Election results didn’t change much for Midwest cannabis-legal states

Missouri’s incumbent Republican Gov. Mike Parson, who has been criticized for capping medical cannabis licenses, won his first full term on Tuesday. (MoDot)

There were no changes as a result of Tuesday’s elections to party control of statehouses in the Midwest’s cannabis-legal states. Democrats had hoped to take control of the Michigan House or knock down the Republican supermajorities in the Missouri House and Senate. Neither of those things happened. Nor did Missouri Democrat Nicole Galloway beat incumbent Republican Gov. Mike Parson. And not surprisingly, Illinois’ House and Senate remained in Democratic hands.

The non-change will have little impact on the future of Midwestern cannabis, say observers in each of the states. 

“I don’t think a change in the legislature, starting in January, [would] make a difference,” said Steve Linder, executive director of Michigan Cannabis Manufacturing Association and a veteran Lansing lobbyist.

The biggest issue for the Michigan cannabis industry, legislation to merge rules for medical and recreational cannabis regulation, has already been drafted, said Linder, and support for those changes are not party driven.

“The effort has already started. It’s not going to take a change in the majority in the House, to stimulate combining the two, that’s taking place right now,” said Linder.

In Missouri, “small changes in the makeup of the legislature likely won’t make any impact on the implementation of the voter-approved medical marijuana constitutional amendment in Missouri,” says MoCannTrade’s Jack Cardetti.

“I don’t think Governor Parson’s win makes it any more or less likely that the Department of Health will issue more licenses in the near future. The decision to issue additional licenses is also a complex one that could be affected by a number of factors, including the Sarcoxie Nursery lawsuit ruling [and] when existing license holders get open,” said Jay Carney, a cannabis practice attorney at Carnahan, Evans, Cantwell & Brown in Springfield, Missouri.

State budgets are all in a deep Covid hole, say observers across the Midwest, so it’s not likely there will be much interest in spending on new programs of any kind. 

“As far as state funding for social equity programs, I’m not sure how that will go, said Michigan’s Linder “As far as state funding, all state budgets for Covid are scrapped. Michigan is $4 billion in the hole.”

When Illinois legislators met last spring, that state’s budget had a $10 billion hole. Legislators might meet for a three day veto session later this month to focus on further budget needs, after a proposed constitutional amendment for a graduated state income tax failed at the polls Tuesday.

While Illinois’ latest round of dispensary, craft grow, and other licenses are stuck in court battles, sources tell Grown In there’s talk of creating a new round of licenses. But would it happen during a possible November veto session to pass stopgap budget measures or during a legislative lame duck session in January?

“Veto [session] takes a supermajority to move routine legislation and can the social justice agenda get supermajority? Unlikely. But simple majority in lame duck? More likely,” said one knowledgable Springfield lobbyist, referring to progressive advocates’ efforts to raise taxes to save social spending programs.

“With Covid spiking and the flat tax amendment failing, cannabis is not anyone’s top priority at the moment. But ironically, for the same reasons, the tax revenue generated by a robust cannabis industry is more important than ever,” said cannabis patient advocate and Springfield lobbyist Mark Peysakhovich.