A blue wave in November could yield some leafy green marijuana plants.

Marijuana activists say legal weed seems poised to take a big step forward in next month’s elections. In addition to more permissive marijuana laws being on the ballot in four states, Democratic control of the House of Representatives could help spur a new law protecting pot in the states that have already legalized it. Nine states and the District of Columbia allow recreational use, and another 20 allow marijuana for medical purposes.

“If this does turn out to be a progressive wave year, that probably helps with all of these initiatives,” says Kris Krane, president of 4Front Ventures, a multistate cannabis retailer based in Phoenix.

There are ballot initiatives in Michigan and North Dakota next month that ask voters to approve recreational marijuana. In Michigan, the proposal was leading by 14 points in a poll last month, which would make it the first Midwestern state to approve it for use by any adult. North Dakota’s vote is expected to be closer, though polls are scarce. Voters in Utah and Missouri will decide on medical marijuana initiatives when they go to the polls. In addition, voters in 16 Wisconsin counties will weigh in on non-binding questions on marijuana policy, and voters in six Ohio towns will decide whether to reduce the penalties for marijuana possession, according to the pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project.

Nationally, a poll this month found that 62 percent of Americans support legalizing marijuana, a dramatic switch from just two decades ago, when about two-thirds of the country opposed legalization. Politically, the notion has appeal across the ideological spectrum, from social justice types concerned with racial disparities in drug sentencing, to libertarians who cherish personal freedom, to fiscal conservatives who like the idea of raising tax revenue from regulated sales -- though polling shows Democrats tend to favor legalization more than Republicans.

High Democratic turnout would likely boost odds of the initiatives passing. It would also help Democrats control the House and perhaps the Senate. That could lead to passage of a bill known as the States Act, introduced in June by senators Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), which would eliminate most federal prohibitions on marijuana sales and use in states that have approved legalization. Under current law, the threat of federal drug enforcement looms over marijuana businesses, which often have trouble finding banks, filing taxes, and taking similar actions like fully legal businesses. President Trump has indicated he supports such a bill, which has gone nowhere in the Republican-controlled House. Supporters say the bill is the most pro-marijuana legislation ever introduced in Congress.

“If Republicans keep control of both houses, the chances of marijuana reform legislation passing become very low,” Krane says. “If Democrats control the House, a vote on the States Act is more likely.” Senate Republicans, Krane says, might not block a vote if Trump and the House support it.

Trump might want to take marijuana policy off the table before the 2020 election. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-California), who favors legalization, said last week that after talking with the White House, he is convinced Trump wants to relax federal restrictions on marijuana after the midterm elections to honor campaign promises.

Although policy and public opinion seem to be heading toward legalization, the debate is still playing out in communities where marijuana has been permitted. My WEEKLY STANDARD cover story in June focused on a city in southern Colorado and found:

Marijuana has become big business. It is creating jobs, harnessing the energies of young entrepreneurs, raising millions in new tax revenues, attracting visitors to town, and giving residents more personal freedom.

But that’s not the end of the story. Some residents here believe these achievements are coming at too high a cost. Legalization, they say, has attracted vagrants and cartels from out-of-state, contributed to spikes in crime, and endangered the health of a generation of kids raised to believe the drug is harmless. A new study from Colorado State University-Pueblo portrays the effects of legalization as mixed at best -- far from the unqualified success that marijuana boosters like to project.


The full article is available here.