Voters in five states approve cannabis legalization measures: An overview

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Reporters were sent into a frenzy on Election Day, which took place on November 3. Why? Because This year’s elections saw every single cannabis-related initiative pass. 

Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota all passed measures to legalize the plant in some form. Let’s take a look at how each state fared:

  • Cannabis legalization in Arizona 

After signatures were submitted by Smart and Safe Arizona, a citizens initiative to legalize adult-use cannabis was featured on this year’s ballot. It passed by a margin of 60 percent to 40 percent. 

Proposition 207 officially named “The Smart and Safe Arizona Act” was described by The Arizona Secretary of State’s Office as follows:

“The law would allow limited cannabis possession, use, and cultivation by adults 21 or older; amend criminal penalties for cannabis possession; ban smoking cannabis in public; impose a 16 percent excise tax on cannabis sales to fund public programs; authorize state/local regulation of cannabis licensees; and allow expungement of cannabis offenses.”

  • Cannabis legalization in New Jersey 

A 216-page measure to launch New Jersey’s recreational cannabis market has been fast-tracked just one week after voters approved a constitutional amendment to legalize recreational cannabis for people aged 21 and older. Public Question 1 passed by a margin of 67 percent to 33 percent. 

Furthermore, on November 11, a bill to decriminalize cannabis also passed the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. Bill S253 would make it legal to possess up to six ounces of cannabis in New Jersey.

  • Cannabis legalization in Montana 

Ballot initiative I-190 passed by a margin of 57 percent to 43 percent. The statutory reform measure will establish a legal system of cannabis production and sales that will serve adults statewide. 

This result illustrates that support for adult-use cannabis legalization extends across geographic and demographic lines,” said NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri after the initiative was successfully voted on. “Cannabis legalization is not exclusively a ‘blue’ state issue, but an issue that is supported by a majority of all Americans—regardless of party politics. By approving these voter-initiated measures, Montana now joins the growing list of states that have recognized that it is time to end cannabis criminalization and move forward with a new approach.”

  • Cannabis legalization in South Dakota 

This year’s Election Day saw South Dakota become the first ever U.S. state to approve medical and recreational cannabis measures simultaneously. The state’s recreational measure (Constitutional Amendment A) passed by a margin of 53 percent to 47 percent, whereas the medical cannabis initiative (Measure 26) passed by a margin of 69 percent to 31 percent. Both measures will be effectuated on July 1, 2021.

“A few years ago, nobody would have predicted that South Dakota would legalize cannabis before New York. But that’s the power of the ballot initiative process,” expressed deputy director of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) Matthew Schweich. The MPP played an integral role in the recently approved initiatives for cannabis legalization in South Dakota.

  • Cannabis legalization in Mississippi

Misssisippi became the 36th U.S. state to legalize medical cannabis, after voters approved a ballot initiative enabling patients with a physician-certified “debilitating medical condition” to use cannabis for symptomatic relief. Over two-thirds of voters favored the measure’s passing, while almost three-quarters were in favor of Initiative 65.

Initiative 65 applied to patients with “cancer, epilepsy or other seizures, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, cachexia, post-traumatic stress disorder, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, chronic or debilitating pain, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, glaucoma, agitation of dementias, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, sickle-cell anemia, autism with aggressive or self-injurious behaviors, pain refractory to appropriate opioid management, spinal cord disease or severe injury, intractable nausea, severe muscle spasticity, or another medical condition of the same kind or class.”