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Voters Pass Initiatives that Could Impact Businesses

Along with electing Donald J. Trump as the next president, voters passed a number of critical initiatives on Tuesday that will have an impact—both positive and negative—on business.

Marijuana industry poised for massive growth
Voters moved to legalize recreational marijuana in California, Massachusetts, Nevada and Maine. As the world’s sixth biggest economy, the passage in California is expected to have a ripple effect throughout the nation. Reuters reported that 75 million people, or 23% of the U.S. population, will now live in states where recreational pot is legal. Companies involved in cultivating, branding, and manufacturing marijuana-based products are poised to capitalize on tremendous growth.

Adam Bierman, CEO of marijuana investment company MedMen, told Forbes that legalization in California could grow the industry by more than $8 billion and be “one of the major milestones” in the institutionalization of the marijuana industry. His comments support those of Scotts Miracle-Gro CEO Jim Hagerdorn, who told Forbes this past summer that marijuana is “the biggest thing I’ve ever seen in lawn and garden.” The company has already invested nearly a half billion in investments, including $135 million in California companies that sell fertilizers and accessories to pot growers.

“Legalization in California could grow the industry by more than $8 billion and be one of the major milestones in the institutionalization of the marijuana industry.

Citizens reject single payer, drug pricing controls
Voters in Colorado overwhelming said no to a single payer health insurance program which was opposed by health insurers and the business community. The bill would have funded it with a 10% payroll tax that opponents said would have given the state the highest tax bracket in the country. Business groups had largely opposed the measure, saying it could hurt competition in the state. Kelly Brough, CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, told that it would make it hard for the state to compete and that “we’d have the largest income tax and payroll tax in the country, and it hits our small businesses the hardest.”

Voters in California also shot down Prop 61, a measure to slow rising drug prices by prohibiting state agencies to make citizens pay more for prescriptions than the price paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The pharmaceutical industry reportedly spent $110 million to defeat the measure. Opponents argued the law would just force the industry to raise prices for veterans and others in the state.

Solar and energy
A number of energy-related initiatives were also decided upon. Florida voters rejected Amendment 1, which would have prevented utility companies from raising fees on solar users. Businesses in the solar industry hail it as a victory. Voters in Washington State also rejected what would have been the country’s first tax on carbon. The proposition would have levied a tax of $25 per metric ton of carbon emissions in 2018.

Californians also voted in a proposition to continue taxing the rich at a higher rate to bring in more money for healthcare and schools. Proposition 55 extends to 2030 the current tax which was put in place in 2012. The Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates the tax will generate between $4 billion and $9 billion annually for the general fund.

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