Weed Wins, but Greens Lose

How ballot initiatives shaped up in the 2018 general election

Marijuana plants are grown at Essence Vegas' 54,000-square-foot marijuana cultivation facility on July 6, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. On July 1, Nevada joined seven other states allowing recreational marijuana use and became the first of four states that voted to legalize recreational sales in November's election to allow dispensaries to sell cannabis for recreational use to anyone over 21. Since July 1, sales of cannabis products in the state have generated more than USD 1 million in tax revenue. / Getty Images
Getty Images
November 7, 2018

At the polls Tuesday night, Americans in 37 states voted up and down on 155 ballot initiatives, with big wins for legal marijuana but losses for environmentalist proposals.

Nearly 60 percent of Michiganders voted to legalize marijuana statewide, becoming the 10th to do so. The new law will permit adults age 21 and up to own up to 2.5 ounces and households to grow up to 12 plants. People will likely be able to smoke legally starting next month, after the results are certified.

Utah and Missouri voters also backed marijuana initiatives, becoming the 32nd and 33rd states in the union to establish medical marijuana regimes. In Utah, qualified patients will be allowed to purchase up to two ounces, while in Missouri patients will be permitted to obtain marijuana for 10 different medical conditions and also grow up to six plants for their use.

North Dakotans were the lone pot standouts. The state had previously implemented a medical marijuana regime, but a proposal for recreational use went down 60 percent to 40 percent. Neither losing senator Heidi Heitkamp (D.) nor her successful opponent Kevin Cramer (R.) backed the measure.

Although not voting directly on marijuana, Ohio also declined to back a drug liberalization measure. Nearly two thirds of Ohioans rejected issue 1, which would have reduced drug possession and use from felony to misdemeanor status. Two other criminal justice-related initiatives passed, however: Florida voted to reenfranchise former felons and Louisiana ended its practice of not requiring a unanimous jury for felony convictions.

In what may signal a blow to Republican hopes to repeal Obamacare, three right-leaning states voted to accept Medicaid expansion. Voters in Utah, Idaho, and Nebraska all accepted expanded federal funding, which CNBC estimated would extend coverage to a total of just over 300,000 people in the three states combined. Thirty-six states have now expanded, making its position as a provision of the Affordable Care Act even harder for congressional Republicans to assail.

Tuesday night was mostly a losing evening for eco-focused ballot initiatives, and by extension for billionaire and anti-Trump agitator Tom Steyer. Steyer poured millions into Nevada's question six—which passed—and Arizona's proposition 127—which failed. Both proposals would have required electric utilities to generate at least half their energy from renewable sources by 2030.

Eco-warriors saw an even bigger defeat in Colorado where, even as Democrats cruised to victory in Congress and the governor's mansion, voters resoundingly shot down proposition 112, which would have banned oil drilling in most of the state. And in solidly blue Washington State, voters still saw fit to reject Initiative 1631, which would have imposed a fee on CO2 emissions in the state.

Lastly, the pro-life movement scored major victories Tuesday night in Alabama and West Virginia, where voters backed state constitutional amendments establishing an explicit right to life for the unborn and found that there was no state constitutional right to abortion, respectively. In the event that a conservative Supreme Court majority sees fit to overturn Roe v. Wade, these laws will make it easier for both states to ban abortion in the future. Voters in Oregon dissented, however, with two thirds opposing a ballot measure to prohibit the state from funding abortions.