An April 2021 survey revealed that 60% of Americans want marijuana legalized for medical and recreational use. An additional 31% want marijuana legalized for medical use only.
For those of you looking forward to legalization, we’ve got good news: several US states might be going green on November 8th.
Cannabis legalization is on the ballot in five states this election.
But which states are considering recreational legalization, and which are considering medical legalization? How would marijuana businesses operate in these states? And are there pathways for expungements for marijuana convictions?
We’ve got the answers. Here’s a breakdown of what states have cannabis on the ballot this election, and what legalization would mean for residents.
Issue 4 in Arkansas relates to recreational cannabis legalization for adults 21 and older. Adults will be allowed to possess one ounce of cannabis purchased from retailers who have licenses from the state government. No resident will be allowed to grow their own marijuana at home.
Medical cannabis businesses currently in operation would be able to open a recreational cannabis store. Only 40 businesses would be able to do this. A lottery system would determine who would receive licenses.
Though Issue 4 would ensure marijuana legalization, it would create a strictly regulated cannabis market. The state would be able to tax marijuana with a 10% supplemental tax on top of state and local sales taxes. Local governments would prohibit retailers if voters approve a prohibition.
The state has no plans to expunge past criminal convictions for marijuana possession or trafficking. Communities harmed by incarceration for cannabis-related crimes and the war on drugs would not receive additional licenses.
A September 2022 poll found that 58.5% of voters are in favor of Issue 4. A strong mandate for Issue 4 could open the door for further action on marijuana, including a pathway for expungement. Medical marijuana is already legal in Arkansas.
Question 4 will allow residents 21 and older to use recreational cannabis. Beginning in July of next year, an adult would be able to purchase and own up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis from licensed retailers in Maryland. An adult could grow two plants for their personal use and gift cannabis to other adults without penalties.
Question 4 would also decriminalize the possession of marijuana of up to 2.5 ounces. The state would expunge all past convictions for marijuana possession of this amount. People currently in jail for possession below 2.5 ounces could appeal for resentencing.
Maryland residents with convictions for possession with intent to distribute could apply for expungement three years after the end of their sentence. However, there is no guarantee that they will receive an expungement.
If Question 4 passes, lawmakers will examine issues about taxes and regulations next session. It is not clear whether Maryland will add additional taxes or regulations to cannabis if the measure passes.
Amendment 3 in Missouri would allow adults 21 and older to purchase and own up to three ounces of recreational cannabis. If they obtain a registration card, an adult can also own six flowering plants and six immature plants. Public consumption and driving under the influence of marijuana would remain illegal.
The Department of Health and Senior Services would offer licenses for marijuana dispensaries. The state would offer at least 144 licenses through a lottery system. Priority goes to low-income people and people impacted by the war on drugs. Cannabis delivery would also be made legal.
Amendment 3 would create a 6% tax on sales, generating at least $45 million in income every year. The money would go toward expungement for Missouri residents with non-violent marijuana offenses. Any remaining money would go toward substance misuse treatment.
Local governments could vote on prohibiting marijuana businesses in their area. However, a September 2022 poll found that 62% of voters approve of the amendment. Medical marijuana is currently legal in Missouri.
Measure 2 would allow adults 21 and older to possess one ounce of recreational cannabis and four grams of marijuana concentrate. Public consumption would remain illegal.
The measure provides no pathway for expungement. It would also leave in place any anti-drug policies that businesses have for their employees.
The law would take effect on October 1, 2023. If the measure gets passed, the Department of Health and Human Services would spend the time until October 1 developing regulations.
The department would handle cannabis licenses. However, only 18 retailers could receive licenses. Each retailer would have to pay a registration fee of $90,000 every two years.
Medical marijuana is currently legal in North Dakota. The North Dakota Senate rejected a bill to legalize marijuana in 2021.
Measure 27 would allow adults 21 and older to possess and purchase one ounce of recreational cannabis. An adult could grow three plants for personal use.
The measure would prohibit public consumption. Consuming cannabis in public would, however, lead to civil penalties rather than prison time. Measure 27 would allow businesses to prohibit cannabis use among their workers. Workers in South Dakota could still receive random drug tests if this measure is passed.
The measure does not discuss regulatory policies. It is not clear who would receive marijuana licenses or if the state would prioritize equity programs.
In a historic move, South Dakota voters approved ballot measures legalizing both recreational and medical marijuana in 2020. However, a judge ruled the recreational cannabis measure was unconstitutional in 2021. The South Dakota House rejected a separate bill legalizing recreational marijuana in March 2022.
An October 2022 poll found that 47% of voters are against Measure 27. 45% are in favor, so the numbers are within a margin of error.
Quick facts on cannabis legalization this election
In sum: Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, and the Dakotas are considering recreational cannabis legalization this year. What that means, in general, is that the ballot measures would allow residents in these states to own small amounts of cannabis. In every state voting on recreational cannabis this election, medical marijuana is already legal.
If legalized, appointed state departments would regulate the fledgling cannabis markets in these states, and only a few dozen businesses would get licenses. Taxes may be imposed on cannabis products and public consumption would remain illegal.
These measures are prone to changes, so you should keep up with the latest news as election day approaches.