Which States Legalized Cannabis Yesterday?

Alaska, Oregon, California, Washington D.C. Florida and Guam all had various forms of cannabis legalization on the ballot. Listen in as Diane Czarkowski of Canna Advisors gives us expert insight into what happened in each state, including one shocker that surprised us both.

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I'm happy to welcome back to the show Diane Czarkowski. Diane is a managing partner at Canna Advisors in Boulder, Colorado. Diane is going to share with us what happened yesterday in the different states in various forms of legalization measures on the ballot. Welcome back, Diane.

Diane: Thanks for having me, Matthew:.

Matthew: Diane, can you just give us an overview of what happened on all of these ballot measures yesterday, November 4th, in Oregon, Alaska, Florida, and D.C.? And then there was a small vote also in California. What's the big headline over there? What's the big story?

Diane: Last night was a great night for drug policy reform because I think most of the measures that were out there did pass. So it was a great night for people who had been involved in this industry. I think one in particular headline that I think we saw was kind of the irony and also that the implications of Washington D.C. passing a legalization initiative. It's scaled back from some of the other initiatives. There's no regulatory structure say for the sales and distribution and production of cannabis. But it's interesting. If it's in the hub of our federal government, how is that going to roll out? So I think that really got a lot of attention.

Matthew: Right. Right. How will that roll out? How will that look? I think it would help some of our - it only helped our approval rating. I think it's like seven percent or ten percent. So I think that can only help their approval rating if they start to consume cannabis in Washington D.C.

Diane: I hope so. I hope so. And then I think it was really fun and kind of kicked off, I guess, the excitement of election night for us to hear that Guam, the U.S. territory, passed legalization. That was a really great news story to hear early on in the evening.

And then as the evening went on, we heard that Oregon was passing. That law went into effect allowing adults 21 and over to be able to legally consume cannabis and also they have a provision in their - in the law that was passed, that there's also a commercial regulatory system that will be put into place which will be really great because I feel that these laws as they pass to protect the citizens of the United States from prosecution and things like that, we have to give them a safe place to access the cannabis for it to really be a good program. And so, I was really excited to hear that Oregon passed as well.

Matthew: Great. So is Oregon pretty much going to like - would you say it will be akin to Colorado and what they're trying to do there?

Diane. Definitely. I think that I'm sure that they're going to follow their neighboring state, Washington, and how it's been rolling their regulations. I know that there were - I saw some rumblings and some discussions in the newspaper and stuff that there's some concern that if they don't tax similarly to Washington, there might be some interstate -

Matthew: Arbitrage. I want cheaper cannabis.

Diane: Yeah. People might be going across state lines to purchase their cannabis in Oregon rather than to have it taxed more in Washington. But most of those arguments fail to really point out that's illegal. You can't go across state lines with cannabis. And I was born and raised in Kansas City, and going across the Kansas-Missouri border was something that we did very often. We either work go to events on both sides. And I just can't imagine that would be something that would really drive people to go across the state line, and I just really can't see that would be a big impact.

Matthew: Right. That's a lot of time and effort.

Diane: It's an interesting conversation nonetheless. California's measure wasn't as, I guess, as much of a head liner as some of the other ones, but they did pass a provision that says "so many" sentencing will no longer be applicable for non-violent and low-level drug possession. So that's good news. I know that California really is trying to get some type of statewide regulation in place, and I think that will help a lot in California.

Matthew: That's great.

Diane: Do you want me to continue?

Matthew: Sure.

Diane: There's been a lot going on.

Matthew: Please do.

Diane: Since presidential election there was a lot of drug policy reform going on. Alaska passed, which is great, and they have provisions for regulating the production and sale of the cannabis. Maybe we're looking forward to maybe having an opportunity to go up there. I haven't ever been so that could be also a great change for Alaska.

And then let's talk about Florida because even though it did not pass, 57 percent of the voters made a statement last night. They believe in medical marijuana and believe that it needs to be taxed and regulated in the state for their citizens. And if it's okay with you, I'd love to share a letter that was emailed out to some of the supporters of the United for Care Campaign, which was that campaign that was trying push through this measure.

Matthew: Sure. So you're saying that 57 percent of the populace that voted, voted for medical marijuana legalization, but it required 60 percent. That is incredible.

Diane: Yes.

Matthew: That is incredible. That is absolutely incredible how close that ism, but yes, please read the letter. I'd love to hear it.

Diane: Yeah. Let's think about that. In most states, had that been a measure, it would have passed. It would have been called a landslide, quite frankly, with that much of a difference. But ironically, there was a vote, I think, about a year ago that they passed that said any change to the constitution must be passed by at least 60 percent of the vote. And I think that the irony about that is that measure only passed by, I think, 53 percent. Had that not been changed, very recently actually, we would be talking about a win in Florida right now.

