Everywhere Cannabis Legalization Is on the Ballot in November
The legalization of adult-use cannabis is on the ballot in five states. Here's where you'll find it.
The midterm elections are coming on November 8. In addition to important elections that will determine the balance of power in Congress, local elections and ballot measures are set to make a big impact across the country at more local levels.
Among the issues that will be decided by voters in 2022 are a handful of cannabis-related measures. Voters are being asked to decide on the future of adult-use cannabis in some states, as well as city-level measures that will continue to define the future of cannabis laws in the US.
As of the start of the year, 19 states and Washington, DC have legalized the possession and personal use of cannabis products, per Ballotpedia. Five states could have measures on the ballot to legalize cannabis for use by adults 21 and over. A sixth state hoped to have it on the ballot, but will see the question asked in a future election instead. Here are the states with state-wide cannabis measures up for a vote.
The ballot measure in Arkansas is relatively straightforward, but there were several moving pieces attached to it that nearly took the matter off voters' agenda entirely. Though the state's Board of Election Commissioners had initially blocked the measure to legalize adult use of cannabis from appearing on the ballot in this election, the state Supreme Court ruled late last month that the measure could move ahead.
If the initiative is approved by voters, it would allow adults 21 and older to legally possess up to an ounce of cannabis. It would also implement a 10% tax on sales and require the state's Alcoholic Beverage Control Division to develop rules for businesses, according to Ballotpedia. The initiative does not allow for home cultivation, and it has no provisions to expunge or seal cannabis-related criminal records. It still allows local government bodies to prohibit the presence of adult-use dispensaries in their jurisdiction, per Marijuana Moment.
In Maryland, a referendum to amend the state's constitution is on the ballot to legalize the recreational use of cannabis. The measure is called Question 4. Norml, a cannabis advocacy group, says the ballot question will read, “Do you favor the legalization of the use of cannabis by an individual who is at least 21 years of age on or after July 1, 2023, in the State of Maryland?”
In advance of the election, state lawmakers approved HB 837, which sets rules for if the measure passes. It defines marijuana possession limits and aids the automatic review and expungement of past criminal records, something championed by many advocacy groups.
If voters approve the measure, state lawmakers still need to approve more legislation surrounding the rules and regulations that will govern cannabis use and sales in the state.
It was just four years ago that voters in Missouri favored the legalization of cannabis for medical purposes. This year, Legal Missouri 2022 sponsored a citizens initiative called Amendment 3. It would allow adults 21 and older in Missouri to possess, purchase, consume, and cultivate cannabis.
The lengthy initiative also has a provision to expunge criminal records of individuals with nonviolent cannabis-related offenses. It further seeks to make changes to the state's current medical marijuana access program. If approved by voters, a 6% tax on sales would go toward court costs and legal fees related to expungement, per KCUR. Other revenue is earmarked for substance misuse treatment programs, veteran health care, and the public defender system in the state.
In North Dakota, a ballot initiative will be put before voters, spearheaded by New Approach North Dakota, which advocates voters vote “yes on 2.” It looks to legalize adult use and sale of cannabis in the state. The measure would allow residents 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of cannabis and cultivate a small number of plants at home.
It also establishes a path for retail stores, labs, and other cannabis-related businesses, and it asks legislators to establish laws around adult use by October 1, 2023. Other significant actions in the initiative, per New Approach North Dakota, include that cannabis products will have to be tested by state-approved labs, and it will prohibit the public consumption of cannabis.
The signatures required to put SQ 820, which would legalize adult use in Oklahoma, were collected. However, challenges and deadlines have complicated it being put to a vote in November. The state's Supreme Court decided that the question will have to appear on the ballot in a future election. It rejected challenges to the signatures, meaning that it could be put to voters during a special election in the not-too-distant future or during the 2024 election.
A ballot measure asks residents of South Dakota to decide on the legalization of the adult use of cannabis. This is the second election in a row where the question will be put to voters in South Dakota. The measure—Initiated Measure 27—does not include any regulatory framework for the production and sale of cannabis products. It does, however, include a provision to allow individuals to own up to three plants (no more than six per private property) if that individual lives in an area without a licensed dispensary, per Ballotpedia.
Like North Dakota, South Dakota has had legalization on the ballot before. In 2020, voters approved Amendment A. It was overturned by the state Supreme Court in February 2022, though. It was ruled unconstitutional because it violates the state's single-subject rule. Ballotpedia notes that Amendment A covered “licensing, taxation, local government regulations of marijuana, and regulations regarding hemp.” Initiated Measure 27 does not touch on any of those topics.
Not in these states?
These ballot measures—aside from Oklahoma's—will appear in voting booths on November 8. However, they're not the only ones out there. There are initiatives at more local levels that will touch on cannabis issues. For instance, Colorado Springs voters will decide whether to allow existing medical cannabis dispensaries to transition into an adult-use stores. They'll also vote on whether to approve a 5% local tax on adult-use products. In Texas, a handful of cities will vote on de-penalizing personal cannabis possession, much like Austin did earlier in 2022.
As with any ballot measure, it’s important to read up on the details to make an informed decision and understand the ways any measure will impact your community. Local elections are immensely important.
If your state doesn't have a ballot measure to read up on and you wish it did, you can always get out in your community and advocate for the laws you want to see implemented. You can advocate for cannabis-related issues (or any issue) by reaching out to your local elected officials to push for state or city-level laws.
You can also reach out to your national representatives to encourage them to support cannabis reform like that outlined in the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act that is currently in the Senate. There are lots of other things you can do to advocate for cannabis legislation like educating yourself and others, joining organizations, and spending your money wisely. There are lots of ways you can get out there and make your voice heard.