Wondering where adult-use cannabis could be legal following this week’s midterms?
According to US News:
Nineteen states have legalized recreational marijuana use for adults, a decade after voters in Colorado and Washington kicked off the trend.
If things break a certain way in five states on Election Day, that number could rise to nearly half of all states. Voters in Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota and South Dakota are considering ballot measures on cannabis use, as the movement to “legalize it” hopes to keep gaining ground across the country.
“It’s complicated to take down a federal prohibition one state at a time, but that’s the way it works,” says Rick Steves, the renowned PBS travel series host and board chairman of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. “I’ve learned a lot from looking at prohibition against alcohol and how that whole process played out, and the federal government, I think, considers the states to be incubators for change.”
At the federal level, the course toward relaxing punishment on marijuana use took a new turn in early October, when President Joe Biden said he would issue pardons to thousands of people convicted of the federal crime of simple marijuana possession. Biden also called for governors to make similar moves under state laws and for a review of how marijuana is classified under federal law. His actions come as support for legalizing cannabis tied a record high – 68% – in Gallup’s most recent polling on the subject.
“It was an admission, from somebody who is famously hard on drugs, an admission that the federal prohibition is wrong-minded, and changes need to be done,” Steves says, referring to Biden’s move. “And I think that gives political cover to other people that want to talk more honestly and candidly about this problem.”
The latest state efforts to legalize recreational marijuana haven’t come without resistance, with opponents raising concerns about issues like increases in crime, the impact on youth and racial equity. Yet beyond the possibility that more states might vote to approve recreational cannabis use, what happens in these midterm elections could have broader national implications, especially when it comes to what Jared Moffat, campaigns manager at the Marijuana Policy Project, calls the “holy grail” for pot advocates: federal legalization.
Moffat points out that four of the five states with ballot measures – Maryland being the exception – are represented by two Republican senators each. A future where eight more GOP senators represent constituents that voted for adult-use legalization could be “very consequential,” Moffat says.
“I think a lot’s on the line,” he adds. “I think the stakes are high.”
Below is what’s on the ballot in each state.
The Arkansas Supreme Court in September approved moving forward with a ballot measure – called Issue 4 – that, if enough votes are garnered, would allow adults 21 and older to purchase and possess up to an ounce of cannabis, according to NORML. Arkansas residents would not be allowed to grow marijuana at home, Steves notes. The law would go into effect in March.
Moffat says that because Arkansas is a Southern state and there has been opposition from some political leaders – including outgoing GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson, the former head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration – the possibility of the initiative’s approval is “more of a dice roll.”
In Maryland, however, Moffat thinks it’s “pretty safe to say” that voters will approve the state’s legalization measure. A Washington Post-University of Maryland poll from early October appears to back this up: 73% of surveyed Maryland voters favored legalizing cannabis.
Appearing as Question 4 on the ballot, the initiative would amend the state Constitution and allow adults to possess and use cannabis as early as July. Companion legislation passed in the Maryland General Assembly stipulates that citizens would be allowed to possess up to 1.5 ounces, repeals the term “marijuana” and replaces it with cannabis, and offers a pathway toward expungement and resentencing for persons convicted of certain cannabis offenses. Lawmakers then would need to establish regulations for the state’s cannabis sales marketplace, as WAMU reports.
Missouri was among the 10 states with the most marijuana possession arrests reported by state and local agencies between 2017 and 2021, according to a U.S. News analysis of data available through the FBI. If the state’s legalization ballot initiative is approved – Moffat says he’s “fairly confident” it will be – that could start to change soon.
Missouri’s Amendment 3 would “remove state prohibitions on purchasing, possessing, consuming, using, delivering, manufacturing, and selling marijuana for personal use for adults,” according to the ballot language. The new provision also would require a registration card for “personal cultivation,” impose a 6% tax on the retail price of cannabis and allow citizens with certain non-violent marijuana-related offenses to petition to have their records expunged. Possession is limited to up to 3 ounces, according to the amendment’s language.
North Dakota’s Statutory Measure No. 2, if approved, would permit adults to possess “a limited amount of cannabis product” – or up to 1 ounce – and set the stage for a state entity to regulate and register related businesses.
Moffat believes the campaign for legalization in the state – which he notes is the effort he’s leading through the Marijuana Policy Project – has a “very strong chance of winning.” But he adds that law enforcement organizations have opposed the measure in recent weeks. Additionally, a state legalization measure was defeated in 2018, with nearly 60% of voters opposing it.
This could be the second time in two years South Dakotans have voted to legalize marijuana use for adults. Voters approved legalization through a ballot measure in 2020, but in late November 2021, the state supreme court upheld a lower-court ruling nullifying it on technical grounds, according to The Associated Press. The decision followed a lawsuit backed by Republican Gov. Kristi Noem.
The revitalized movement in the state is so important to the Marijuana Policy Project that deputy director Matthew Schweich “literally moved” to South Dakota to run the campaign there, Moffat says.
“There’s a lot of righteous anger about what happened,” he says.
Recent polling indicates a close contest, but if it gets enough approval votes, the state’s Initiated Measure 27 stipulates that residents 21 and older would be allowed to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana. South Dakotans also would be permitted to grow a limited number of marijuana plants at home, subject to various restrictions.
Regardless of the results across the five states, Steves notes that what happened in South Dakota last year with the court reversal is a prime example of why the fight for advocates doesn’t end when a legalization ballot measure is passed. He says leaders involved have to “shepherd it” into enactment and hold off legal challenges.
But both he and Moffat are optimistic about where things stand on cannabis legalization, 10 years after those first two states broke the barrier.
“The difference between now and then is we’ve got a track record now,” Steves says. “And you know, I can understand people being skeptical 10 years ago. It was kind of scary. But today, it’s a slam dunk.”
Original Source – https://www.usnews.com/news/elections/articles/2022-11-04/states-with-recreational-marijuana-on-election-day-ballots