The midterm elections yesterday produced a couple of highlights, but mostly depressing results for vapers and people interested in protecting the independent vaping industry. However, for cannabis vapers, the election news was mostly positive.
In Montana, voters defeated I-185, the so-called Healthy Montana Initiative, which would have increased taxes on cigarettes, and added a huge tax to vaping products, to raise funds for Medicaid expansion. It was a complicated issue, but Montanans are generally allergic to taxes, and that proved true in this election too.
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and other tobacco control groups are accusing the tobacco industry of buying the no vote with massive spending on TV ads. But vapers and vape shop owners and employees worked to fight the tax proposal too (and for free). Whatever caused the voters to reject the initiative, it probably saved every vape shop in the state.
In Florida the news was less positive. The bizarre Amendment 9, which inserted an indoor vaping ban into the state’s constitution — along with a ban on offshore oil drilling — passed overwhelmingly. That’s right, the voters were forced to vote against indoor vaping if they wanted to prevent oil companies from drilling off the coast in this tourism-dependent state. Hopefully this sneaky tactic will not spread to other states.
Vape-positive politicians in the United States are a rare commodity, and as usual there wasn’t much good to report on that front. However, Democrat Tom Miller was easily elected to his tenth term as Iowa’s attorney general. Miller is arguably the only politician in the country with a real grasp of the vaping issue, and he’s certainly the only one who has challenged the FDA’s prohibitionist position. Miller is on the board of the Truth Initiative, and also is an advisor to the pro-vaping National Tobacco Reform Initiative. He has also advised JUUL Labs on its regulatory strategy.
California Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter was re-elected in a tight race. Hunter introduced a bill last year that would remove vapes from the FDA Deeming Rule’s “tobacco products” definition. The bad news for Hunter is that he and his wife were indicted in August for illegally spending campaign funds for personal expenses, falsification of records, and wire fraud. Both face long prison terms if convicted.
On the not-so-good-for-vaping front, several Democratic U.S. Senators who have signed onto letters demanding that FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb ban flavors or otherwise restrict or prohibit vaping products were re-elected, including Sherrod Brown (OH), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Tim Kaine (VA), Amy Klobuchar (MN), Elizabeth Warren (MA), and Sheldon Whitehouse (RI).
On the state level, Attorney General Maura Healey, who began an investigation of JUUL Labs in July, was re-elected by a huge margin. Also winning big was Republican Utah state Rep. Paul Ray, author of numerous bills aimed at taxing and restricting vaping products.
In New York, state Assembly member Linda Rosenthal and state Sen. Brad Hoylman — both Dems who have introduced and promoted vaping bans and restrictions — were both re-elected, but flavor ban proponent Sen. Kemp Hannon was defeated in an upset. Hannon’s loss was part of the New York state senate flipping from red to blue, and advocates there may now face more difficult fights.
The election also saw the state legislatures in Oregon and New Mexico go all Democratic, and the state Houses in Washington and Colorado flip to blue. Oregon has come close to taxing e-liquid before, and American Vaping Association president Gregory Conley says it’s more likely to happen now.
Cannabis advocates have a 40-year head start on nicotine vapers, and everyone fighting for vape shops and the independent e-liquid industry could probably benefit from talking to the weed pros who are scoring in every election nowadays. Yesterday’s results continued the encouraging trend: 33 states and Washington, D.C. now have some form of legalized marijuana.
Michigan became the 10th state to legalize recreational marijuana sales, and the first in the Midwest. The Great Lakes State will become the second-largest recreational market in the country (after California) after 56 percent of voters said yes. The ballot measure also legalized personal possession and growing, and industrial hemp. Michigan has had legal medical cannabis since 2008.
North Dakota rejected a proposal to legalize recreational sales. The ballot measure, which also mandated clearing the criminal records for all previous marijuana-related offenses, was soundly defeated, 60 to 40 percent. The state is still wrestling with rules for the medical regulation approved by voters two years ago.
Missouri and Utah both approved ballot measures to legalize weed for medical purposes. Missouri had three confusing measures on the ballot, but voters approved the one supported by most advocates. Ruby red Utah was already entertaining legislative proposals to make medical cannabis legal, and according to NPR, even the Mormon church supports the move.