The Taxman vs. Marijuana: Ballot Battles to Watch in Tuesday’s Elections

The Taxman vs. Marijuana: Ballot Battles to Watch in Tuesday’s Elections

It may be an “off-year” for U.S. federal elections but just because there’s no president to vote for in 2021 — or, say, a U.S. senator to vote against — doesn’t mean there’s no reason to head to the polls. This Tuesday, voters in multiple states and municipalities nationwide will get to help decide the fate of their own local marijuana laws.   

Colorado: The First Shall Be Third? 

Perhaps no locale is more appropriate to highlight than where today’s contemporary cannabis revolution started in the first place, at least recreationally. 

Voters in Colorado will be weighing in on a statewide initiative over whether to raise taxes on marijuana to support new educational programs. For Denver voters, there’s a separate measure aimed at boosting funds for pandemic research, which would be funded by a $7 million annual increase in local cannabis taxes.

While we know where the money would go, we don’t know where the money is coming from – nobody is really interested.

Of the two, the statewide Proposition 119, which would create the Colorado Learning Enrichment and Academic Progress program, looks the more likely to pass, which is in part because Ballot Measure 300 — the one slated to greet Denver residents — is rather confusing, even to industry insiders.  

That’s because nobody is really sure where the backing for the Denver ballot measure is really coming from, even if business owners know passage of both measures would hike Denver’s marijuana tax rate to 33% — maintaining the Mile High City’s dubious title as the third most expensive city in America to buy legal cannabis. 

While it’s known Garrett Flicker, chair of the Denver Republican Party, was instrumental in putting Measure 300 in front of voters, after that it’s a mystery, according to John Bailey, leader of the Denver-based Black Cannabis Equity Initiative (BCEI).    

“The city initiative has a big question mark over it,” Bailey told The News Station. “While we know where the money would go, we don’t know where the money is coming from – nobody is really interested.”

By contrast, and although he personally would not vote for it because it does not address social equity issues, Proposition 119 has the backing of a number of Democrats and Black community leaders, Bailey added.

The measure would raise retail marijuana taxes by 5% over three years with additional funds totaling $40m also funding the program designed to help underserved students outside of school hours.

Tinkering And Added Pressure Elsewhere

In Ohio, where only medical marijuana is currently legal, there are several local initiatives on the ballot Nov. 2 aimed at decriminalizing the popular plant that’s still federally classified as a harmful drug, alongside heroin.

Over 20 municipalities across the state have already decriminalized cannabis and Tuesday voters in another 12 will get to weigh in themselves.

Meanwhile, activists across the expansive state are also working to ensure a recreational marijuana ballot measure greets all Ohio voters in 2022.

A little further north and east, voters in some parts of New York  are being asked whether they want to ban cannabis dispensaries and/or consumption areas. Legalization for recreational marijuana became law in the Empire State just this September, but the implementation of rules and regulations are still in their infancy so local communities have until the end of the year to craft their own rules.

Down in Philadelphia, meanwhile, the city council has placed a referendum on the local ballot urging the state assembly to legalize recreational marijuana. 

Get Lit.

Governor? Elections To Watch In Virginia and New Jersey

While not technically on the ballot, cannabis legislation could be very much affected by the results of two major gubernatorial elections. Both Virginia and New Jersey recently legalized adult use marijuana — making cannabis as legal as a beer — but the issue is far from settled for some

In Virginia, for example, where recreational marijuana was legalized July 1, marijuana reform group NORML rates Republican candidate, Glenn Youngkin, with a lowly D when it comes to weed. While his opponent, former governor and current Democratic candidate, Terry McAuliffe netted an A.  

In the commonwealth’s razor thin state legislature, a Republican win could roll back some of the nascent reforms happening in the state’s infant cannabis industry. The race is seen as neck and neck, according to FiveThirtyEight.

In New Jersey, where adult use marijuana was legalized this February, incumbent Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy appears to have a slightly more comfortable lead in the polls against his GOP challenger, Jack Ciattarelli.

Supporters say a Murphy win is vital to ensure continued cannabis progress.

“Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli has been very clear in his opposition to the legalization of adult use cannabis which he has distinguished from medical use which he appears to support, if somewhat tepidly,” Lou Magazzu, a marijuana lawyer with plenty of experience in the state, told The News Station. “If Ciattarelli is elected Governor, his comments suggest that he would do whatever in his power to reverse or obstruct adult use of cannabis.”

The legalization of cannabis in New Jersey has led to substantial business opportunities for  lobbyists, lawyers, engineers and financial professionals, Magazzu added, “These opportunities will only increase in a second Murphy administration.” 

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