is unquestionably understood. Where discussions about implementing universal healthcare in America falter, comes down to financing the expenditure.
Who is going to pay for it? Federal and state governments? How will both levels of government share the per capita costs? Will the federal government apply a limitation or standardization of fees that physicians and hospitals can charge for services? That is how it works in Canada to control patient care costs and eliminate healthcare fees’ inflation.
That part of the free healthcare puzzle is not as hard as figuring out where the funding will come. Like any other “need to have” change in domestic policy and law, it has a price tag. A large price tag. The average American currently pays $10,000 per year for health insurance (CDC, 2015). The estimated cost of healthcare annually is 18% of the U.S. GDP.
Could rescheduling cannabis as a controlled substance, legalizing, and taxing it on the same model as alcohol and tobacco products be the solution? Many social policy and economic experts think that is precisely the direction that the United States needs to take.
Federal Legalization of Cannabis Would Provide Billions in Annual Tax Revenues
The Covid-19 health emergency is plunging not only American businesses but global economies into recession. Some economists have crunched the data to demonstrate that 2020 may be the worst economic hardship the United States has faced since The Great Depression.
How did the world economy recover after The Great Depression? We entered into World War II, which supported economic recovery as production increased for the war effort. Today, we have learned that a World War is not the answer. So, what is the best strategic way to support domestic economic recovery? Federal legalization of cannabis.
A new report accurately estimates the potential tax revenues. In “Cannabis in the U.S. Economy: Jobs, Growth and Tax Revenue, 2019 Edition” prepared by New Frontier Data, the projections are encouraging. It estimates that U.S. federal cannabis legalization could reach $175.8 billion in tax revenues. And create up to 1.6 million new jobs.
Some politicians read the report and made the “new green vote” a priority for their campaign platform in 2020. The report bases projects on the following assumptions:
An adjusted 15% excise tax on all recreational (adult-use) cannabis sales nationally to the federal government.
Projected increased tax revenue after full federal legalization to the sum of $175.8 billion of tax revenues from 2018-2025.
The answer and economic data are provided for federal lawmakers. By more than one authority resource. So, what is holding the fed’s back from national legalization? Stigma.
The DEA Digs In to Defend Criminalization In Keeping with the Historic Anslinger Agenda
The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has continued to fight against federal decriminalization. Call it a throwback to the tradition of prohibition and propaganda that began in the 1950s in the Anslinger era. A ban on cannabis is also firmly rooted in blatant racism against People of Color (POC) in the United States.
Check out what these black American retired DEA agents had to say about racism in the Drug Enforcement Agency. No longer employed by the Drug Enforcement Agency, we found their revelations to be unsurprising. We understand the history and the purpose of stigmatizing cannabis. It was political. It was racial. It may be the biggest anti-product smear campaign in American history.
Can you imagine how “Big Tobacco” would respond if cigarette consumption, tobacco chew, and nicotine vaporizing products were criminalized? So far, we know that cannabis-related fatalities worldwide (where cannabis was the sole drug of use) are zero. Tobacco, on the other hand? That product killed 480,000+ deaths per year or 1 in 5 of all fatalities per annum. That is 1,300 average deaths per day from cigarette smoking.
Big Tobacco has more experience and perhaps more money to lobby at the federal level. There may not be a “Big Cannabis” yet, but the pro-cannabis legalization momentum has gone from a whisper to a roar for the past five years. And shows no sign of slowing down, with more states legalizing medical or recreational and medical accessibility every year.
Meanwhile, the FDA Goes Public to Seeks Evidence-Based Data
At the time of writing, we stand at 34 states that have legalized medical marijuana for qualified patients. While the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) continues to dig an administrative trench in opposition to the federal legalization of cannabis, the FDA seems more progressive.
For decades, neither the FDA nor the DEA would consider the legalization of medicinal use or adult-use cannabis. The defense for their unrelenting prohibition stance was simple; there was not enough evidence-based medical data to evaluate whether cannabis was safe.
Again, the hypocrisy of this stance is best demonstrated by the fatality rates and cost of healthcare-associated with tobacco use. Yet, tobacco has escaped the extreme prejudice and scrutiny of both the FDA and the DEA. If it sounds like it does not make sense statistically, welcome to the frustration that the cannabis industry has faced for decades.
The defense against legalization is decaying quickly, driven by a significant public opinion change about medical marijuana. The constitutional right to access products that may improve wellness, quality of life, and combat the opioid crisis.
The public was slow to learn because research to provide this data has also been stifled for decades. You see, the federal government all but eliminates grants and funding for research into illicit substances, except technology, to identify them for criminal prosecution.
