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It was a Green Sweep in California! Agate Biosciences summarizes the results on the cannabis ballot measures in the 2018 election.

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2018 Election Results of Ba​llot Measures Across the Nation

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2018 Results!

Map of Cannabis Ballot Measures in California

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Map of Cannabis Ballot

Measures in the US

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Green Sweep

November 9, 2018

by Mike Branom, Agate Biosciences, Director of Communications and Government Relations

Billed as the most consequential Election Day for the cannabis industry, now Nov. 6, 2018 can proudly wear another superlative: It was the industry’s greatest Election Day.


Consider:


  • Democrats had a very good showing, taking control of the U.S. House and minimizing losses in the Senate while gaining seven governorships and more than 370 state legislative seats. One of those incoming governors, J.B. Pritzker of Illinois, already is talking about legalization in the Land of Lincoln.
  • Losing their jobs were staunch cannabis foes Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the latter being fired by President Trump the day after the election.
  • Cannabis measures passed in three of four states: Michigan (full legalization), and Missouri and Utah (medical). Although it’s disappointing North Dakota’s legalization efforts failed, if you had to lose somewhere, the Peace Garden State was the place to do so because of its small population (755,000 – a touch larger than California’s San Joaquin County).
  • In Wisconsin, not only did advisory questions on cannabis in 16 counties and two cities pass with overwhelming margins, but they drew enough liberal voters to the polls to help defeat GOP incumbent Gov. Scott Walker and the challenger for Democrat Tammy Baldwin’s Senate seat.

But it was here in California where cannabis took the biggest step forward. Or perhaps it was 67 steps toward progress, as that’s the number of jurisdictions, out of 78, where voters made their pro-marijuana sentiments known via ballot measures supporting the industry in some form or another. It wasn’t a green sweep, but certainly close to it.


The voters saying yes to cannabis weren’t just the so-called coastal elites, either. Of the 25 California counties won by Trump in the 2016 presidential election, seven had marijuana on the ballot on Tuesday – and five gave the thumbs-up, with only Kern and Plumas counties declining. (It should be noted Plumas voters saved the county the headache of trying to ensure businesses aren’t playing accounting tricks, as the measure would have only taxed profits rather than gross receipts like literally all other jurisdictions.)


Also, the margins by which these measures passed are stunning. For example, look at San Luis Obispo County, where four cities asked citizens whether they want to levy taxes on the industry. Paso Robles’ ballot measure posted the lowest approval rate with “only” 68 percent of voters giving their OK. Meanwhile, both Atascadero and Morro Bay hit 73 percent approval, while San Luis Obispo reached an eye-popping 80 percent!


Considering voters in many jurisdictions also were choosing mayors, councilmembers, and supervisors, these elected officials would be fools to ignore how marijuana’s winning margins far outdid their own. If their eyes are on another term, better give the people what they want – and they want cannabis.


Of course, with the sheer numbers of jurisdictions and measures, in some places a deeper dive is needed to learn the whole story.

  • Simi Valley, the notoriously conservative Ventura County city, said yes to taxes by a margin of 66-34. Great for the industry, right? Not really, as an advisory question asking whether to allow cannabis businesses was shot down, 47-53. Apparently, Simi Valley citizens only passed the taxes in case the state bigfoots municipalities by declaring they will let such commercial enterprises operate. Then again, voters there also were questioned whether cannabis should be shunted to the city’s “Sexually Oriented Business Overlay Zone” – and they said no, 45-55.
  • San Joaquin County and the city of Tracy there declined to pass tax measures – but both drew more than 60 percent support. It seems the ballot language was drafted so the measures couldn’t be approved with less than two-thirds of the vote.
  • In the San Diego County city of Vista, citizen activists fought City Hall – and won. Voters there approved a petition-backed measure allowing retail sales of medicinal cannabis by up to 11 retailers while shooting down a competing measure, sponsored by the City Council, that would’ve authorized only three delivery-only retailers of medical marijuana.
  • The city of Los Angeles saw the failure of a ballot measure important to the cannabis industry, although the measure mentioned nothing about cannabis. Rather, it would’ve amended the City Charter to the establishment of a municipal bank – which was expected to be a safe harbor for marijuana money, as federal rules preclude existing financial institutions from accepting business from those engaged in commercial cannabis activity.
  • The Ventura County town of Fillmore voted no to its cannabis ballot measure by a slim margin, but, like Los Angeles, it wasn’t about taxes. Instead, this agricultural community was asked to allow the indoor commercial-scale cultivation of medical cannabis.


There is no way to look at the results and reach any opinion other than this is great news for cannabis. California’s market has been stuck in neutral for too long, as foot-dragging jurisdictions decided against allowing any commercial activity. But of the jurisdictions where marijuana was voted upon, voters in more than 85 percent of those cities and counties said, loudly, “YES” to cannabis.


What should happen over the next months are elected officials in these places finally allowing these businesses to open their doors. Of course, that can’t take place until the bureaucracies render judgments on what can be allowed to open and where, and how prospective owners must apply for these licenses. This will not be a short process, and it’s a fair estimate that few localities will have anything operating until deep into 2019.


But delayed is not denied. And no longer can California’s cities and counties cross their fingers and hope no one notices they’re slow-walking, if not stymieing entirely, the will of voters who approved adult-use recreational two years ago. Rather, now they’ll have to answer to an electorate who just made clear that they meant what they said in passing Proposition 64.


It’s taken a long time, too long, but finally the California market is about to open. And that’s why Election Day 2018 will be forever remembered as when the potential became kinetic – because Californians from Oregon to Mexico announced to all it was time to move forward.