Voters in five states considered marijuana legalization Tuesday, but just two of the ballot initiatives succeeded. Maryland and Missouri will become the 20th and 21st states to approve recreational weed possession and sales.
Voters in Arkansas, North Dakota and South Dakota rejected legalization measures.
In Maryland, legislators passed a bill putting Question 4 on the ballot. Voters were asked, “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 1st, 2023, in the state of Maryland?”
As of this morning, with 82 percent of votes counted, Question 4 was easily passing with 65.6 percent of the vote, according to the New York Times.
A majority yes vote, once certified, will trigger a companion bill that implements legalization. The legal market and retail sales will not be in place until 2024 or 2025, according to MJBizDaily, but simple purchase and possession of up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis will be legal for adults 21 and over on July 1, 2023. Home cultivation of two plants will also become legal next July, according to Marijuana Moment.
With 95 percent of the vote counted, Missouri is certain to pass its legalization initiative, although by a much closer margin (53 to 47 percent) than Maryland.
The measure will legalize purchase and possession of up to 3.5 ounces of cannabis for adults 21 and over, and allow home cultivation of up to six flowering marijuana plants, six immature plants and six clones, according to Marijuana Moment. The law will also expunge the records of people with some cannabis convictions.
Missouri already has a medical marijuana program, and existing medical dispensaries will be allowed to sell recreational weed if they choose to. The state will add a six percent tax to all recreational sales.
In Arkansas, recreational legalization is failing by a substantial margin (56 to 44 percent), to the relief of conservative state politicians who opposed the measure.
Leading Arkansas Republicans like Governor Asa Hutchinson, Senator Tom Cotton and candidate for governor (and now governor-elect) Sarah Huckabee Sanders linked cannabis to rising crime in the weeks leading up to the election, according to MJBizDaily. That was apparently enough to dissuade the state’s generally right-wing electorate.
Arkansas approved medical marijuana in 2016, but even a ballot measure cautiously tailored to conservative concerns couldn’t get recreational cannabis over the line.
With 95 percent of the vote counted, North Dakota’s second recreational cannabis ballot initiative has failed. The 55 to 45 percent defeat was closer than 2018’s 59-41 percent margin—but not by much.
Like Arkansas’ ballot measure, North Dakota’s Measure 2 was tailored to gain conservative support. The measure would not have expunged marijuana convictions, and would have limited retail sales to 18 outlets in the state.
In 2020, South Dakota voters approved both medical and recreational marijuana legalization on the same day. However, Governor Kristi Noem initiated a legal fight against the recreational ballot measure that culminated in the state Supreme Court striking down Amendment A on technical grounds last year.
Given a second bite at the legalization apple this year, South Dakota residents have rejected Measure 27 in a fairly close vote (53 to 47 percent). According to Marijuana Moment, the measure’s opponents ran an ad suggesting that pot legalization would lead to addiction and suicide among the state’s children.
South Dakota has dangerously draconian cannabis laws, including a provision that allows people to be charged and convicted of possession for merely testing positive for THC—even if the cannabis that triggered the positive test was consumed in a different state (weed is legal in western neighbor Montana). Convictions for selling even small amounts of black market marijuana are punished with mandatory jail sentences.