5 States That Have Medical or Adult-Use Cannabis Legalization on the November 2020 Ballot
If you advocate for the federal legalization of medical marijuana, your vote can significantly impact November. One could create sweeping changes to help make medical marijuana accessible to more patients—particularly Americans living in the 18 states that currently do not have a medical marijuana program.
Here is a list of the states that have added the question of medical or recreational adult-use legalization to the November 2020 electoral ballot:
The Fight to Legalize Adult-Use in Arizona
There has been a big battle brewing in Arizona that put adult-use (recreational) cannabis on the ballot. The state was almost equally divided during the last election. The recreational legalization vote failed to pass, with 51.3% of voters who declined to support it.
That is not to say that Arizona is opposed to cannabis. It appears that the state is supportive of medical marijuana, but not recreational use. Compassionate care legislation makes therapeutic cannabis available to patients under doctor supervision. And only for patients who have qualifying health conditions. Just over half of the state agrees to medical cannabis.
A CNN report shared that the 2016 measure to legalize adult-use cannabis in Arizona had some serious corporate backing, which may have been part of the problem, eliciting state residents’ concerns. The national soap company Dr. Bronner’s supported the measure. Large corporations like Discount Tire, billionaire casino entrepreneur Sheldon Adelson, and the big pharma company Insys were opposed to it.
In the 2020 election, Curaleaf (the national leading and largest dispensary chain) and Cresco Labs have supported Proposition 207. Other producers, including Tempe, Harvest Health & Recreation, have joined the fight to legalize recreational. In the face of ongoing pushback from Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, organizations like Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM).
The Move to Legalize Adult-Use in New Jersey
Governor Phil Murphy in New Jersey has been open to supporting the legalization of cannabis since 2017. Murphy acknowledged the substantial economic boon to New Jersey, which was estimated at $300 million in state tax revenues if adult-use cannabis was legalized.
Public Question No. 1 would make recreational cannabis legal for adults 21 years of age and older. Adult-use cannabis would be taxed at 6.625%. There is a plan to continue reducing (and eventually eliminate) that tax on medical marijuana patients.
Will South Dakota Legalize Medical and Adult-Use?
Measure 26 will be on the electoral ballot in November for citizens living in South Dakota. South Dakota is moving to legalize both adult-use and medical marijuana in one measure. It would implement Amendment A, which would also include legalizing industrial hemp. The state tax revenues for South Dakota should cannabis legalization pass on Measure 26 is estimated at $29.3 million per year.
Montana Created Two Paths to Legalize
Ballot Issue I-190 would legalize adults in Montana to possess and use cannabis for recreational purposes. Initiative CI-118 would establish a minimum age of 21 years for access to legalized cannabis in the state.
The I-190 measure would also establish a 20% excise state tax on recreational cannabis in Mississippi. That would make cannabis purchases one of the highest tax rates in the country. The estimated annual state tax revenue generated by recreational cannabis for Montana is $38.5 million per year. And the proposed measure would also create a path for mass expungement of personal-use cannabis charges.
Mississippi‘s Move to Legalize Cannabis
Initiative 65 would make it legal for physicians to recommend medical cannabis to patients. Mississippi has established a list of 22 proposed qualifying health conditions. The amendment would also set the state medical marijuana program and regulate a 7% sales tax rate on medicinal cannabis purchases.
There is a competition between two measures that will be on the November 2020 ballot in Mississippi. Initiative 65A is an amendment that would limit medical cannabis exclusively to patients who are terminally ill. This would be a starting point for the medical marijuana program in Mississippi, with room to amend and expand the program in the future. A move that would slowly add more qualifying health conditions for patients.
The estimated tax revenues for Mississippi’s state (should medical cannabis pass the vote) is up to $800 million in tax revenues over the next four years. If voters move to legalize.
NORML ‘Smoke the Vote’ Election Resource Page
The best online resource we have found that grades politicians on their cannabis ‘friendliness’ are the ‘Smoke the Vote’ campaign pages on NORML. Visit the website and enter your state of residence. You will see a full list of electoral candidates and review their grades (A to D).
NORML has provided a guide for each zip code and region across the United States. This will make it easier for voters who want to be part of the “green wave” of votes in November to support the decriminalization of cannabis.
Share Your Comments With Us
We know that patients, physicians, and businesses have a divested interest in seeing decriminalization, and social equity measures in the 2020 election. We would like to hear your comments.
Will your vote in November be determined by candidates that support medical or recreational cannabis legalization? Are you in support or opposed to the legalization of adult-use or recreational cannabis in your state? Share your comments with us.