WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- The legalization of recreational marijuana is also on the ballot in the states of Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota.
- Supporters of the initiatives are optimistic following President Biden’s pardon for thousands of Americans federally convicted of simple possession of marijuana.
- All five states have already legalized medical marijuana.
Measures to approve recreational marijuana are on the ballot in the five states of Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota, suggesting a bigger shift toward legalization even in the country’s most conservative states.
Currently, 19 states have legalized recreational marijuana, with polls showing opposition to legalization softening. With the exception of Maryland, the five states voted for Trump in the 2020 presidential election.
Legal medical marijuana programs are already present in all five states. Arkansas became the first Bible Belt state to approve medical marijuana in 2016. In 2019, dispensaries were opened, and over 91,000 patients have cards that allow legal purchases of medical marijuana.
About $23 million was raised by legalization campaigns across the five states.
Arkansas and Missouri contributed to the vast majority of contributions, with over 85% coming from donors associated with companies holding medical marijuana licenses, the Associated Press reported.
Arkansas‘s initiative has been criticized by both sides. The measure has been opposed by critics of traditional legalization as well as Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R), a former head of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. Medical marijuana advocates argued against its many limitations, which they believe would benefit only a few dispensaries.
Supporters ran upbeat ads that say the measure will create thousands of jobs. Critics warned voters against “big marijuana.”
In Missouri, the proposal aims to legalize recreational marijuana for people 21 and older. It also aims to expunge records of past convictions and arrests for nonviolent marijuana offenses, except for driving under the influence and selling to minors.
In Maryland, the proposal aims to revise criminal law and automate the expunging of past marijuana possession convictions.
The measure in North Dakota would legalize the home use of marijuana, possession, and cultivation of restricted amounts of cannabis for people 21 and older. It will also regulate cultivators, retail stores, and other types of marijuana businesses.
Voters in South Dakota, including several Republicans, supported legalizing marijuana possession in 2020. The state Supreme Court dismissed the law, however, partly because the proposal was coupled with medical marijuana and hemp. This year, legalizing recreational pot is on the ballot.
Colorado has legalized recreational marijuana for nearly a decade since. This year, voters are considering a proposal that allows the use of certain psychedelics. An approval would make Colorado the second state to do so.