Four more US states legalise cannabis sale

In the United States, a system of ‘ballot initiatives’ allows citizens to directly propose and vote on draft laws in about 24 of the 50 states. Proposals for legal systems of cannabis cultivation and sale, for recreational use, had been rejected in California (2010), Oregon (2012) and Ohio (2015), and passed in Colorado and Washington State (2012), Alaska and Oregon (2014). The accepted systems are private commercial models of supply, and all built in some way on pre-existing commercial models of cultivation and sale of cannabis for medical use. Under these systems, although personal use was legalised quickly, it has usually taken 1 to 2 years for licensed shops to appear, due to the need for detailed implementing regulations and issuing of cultivation and sales licences. A law allowing home grow and consumption, but no sale, was passed in Washington DC in 2014.

While voting for the next US president on 8 November 2016, citizens also voted for commercial models of recreational cannabis supply in five states. Voters in Arizona rejected the proposal (Proposition 205) with 52 % against. For the other states, the results are as follows:

State California Maine Massachusetts Nevada
Text of law Proposition 64 Question 1 Question 4 Question 2
Votes in favour 56% 50.2 % (there may be a recount) 54% 54%
Limit to personal possession 28.5 g
4 g concentrate
71g 28.5 g
5 g concentrate
28.5 g
3.5 g concentrate
Limit to home grow per person 6 plants 6 plants, 12 in one residence; with ID tags on each plant 6 plants, 12 in one residence 6 plants, 12 in one residence; not within 25 miles (40 km) of retail store
Personal use permitted from 09.11.2016 Date dependent on governor approval after recount 15.12.2016 01.01.2017

These models of supply are similar to those in place in the four states that already permit recreational cannabis: they permit taxed commercial sale; they supplement pre-existing commercial medical cannabis systems; collective growing of ‘personal’ quotas, known in Europe as social clubs, is not permitted. But there are developments.

First, in three of the states, the laws already establish a limit of personal possession of cannabis concentrates — resin or other products — while earlier laws as originally voted did not (some states have added it later).

Secondly, they make provision for places to smoke or consume cannabis other than in private property. This is significant as otherwise tourists are not able to find a place to consume the drug, because of smoking bans in the shops and hotel rooms and a general ban on cannabis use in public. Indeed, this conundrum is thought to be a factor behind the increased demand for edible cannabis products such as sweets, chocolate and drinks. Of the four earlier states, only Alaska had provision for licensed consumption areas, but one year later no licenses have yet been issued.