Image of election results

You did it! You flexed your electoral muscles and made history. Marijuana voters – all 13+ million of you, along with your legions of supporters – passed a full range of ballot issues and elected or reelected pro cannabis candidates. Let’s take a look:

Overall Vote. According to Bloomberg, as of 11/27/20, a record 156.7 million votes had been counted, with 4 million more to go. If these numbers hold, over 160 million voters or roughly 70% of the citizen voting population will have turned out for the 2020 election. Comparatively, that’s 38 million more than the 2018 midterms. At 82%, the highest voter turnout belongs to Colorado, undeniably a stoner state, and while only 53% of Ohioans cast ballots in 2018, 67% went to the polls in 2020.

Applying these percentages to marijuana vote calculations could find cannabis’ national clout growing from 13 million voters in 2018 to 18 million in 2020; in Ohio, that number rises from 400,000 to over 500,000.

More practically, here’s how marijuana fared.

President. As of this writing, while some people – cough, cough – still believe that the winner has yet to be determined, the numbers speak differently. Here are the results as of 11/27/20. Former Vice President Biden has been declared winner by the Associated Press, CNN, CBS News, NBC News, and ABC News, and he is acting presidential by making cabinet picks.

True to his former drug warrior self, but conciliatory to the Democratic Party Platform, Biden’s potential cabinet nominees appear to be middle of the road, neither ardent prohibitionists nor visionary progressives.

The six-person team slated to oversee the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) is rooted in the opioid crisis, drug courts and decriminalization, but opposed to legalization.

One vital position will be Attorney General. Under consideration are Senator Amy Klobuchar, former Georgia legislator Stacey Abrams, Senator Cory Booker, and former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. Each is more marijuana friendly than any Trump appointee. If nothing else, the Biden administration could easily reinstate the Cole memo and protect state-level marijuana programs.  

Of course, it helps that Biden picked Kamala Harris for Vice President, since as Senator, she introduced the MORE Act. This groundbreaking bill would legalize cannabis by removing it from the Controlled Substances Act. The U.S. House has scheduled a floor vote in December.

The sticking point, though, remains Kentucky where voters overwhelmingly sent the Grim Reaper back to the U.S. Senate for the seventh time. As Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell holds ironfisted sway. No marijuana legalization bill will ever see the light of day. That is, unless two Georgia Senate seats flip Democratic in a January runoff election. If voters pick Democrats, the Senate balance would shift from 48/50 seats (Democrat/Republican) to 50/50, with Harris as VP tipping ties to the Dems. Short of this, federal legalization will have to wait until after the 2022 election when 22 Republican seats come up for grabs.

What if President Trump succeeds in his election challenges? Unlikely. We’d probably have the same old same old, only worse. Remember, Republicans have no platform and he had no vision for a second term. He may well rage against the socialist machine, so heads up Michigan, Pennsylvania and especially Arizona, where Trump’s fear of bringing “out like a million people” to pass a marijuana ballot issue came true.

Ballot initiatives. The 2020 election was a banner year. Over seven million voters in five states cast ballots to legalize either medical or adult use cannabis, with the plant winning more votes than most candidates. Two states established medical programs and four enacted adult use. South Dakota had both on the ballot; both won. Mississippi ballots as well contained two medical cannabis questions; voters picked the more liberal grassroots option. Montana voters enacted adult use but confined it to age 21 and older. Check out the results here.

But sadly, Republicans, following Trump’s lead, have trouble respecting the will of the people. Two South Dakota law enforcement officers filed a lawsuit aimed at overturning Amendment A, the state’s adult use initiative. Republican Governor Kristi Noem, a Trump acolyte, called the measure a “wrong choice” and approved state funds pay for the litigation. Similarly, a Republican mayor in Mississippi seeks to invalidate the state’s ballot measures over another procedural issue. And in Montana, opponents of the state’s adult use initiative want to overturn it based on how it allocates tax revenue.

Let’s not forget big wins in Ohio! All four local decriminalization ballot issues – Adena (61-39%); Glouster (67-33% ), Jacksonville (58-42%), and Trimble (69-31%) – passed with flying colors. They join 18 other Ohio cities where measures to reduce penalties for cannabis possession have been passed by voters or enacted by city councils.

Ohio representatives. Every single one of Ohio’s 16 representatives to the U.S. House were reelected – handily. Five Ohio reps maintain a reliably “Yes” stance toward cannabis (one of them Republican David Joyce), while six (all Republicans) are staunchly “No.”  The remaining five are evolving into yes. Democratic control of the U.S. House narrowed from 218 to 203 with Dems picking up three seats and Republicans garnering ten.

At the Ohio Statehouse, the prospects for marijuana appear grim. The Ohio Cannabis Action Network voter guide identified 25 pro-cannabis candidates. Only 4 won their races, all incumbents, including Senator Vernon Sykes (D) District 28, Representative David Leland (D) District 22, Representative Jessica Miranda (D) District 28, and Representative Tavia Galonski (D) District 35. Cannabis friendly Representative Catherine Ingram (D) District 32 from the 2018 Voter Guide also won her race. These five legislators, along with Representative Juanita Brent (D) District 12, who introduced adult use legislation, can be considered six known statehouse allies. They will be instrumental to improving the Ohio’s medical law and fully legalizing the plant.

For perspective, post-election, Ohio has 99 House Representatives: 38 Democrats and 61 Republicans. There are 33 Senators: 9 Democrats and 24 Republicans. This imbalance largely reflects Republican-inspired gerrymandering that has some seats stretching over 18 counties. Congressional and state legislative districts will be redrawnperhaps more fairly – after the 2020 Census.  

The Final Analysis.

The marijuana vote in the 2020 election reveals several important points: 1.) The clout of 13+ million reliable voters continues to grow and prove pivotal with passage of legalization in five new states, several ruby red; 2.) With Joe Biden as president implementing the Democratic Party’s platform, real cannabis reform is tangibly on the horizon – more than any other time in history – via the MORE Act or similar legislation; 3.) Gerrymandering hurts; 4.) The sticking point is Republicans, who willfully disenfranchise voters, gerrymander them out of decision making, use taxpayer money to thwart their decisions and bury their widely supported bills just because the legislation as written by the opposing party. Republicans – hint, hint – instead of tearing down the work of others, why not find positive, popular and innovative issues to support – like cannabis!

Marijuana voters, you indeed flexed your electoral muscles in 2020, pushed a progressive platform, voted accordingly and made history. Between statewide and local ballot issues, a new president and a stable Ohio Congressional delegation, you did good. Consequently, the new year – 2021 – may well be transformational for both cannabis and the country. Compared to 2020, it’s a move we’ll will gladly make!