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What Ohio's landslide win for legalization tells us about cannabis politics

Plus, a troubling new study on cannabis and heart health, BAT invests in Organigram, and more.

Hi everyone,

Apologies for your Cultivated being a little delayed.

My grandfather Arthur Berke (Berkowitz) sadly passed away last Thursday. I love him and I’ll miss him very much. His was a life well-lived, and that’s the biggest lesson I’ll take from him.

He never took himself too seriously, and he taught me that you’re only as old as you feel. I’ll remember that for the rest of my life.

If you feel so inclined, you can donate to The Good Shepherd hospice that took such great care of him in his final days. Thanks in advance.

Okay, let’s get to it.


Today’s Cultivated is sponsored by The 2023 New York Grower’s Cup.

Great news: The 2023 New York Growers Cup awards show and reception is coming up on Friday, December 1st in beautiful Brooklyn, New York! Tickets are on sale right now!

The New York Growers Cup is an annual, statewide competition that elevates New York’s best cannabis growers. The New York Growers Cup awards show and reception celebrates those growers, and connects them with New York's core cannabis community: Operators and consumers.

Get your tickets here — and I’ll see you there.

white and blue concrete building under blue sky during daytime

💡What’s the big deal?

What happened: Ohio became the 24th (!) state to legalize cannabis on Tuesday night.

The ballot measure passed by a near landslide, with 57% in favor and 43% against.

That’s a big margin in a state that’s moved from purple to mostly red. Trump won Ohio 53% to 45% in 2020, and the state is governed by a Republican, Mike DeWine.

With Ohio, fifty-three percent of Americans now live in a state with legal weed.

It’s quite striking that the federal government has not yet taken any concrete action to codify laws that states have moved well ahead on.

What’s in the law? Buckeye State residents will be able to legally possess and consume cannabis in 30 days.

The law allows adults over the age of 21 to grow six plants and possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis flower. Cannabis products will be taxed at 10%.

As well, the law will give Ohio’s existing medical cannabis operators the first crack at the recreational market, and 36% of tax revenues will go toward a social equity fund.

Industry publication Marijuana Business Daily estimates the Ohio market could be worth $4 billion with a few years.

Why it matters: Legalization is popular among Americans. We didn’t need to see Ohio’s results to tell us that.

But Ohio is a state of outsize electoral importance, particularly as we head into a Presidential election year.

It could have major ramifications for how President Biden, and the presumptive Republican nominee, Trump, use cannabis as a way to turn out voters both on the pro and anti-legalization side.

Let’s go to the exit polls to see just how much sentiment has shifted.

Normal caveats apply with the nature of generalizing local exit polls to national politics, but I still believe it’s a worthwhile exercise. Below are a few metrics that stood out to me.

What do the numbers tell us?

By age:

  • Young people really, really like legal weed: 84% of 18-29 year olds voted yes, along with 69% of 30-44 year olds.1

  • Disaggregated even more, 86% of 18-24 year olds voted yes.

  • For those in the 50-64 category, it was an even 50-50 split.

  • People over the age of 65 really don’t like legal weed: 60% voted against the measure.

  • Parents mostly supported legalization: 60% of men and women with children voted yes.

By ideology:

  • 85% of liberals and 64% of moderates voted yes.

  • Just 23% of conservatives voted no.

  • 94% who self-identified as ‘very liberal’ voted yes, as well as 79% who identified as ‘somewhat liberal’ and 64% who identified as ‘moderate’.

  • Just 17% of those who identified as ‘very conservative’ voted yes.

  • 68% of Evangelical Christians voted no, surprise, surprise.

By area:

  • 65% of urban residents and 52% of suburban residents voted yes.

  • Just 46% of rural residents said yes.

By education:

  • No major patterns here: 57% of college graduates and 56% who had no degree voted for legalization.

By race:

  • 54% of White voters and 71% of Black voters said yes.

By 2020 election results:

  • 80% of Biden voters said yes.

  • 69% of Trump voters said no.

A few general takeaways: Legalization is extremely popular among progressives and Democrats more generally.

The sky-high support for legalization among Biden voters should be a cue that the relatively unpopular incumbent could use this issue as a way to drive people to the polls. Turnout data on legalization is still unclear, but at least this is a signal.

Moderate support is surprisingly strong. But I’m not sure it’s strong enough for a federal Republican, given how strong anti-legalization sentiment is among conservative voters, to use legalization as a way to siphon votes from Democrats.

