Local and National Implication of Election 2016

Local and National Implication of Election 2016

November 8 is approaching quickly and many are speculating what the results of the election will mean for cannabis going forward. Now that the DEA has re-examined the scheduling of cannabis and decided not to reschedule, the concern has shifted to what policy changes might occur in 2017.
State Ballot Measures

Though the focus in the media has been largely on Presidential politics, when it comes to cannabis in the U.S., the states have lead the way. Next month, five additional states - California, Arizona, Massachusetts, Maine, and Nevada - will vote on whether or not to join Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska in fully legalizing the adult use of cannabis. Currently, each state is polling in favor of legalization, however the Washington Post points out that the various polls are showing a wide degree of variance depending on the wording of their questions. It seems, at this point, that California and Nevada are likely "yes" votes along with Maine to a lesser extent, while Massachusetts and Arizona are still close enough to be in the toss-up category.

Though the Florida legislature passed a very limited medical cannabis bill last year, an amendment for a more open medical cannabis program will be on the state's ballot. This is the same bill that failed to pass in 2014, requiring 60% of the vote and only receiving 58%. The latest polls currently show this iteration of the amendment polling above 70% in the state.

Congress has gone back and forth with regard to cannabis in 2016. It once again passed the Rohrabacher amendment, barring the Department of Justice from using its funds to interfere with state-legal cannabis programs. However, Congress did not pass bills or amendments related to opening medical cannabis to veterans, increasing protections for banks, and allowing the District of Columbia to use its own funding to implement an adult use program that voters have already passed.

At the very least, it seems that Congress will continue to allow states to take the lead on cannabis, since the Rohrabacher amendment has passed in each of the last three years, with increasing margins of passage each time.

The Presidential election on one hand is the most difficult to analyze because cannabis is viewed so differently among different voting blocs, and candidates often try to hedge their statements to appeal as broadly as possible. On the other hand, every major candidate in the race at the very least has been at least moderately supportive of legal medical cannabis, and has also at least said they would support the right of states to institute their own cannabis laws. It will be interesting to watch what the FDA and DEA do under a new administration given the success that G.W. Pharmaceuticals has reported with its Phase 3 trials of Epidiolex.

Over all, though many were hoping for more clarity at the national level this year, it seems that might be put off for now. At the state level, however, legalization appears to be on the same pace as recent years, and the federal government seems ready to let the states continue on their course.