Press Release

Michigan Becomes First State in Midwest to Legalize Marijuana, As Missouri and Utah Approve Medical Marijuana and Florida Restores Felony Voting Rights

Drug Policy Reform Plays Unprecedented Role in Numerous Gubernatorial and Congressional Campaigns 
Available for Interview and Analysis: DPA Experts on Marijuana Legalization, Criminal Justice Reform, and Federal Drug Policy

Tony Newman 646-335-5384
Tommy McDonald 510-338-8827

This Election Day showed the burgeoning political clout of the drug policy reform movement, with the results expected to accelerate efforts to legalize marijuana and to end the broader war on drugs in states across the U.S., at the federal level, and internationally.  
Michigan voters approved Proposal 1, a ballot initiative to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana for adults 21 and over, making it the 10th U.S. state to legalize marijuana – and the first in the Midwest. Missouri and Utah also became the 32nd and 33rd states to approve medical marijuana. 
“Western and northeastern states have led the way on legalizing marijuana, but the victory in Michigan powerfully demonstrates the national reach of this movement,” said Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “With such overwhelming public support for marijuana legalization, even including majorities of Republicans and older Americans, there’s only so long that the federal government can continue to hold out.”
Michigan’s Proposal 1 will legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana in Michigan for adults aged 21 and older. It allows for the possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and cultivation of up to 12 plants for personal use, while also establishing a legal framework for the licensing and regulation of marijuana businesses and products. There were over 200,000 marijuana arrests in Michigan from 2007 through 2016, averaging roughly 21,000 per year. Of those arrests, 84% were for personal possession.  The Drug Policy Alliance and its lobbying arm, Drug Policy Action, helped fund and played a significant role in drafting this initiative.
Missouri’s victorious Amendment 2 will provide legal access to medical marijuana for patients with certain qualifying conditions. It creates a robust system of access for patients through the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services while allowing physicians to decide when medical use is appropriate. Missouri had three separate medical marijuana initiatives on the ballot. The Drug Policy Alliance and its lobbying arm, Drug Policy Action, played a leading role in drafting and funding Amendment 2.

Voters in Utah passed Proposition 2, which will protect terminally and seriously ill patients with specific debilitating medical conditions from arrest and prosecution. It will establish a regulatory system to license and regulate the production and distribution of medical marijuana.
Florida voters, meanwhile, approved a historic initiative to restore the vote to over 1.4 million people with past felony convictions upon completion of their sentences, except for those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense. As in most other U.S. states, drug possession is punished as a felony in Florida.
Embracing drug policy reform proved to be a winning strategy for gubernatorial candidates, as Gavin Newsom (CA), Jared Polis (CO), J.B. Pritzer (IL), and Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM) emerged victorious. 
Drug policy reform also played a major role in scores of local, state and federal races all over the country. The most powerful marijuana reform opponent in the House of Representatives, Pete Sessions of Texas, lost to Colin Allred, a supporter of marijuana reform.   
“The public has long believed that drug use should be treated as a health issue, not as a criminal issue. It’s encouraging to see so many political candidates finally getting on board,” added McFarland. “The momentum to end the drug war took a significant leap forward today.”

Experts from the Drug Policy Alliance are available for in-studio, remote and phone/Skype interviews to provide insight and analysis on the midterm election: 

  • Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, on the Trump Administration’s approach to marijuana legalization and the national and international ramifications of today’s election.
  • Michael Collins, DPA’s interim director of national affairs, on what the midterm elections mean for marijuana legalization, criminal justice reform, and federal drug policies.
  • Tamar Todd, DPA’s director of legal affairs, on the context of each of this year’s ballot initiatives on marijuana legalization and medical marijuana. Todd has co-authored several state and local ballot initiatives and statutes, including Amendment 64 in Colorado and Proposition 64 in California.
  • Jolene Forman, DPA staff attorney, on the implications of today’s results for marijuana legalization and other drug policy reforms. Forman is author of the recent DPA report, From Prohibition to Progress: A Status Report on Marijuana Legalization, and has authored multiple pieces of state legislation, including marijuana legalization and racial and ethnic impact statement bills.

DPA relies on private donations to fund our work to end the war on drugs and promote new policies grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights. Your support is crucial. Please make a donation to end the drug war today.

Criminal Justice Reform
Marijuana Legalization and Regulation
Medical Marijuana
Reforming Marijuana Laws