But I would love to share the letter from John Morgan because I think it really articulates that even though, like I just said, this was a loss, what this really means for Florida. And so, the email starts off,

"We may not have passed the amendment two tonight. But make no mistake, tonight was a victory in the fight for medical marijuana in Florida. Our next governor will take the oath of office having one less than a majority of the Floridian's votes. The idea that marijuana is medicine and that those suffering and in pain should not be made criminals, received a larger share of the vote than the winner of the last six gubernatorial elections and every presidential campaign in Florida for decades."

So a great statement by John Morgan. I think that one thing that his campaign faced that a lot of the other campaigns did not face was a lot more funding from the opposition. And I think that's what had the biggest impact is that the opposition really came in strong at the end, and had a lot of campaigning out there. So I'm very hopeful that things will still like John Morgan said, this next person that's taking oath, all of the people are in fact that are taking oath for the new political positions that they're taking, they have to understand that if they're the public servants that they really need to carry forward the will of the voters.

Matthew: Yes. Also in Florida, it's alleged that the casino magnate, Sheldon Adelson, he came up with - he's a billionaire, and he came up with millions at the last minute with smear campaigns on TV to scare people about legalization, which is frustrating because A) he's not a Florida resident. He's a resident of Nevada; and B) that he is doing it allegedly on behalf of somebody else. So the person that's actually requested it allegedly is not the person that paid for it. So some frustrations there, but still despite that a 57 percent vote for medical marijuana is huge. And my take away from that letter that you just read is that is that cannabis ran governor, cannabis would win. It would beat out any other candidate.

Diane: Exactly.

Matthew: Oh my God. That is so crazy. Do you think this puts pressure on other states to adopt or liberalize their cannabis prohibition laws, Diane?

Diane: I do think so. I think it creates pressure on them in that if they're being faced say with budget restrictions, or trying to bring new jobs and revenue to their states, and they're not looking at this as an opportunity, they're really causing harm to their states by not taxing and regulating this plant.

And even more so, I think people are really becoming aware of how many people are incarcerated because of possession - you know, minor possession charges for this plant. And no one should be in jail for possession of this plant. We're seeing our prisons systems are more full than in any other nation. We have more people incarcerated in most of them for non-violent crimes. So I think there's a big shift there as well.

And then also, if now there are enough states that have some type of legislation passed, all those neighboring states have to become concerned with that product coming over into their state, and what do they do? They have to keep abiding their laws, but if it's nearby, people might cross the state lines to get access, right?

Matthew: Great point. And none off the tax benefits back to the state that -

Diane: None of the tax benefits, none of the - the cannabis industry certainly saved the commercial real estate conundrum that was going on in 2009, 2010. There were so many empty warehouses and our industry alone, I think, helped that real estate decline - lessen. And I think that they have to look at some of those other impacts as well.

And I think too when people go to places where there's adult legalization like Colorado and Washington, and they maybe have an experience by going into a dispensary or they're around people who have an experience with the plant and they see that hey, this isn't so bad. And it's just like going to a party where people are drinking alcohol, and then they go back to their states and wonder if that has had any impact on the change of the voters minds nationally. They see that really if it's done well, like it has been done in Colorado and Washington, it can be a great benefit to where they are living.

Matthew: Now you and I both know that just because some states like Oregon or Alaska has passed laws now that legalize cannabis, it doesn't mean that there's going to be a functioning market place anytime soon. What do you anticipate - how long is it going to take before patients and adult users can successfully access cannabis and in a functioning market?

Diane: Well, it's going to take at least a year for that kind of regulatory system, I think, to really be able to - a year would be really pushing it, I think, because you have to - there's a little bit of definition that usually goes into this legislation. But really you have to have lots of discussion groups created and people on advisory boards to really think about the great details that need to go into a brand new industry. So that all has to take place, and then they have to get people properly licensed, and then those facilities have to be built out. And then, of course, the plant has to be able to grow and be harvested. That all takes a lot of time, but hopefully they're already thinking about that, and they'll push things forward as quickly as they can.

Matthew: Diane, as we close, what's the best way for listeners to get in touch with you. Can you tell us a little bit about what Canna Advisors does and how we can get a hold of you?

Diane: Sure. You can find us on the internet at thinkcanna.com. That's T-H- I-N-K-C-A-N-N-A.com. And Canna Advisors is in the national business of helping businesses in the cannabis industry win licenses. We build out their facilities, and we help manage their operations.

Matthew: Diane, we'll definitely have to have you back on the show again soon as there's more legalization updates and things to let the audience know, but we thank you for being on the show today.

Diane: Thanks for having me, Matt.

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