The industry chatter I’m hearing from some cannabis investors, that Republicans are going to adopt the issue in the absence of Biden leading on it, might be wishful thinking, looking at the data. I’m willing to be wrong on this, though.

What do legal cannabis and abortion rights have to do with each other?

Legalization was on the same ballot as enshrining abortion rights in Ohio.

Perhaps not surprisingly, support for legal weed and abortion rights, while not in lockstep, mapped quite closely to each other:

  • 78% of Ohio residents who voted for legal weed also voted for abortion rights.

  • 79% of Ohio residents who voted no, also voted no on abortion rights.

  • Overall, 56.6% of Ohio residents voted for abortion, ever-so-slightly behind cannabis.

There will be a lot of prognosticating in the press and on social media about what this means for Republicans, who are mostly against these two issues.

I don’t want to get out over my skis, so to speak, and wade into political science and election theory. But the data shows that will become a problem for Republicans if they don’t change their tack.

All of this is underpinned by a recent Gallup poll that shows 70% of Americans — the highest number recorded — believe that cannabis should be legal.

As I’ve written before, try and find another issue with this much support among the American electorate. Puppies might be the only thing.

But like the efforts to stop changing our clocks for Daylight Savings, just because a lot of Americans support something, doesn’t mean Congress or the White House will follow suit.

Share this post if you’re enjoying Cultivated. It helps me grow.

🧪 Science and research

What happened: A preliminary study to be presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions this month found some alarming data for daily cannabis consumers.

The study shows that daily consumers elevate their risk of heart failure by about one-third, or 34%.

The study followed 156,999 people who self-reported their cannabis use for four years.

About 2%, or 2,958 people, developed heart failure. The study’s authors adjusted the analysis to account for economic and demographic factors, alcohol use, smoking tobacco, and other heart disease risk factors.

Why it matters: This study is yet another data point that long-term, daily cannabis use could be bad for your heart.

But there are limitations to this study, as I’ll outline below. And preliminary studies aren’t yet published and fully peer-reviewed.

🌿 Jer’s take

As cannabis legalization spreads in the US and around the globe, policymakers, regulators, and consumers need better information about how cannabis use affects the human body.

Despite loud voices on both the pro and anti-legalization side, there is no real scientific consensus yet. And there won’t be for some time.

This is cutting-edge research. Because cannabis has been illegal for so long, it’s difficult for doctors and other researchers to study.

It’ll take quite some time, and quite a lot of well-funded, rigorous, and statistically sound research, to uncover the truth.

That’s why I’d advise my readers to take these types of studies with a grain of salt.

For one, these studies are broad scale correlations. Interesting, and perhaps troubling, results for sure, but it’s not enough evidence yet for me personally to change my behavior.

No causative link between cannabis use and heart disease has been established, here. I imagine the study’s authors would agree.

Two, these studies rely on self-reporting.

When you’re trying to reduce the messy sum of human behaviors and attitudes to empiricism, you’re going to have inconsistencies in the data. Now, this sample size is massive, but again, self-reporting isn’t always accurate.

And three, the study’s authors used data that didn’t specify whether the cannabis was smoked, vaped, or eaten. That’s a huge flaw in the study’s design.

The study could simply be saying smoking anything, whether joints or cigarettes, is bad for your heart, rather than cannabis use is bad for your heart. Again, I’m not saying this to be facetious, but I’m calling on researchers interested in this topic to do this work — it’s vital.

We need researchers to disentangle the effects consumption methods have on these risk factors. That would allow policymakers and regulators to promote safer consumption methods and write policies in a way that guide consumer behavior effectively.

It would also allow consumers like myself who care about their health and what they put into their bodies to choose healthier alternatives.

Like anything, this newsletter subscribes to the idea that everything is better in moderation, except for Oreos. Have the whole sleeve for me.

🥊 Quick hits

British American Tobacco will invest C$124 million into Canadian cannabis company Organigram to up its equity stake from 19% to 45% by January of 2025.

🗣️ Quote of the week

“To reference an overused analogy: it’s like being strapped into a plane that’s being built while it’s in the air — except that the pilot is blind and has lost all sense of direction and your seatbelt won’t unlock and you weren’t given a parachute.”

This quote comes from a survey that the Cannabis Farmers Alliance conducted on New York cannabis farmers in advance of the state’s marathon hearing last week on the contentious rollout of the legal cannabis market.

📚 What I’m reading