By now you have probably seen a dozen articles about the blue tidal wave that hit Virginia, New Jersey, and almost everywhere else that held elections on Tuesday, November 7. The consensus seems to be that Democrats, who are usually apathetic about off-year elections, showed up in large numbers to express their displeasure with the Trump administration. But this election was also heavily tinged with green and it bodes well for the prospects of an eventual end to federal cannabis prohibition. It also had some immediate benefits for recreational cannabis in the short term.
We have often written about prominent Democratic presidential hopefuls (i.e. democratic members of Congress) speaking rationally on cannabis (here, here, here, here, and here). These comments dovetail nicely with recent polling showing public support for cannabis legalization is at an all-time high, with 64% of the public in support (71% among Democrats, 62% among independents, and breaching 50% among Republicans for the first time). On November 7, the age-old political rule that the president’s party gets clobbered in mid-terms seems to have held true yet again. We expect that federal prohibition’s time is short, and if Democrats take the Senate and/or the house in 2018, we expect Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ options will be limited when it comes to federal interference with state-level recreational regimes.
But no doubt before the results of this last election impact federal cannabis, they will more likely impact cannabis on the state level. For instance, the election of Phil Murphy (D) as the next Governor of New Jersey all but guarantees the Garden State will legalize cannabis soon. Shortly after the election, we reached out to our Garden State legal colleague, Paul Strauchler, an attorney at Post, Polak Goodsell and Strauchler and one of the leaders of the firm’s Hospitality, Alcoholic Beverages, and Cannabis Group, to get an on the ground view on what the transition from cannabis-hating Chris Christie to Phil Murphy will mean for New Jersey. Paul is optimistic about the results: “Since Phil Murphy’s very entry into New Jersey public life, he has been an advocate for the legalization of cannabis: for its medicinal value and potential; for its commercial and economic opportunities; and for its remediation of a full spectrum of social justice issues. We look forward to working with Governor-Elect Murphy and the Lt. Governor-Elect and their team as New Jersey prepares for a new era.” In other words, just about everything cannabis just took a sharp upward turn for New Jersey.
Governor-Elect Murphy campaigned on legalization and he has vowed to legalize cannabis in his first 100 days. If he succeeds with this New Jersey will be the first state to legalize cannabis through legislation, rather than via a public ballot initiative.