Cannabis for President: State Legalization Ballot Measures Are Overwhelmingly Approved

Heady Vermont Staff 4 Nov 2020

Voters in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota have passed state ballot measures to legalize recreational cannabis use, major victories in the movement to undo the harms of cannabis criminalization.

In South Dakota and Mississippi, voters also approved ballot initiatives permitting medical cannabis use, capping a 100% win rate for state legalization ballot measures in the 2020 election.

The new markets in Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota, says MJBizDaily, could generate more than $2.5 billion in medical and recreational cannabis sales a year by 2024.

The states join the District of Columbia and 11 other states, including Vermont, that have already legalized adult use of cannabis, which remains illegal at the federal level in the US.

New Jersey

New Jersey,  the first state in the Mid-Atlantic region to legalize recreational cannabis, passed  Public Question 1 by a whopping 67% to 33% margin. The state legalized medical use of the drug in 2010.

“Garden State voters spoke resoundingly. They are demanding their lawmakers end the failed policy of marijuana criminalization, and instead pursue a more sensible path of regulation and legalization,” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said.

“Garden State voters spoke resoundingly.”

The win puts New Jersey on the path to have the largest weed market on the east coast and one of the largest in the US. It also increases pressure on neighboring states, particularly New York, to follow suit. New Jersey first has to establish rules before weed businesses open, so it’s unclear when the new industry will start.


In Arizona, voters decided by a 60% to 40% margin in favor of Proposition 207, an initiative legalizing the recreational possession and use of cannabis by adults aged 21 and over. Arizona voters rejected a similar recreational measure on their ballots four years ago, though the state legalized medical cannabis in 2010.

In just 24 hours, Arizona moved from some of the country’s harshest pot laws to some of the best.

The new law will also allow people convicted of certain pot crimes to have their records cleared by the courts. In just 24 hours, Arizona moved from some of the country’s harshest pot laws to some of the best.

“Until now, Arizona had imposed some of the strictest prohibition laws in the country; in some instances, the possession of even small amounts of marijuana was classified as a felony,” said Altieri. “By rejecting this failed policy, no Arizonan going forward will be saddled with a criminal conviction for engaging in the personal possession or cultivation of cannabis, or face the lifelong stigma that comes with it.”

Arizona’s measure legalizes possession of up to an ounce of cannabis for adults and sets up a licensing system for retail sales, which could start as early as March.

Victories Emerge For Psychedelics, Drug Decrim in DC and Oregon


Two ballot initiatives for recreational cannabis use passed in Montana. Ballot Initiative 190 legalizes recreational cannabis use for adults, and Constitutional Initiative 118 amends language in the state constitution specifying that the legal purchasing age of cannabis for adults will be 21. Montana’s measure calls for sales to begin in January 2022. Medical use has been legal in the state since 2004.

I-190, which passed by a margin of 57% to 43%, allows adults aged 21 and older to possess one ounce of cannabis, and grow up to four cannabis plants in their private residences. Licensing and regulation will be overseen by the Montana Department of Revenue, which will impose a 20-percent sales tax on cannabis products.

After covering administrative costs, all revenue generated by regulated cannabis will fund nature conservation programs, substance abuse treatment and prevention efforts, veterans services and health care.

The act also allows individuals serving sentences for cannabis-related offenses legalized by I-90 to have their sentences reduced or charges expunged. The Montana Department of Revenue will accept growing, processing and retail applications by January 1, 2022.

South Dakota

Voters in South Dakota had their say on separate ballot initiatives legalizing recreational and medical cannabis use, with the recreational measure passing by a 53% to 47% margin and the medical initiative passing 69% to 31%. South Dakota is the first state in the U.S. without an existing medical cannabis program to approve broader legalization — now, the state must implement a commercial cannabis system and a medical pot program.

South Dakota is the first state in the U.S. without an existing medical cannabis program to approve broader legalization.

The new law also means that adults 21 and over will have the freedom to possess up to an ounce of weed and grow three plants at home for personal use. Those who want cannabis for therapeutic purposes will need to get a doctor’s permission to participate. The state has until next October to put the medicinal side of things into place. The recreational end could take longer.

“South Dakotans sent an unequivocal message in support of allowing patients the ability to legally access it under the advice of their physician,” Altieri said. “When operational, this program will provide lab-tested medical cannabis products to thousands of South Dakotans who can benefit from them. These patients cannot wait, and voters were right to take action to make this access a reality.”


And in Mississippi, an activist-led initiative to allow medical cannabis use appeared to gain more than two-thirds support, and could prove a major step forward for initiatives to liberalize the plant in the Deep South.

The Mississippi measure faced a series of unique challenges ahead of the election, mainly the addition of a more restrictive alternative measure that the legislature placed on the ballot, which resulted in the voters facing a two-step question. In the end, they chose the most comprehensive plan, which opens a system for some 22 qualifying conditions.

The voters had the opportunity to pick two measures — one opening a system for some 22 qualifying conditions and another for the terminally ill — and in the end, they chose the most comprehensive plan.

The new law will give patients with conditions such as cancer, chronic pain, and PTSD the ability to use medical marijuana with permission from a doctor.

“Initiative 65 puts the needs and interests of patients first,” said NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano. “This was a grassroots effort to provide patients with access to a treatment option that patients already enjoy in 34 other states and in the District of Columbia.” The state must have the program regulations in place by the summer of 2021.

Looking Ahead

If the results from Tuesday night’s elections hold, recreational cannabis will now be legal in 15 states plus the District of Columbia, while medical use will be permitted in 35 states plus D.C.

Thirteen states (and Washington, D.C.) have now joined Colorado and Washington as voters in those states led the way in legalizing recreational pot in 2012 – If the results from Tuesday night’s elections hold. And more states legalizing cannabis is good for national cannabis legislation efforts, according to National Cannabis Industry Association media relations director Morgan Fox.

“While state representatives aren’t beholden to representing the interests of their constituents in terms of policies, I think that with every state where you pass one of these laws, there’s that much more potential representation in congress,” Fox said.

Tuesday’s election was a major victory not just for cannabis advocates, but for psychedelics and drug decrim proponents.

Oregon became the first state in the nation to decriminalize the possession of all illegal drugs and also legalize the use of psilocybin—the active ingredient in hallucinogenic mushrooms—for mental-health treatment, after voters passed a pair of ballot measures.

Voters in Washington D.C. also voted to decriminalize a wide range of psychedelic plants, including mushrooms, though this still has to go through a Congress consultation where it could potentially be blocked.

All State Cannabis and Drug Initiative Election Results from Marijuana Moment

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