Much of the marijuana legalization movement’s success has been the result of citizen-led voter ballot initiatives, and this November’s midterm elections are shaping up to be another pivotal point for cannabis reform in the US.
Marijuana legalization questions will appear on statewide ballots in five states, while voters in dozens of local jurisdictions will have their say on various cannabis reform proposals.
This is despite setbacks in Oklahoma and Nebraska, where attempts to qualify cannabis reform measures for the ballot ultimately came up short.
In Oklahoma, delays in the signature-verification process for a recreational cannabis proposal led the state Supreme Court to rule that there wasn’t enough time to get ballots to overseas voters. As such, the initiative will be shelved until the next election.
Meanwhile, in Nebraska, the organization behind an effort to legalize medical marijuana failed to gather enough verified signatures from registered voters before the state’s deadline. The group’s campaign manager indicated they would submit an effort to fully legalize cannabis for the 2024 ballot.
For this upcoming election though, here are the five states that will decide on a cannabis reform proposal.
Responsible Growth Arkansas succeeded in qualifying a proposed constitutional amendment for the state’s ballot that would, if accepted by voters, allow adults 21 and older to possess and purchase up to one ounce of marijuana. Home cannabis cultivation for personal use would remain prohibited.
The measure contains no social equity provisions, such as facilitating the expungement of nonviolent cannabis-related criminal records, or affording opportunities to those from marginalized communities to enter the legal marijuana industry.
The initiative would repeal residency requirements for medical marijuana patients and would instruct the state cannabis regulator to license existing medical cannabis dispensaries to serve recreational consumers. The awarding of 40 such licenses would be done through a lottery system.
Unlike the other four states with marijuana-related ballot questions this year, Maryland’s marijuana legalization ballot initiative was approved by lawmakers.
The proposed constitutional amendment would allow adults 21 and older to possess and purchase up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis and/or 12 grams of marijuana concentrates. If approved by voters, this would take effect in July, 2023 but lawmakers would still need to approve enabling legislation for the legal industry’s rules and regulations.
Lawmakers also passed complementary legislation which sets out civil fines and criminal penalties for possessing larger amounts as well as the framework for expungement of cannabis-related criminal records.
Legal Missouri qualified an initiative that would allow adults 21 and older to possess and purchase marijuana, with a limit on both yet to be defined. Home cultivation for personal use would also be permitted.
The measure includes provisions to facilitate the expungement of cannabis-related criminal records, as well as ones that aim to provide opportunities for marginalized communities and small business owners to participate in the legal marijuana industry.
4. North Dakota
New Approach North Dakota succeeded in qualifying a a measure that would allow adults to possess and purchase up to one ounce of marijuana and cultivate up to three plants at home for personal use.
If approved by voters, state regulators would be instructed to establish the rules and regulations for North Dakota’s legal cannabis market by October 1, 2023. This would include the licensing of retail stores, commercial cultivators and testing laboratories.
5. South Dakota
This will be the second consecutive election in which South Dakota voters will have their say on recreational cannabis legalization.
The state Supreme Court overturned the result of the last ballot vote on the basis that the proposal violated the state’s single-subject rule for proposed constitutional amendments.
As such, this time round, the proposal only seeks to allow adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of cannabis and cultivate up to three plants at home for personal use. There are no provisions outlining the establishment of a regulatory framework for retail cannabis sales.