Voters in seven states across the U.S. might decide on cannabis legalization during November’s midterm elections. Voters in Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Oklahoma could vote on adult-use cannabis, whereas voters in Nebraska look to consider medical cannabis legalization.
Should voters approve cannabis in those states, it would represent a red wave of cannabis legalization. With the exception of Maryland, the six other states voted Republican in the 2020 election, according to 270 to Win. According to Pew Research Center, cannabis legalization is an increasingly popular and bipartisan issue. Some 91 percent of adults say cannabis should be legal for medical only or for medical and recreational use. Although the issue is still more popular among Democrats and Democratic-leaning adults, with 95 percent agreeing cannabis should be legal in some form, it is gaining traction among more conservative adults as well. Some 87 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning adults agree cannabis should be legalized in some form.
In spite of the popularity of cannabis legalization on the state level, support in Congress is still mostly divided along party lines.
Arkansas voters will be able to vote on adult-use legalization during the November election, but following a challenge from the State Board of Election Commissioners, those votes may not count.
In late July, officials from the Arkansas Secretary of State announced organizers had submitted more than 192,000 signatures, far exceeding the 89,151 valid signatures required in order to secure a place on the ballot for adult-use. Medical marijuana has been legal in the Natural State since 2016.
The State Board of Election Commissioners denied certification of the measure in early August, arguing it didn’t fully explain the amendment’s impact. Specific critiques included concerns about THC limits.
Responsible Growth Arkansas, the group responsible for gathering signatures, appealed the decision, and the state Supreme Court permitted the initiative to remain on the ballot, conditionally, while it considers the challenge.
The Maryland Secretary of State certified a constitutional amendment for the November election, following approval by the state legislature of a bill that would establish possession limits and enable review and expungement of criminal records, according to NORML. The measure will ask voters if they “favor legalization of the use of cannabis by an individual who is at least 21 years olf age on or after July 1, 2023, in the State of Maryland.”
If voters approve the amendment, lawmakers will move ahead with more specific regulation.
The Missouri Secretary of State certified a constitutional amendment for the November ballot that would legalize marijuana use and expunge cannabis-related criminal records. Organizers submitted close to 215,000 valid signatures for approval.
If passed, the amendment would allow adults 21 and older to purchase, possess, consume, deliver, manufacture, and sell cannabis for personal use. It would permit limited personal cultivation with a registration card, establish a lottery system for licenses, and establish a 6 percent tax on cannabis. Certain individuals with non-violent cannabis-related offenses will also be allowed to petition for release from incarceration or parole and to have their records expunged.
“I encourage Missourians to study and educate themselves on any ballot initiative,” Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft said in a statement. “Initiative 2022-059 that voters will see on the November ballot is particularly lengthy and should be given careful consideration.”
Medical marijuana has been legal in North Dakota since 2016, but this fall, North Dakotans will be able to vote on adult-use cannabis legalization, following a successful campaign by New Approach North Dakota. On Monday, North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger announced that the 23,368 valid signatures gathered by organizers cleared a hurdle needed to place the referendum on the November ballot. The initiative will be the only voter-led referendum to appear on the ballot in Missouri.
If approved, the referendum, titled “Initiated Statutory Measure No. 1,” will allow adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of cannabis, cultivate up to three plants on their property, and will regulate cannabis testing and sales. Public consumption will remain prohibited.
“Adults will no longer be punished for using cannabis — but only if they do so safely and responsibly. As voters have a chance to review the measure in detail, I’m confident a majority will agree this is the right approach for North Dakota,” Republican State Representative Matthew Ruby said in a statement.
The South Dakota secretary of state certified in May that organizers in the Mount Rushmore State submitted an adequate number of petition signatures to qualify an adult-use cannabis initiative for the November ballot.
“We did it! We qualified our legalization initiative for the ballot! Thank you,” wrote South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, the group backing the measure, on Facebook in May.
South Dakota made history in 2020 after voters approved measures legalizing adult use and medical cannabis at the same time. But the state Supreme Court struck down the adult-use amendment, stating that it violated a rule permitting ballot measures to consider one issue at a time. The decision was a win for Gov. Kristi Noem, who opposes cannabis legalization.
Oklahoma organizers submitted 164,000 petition signatures to state officials, backing an initiative that would legalize adult-use cannabis for adults 21 years old and older.
Following the submission by Oklahomans for Sensible Marijuana Laws, the state Attorney General revised the language of the initiative to include a fiscal impact statement and other items, according to Marijuana Moment. Authorities are still reviewing the signatures, but organizers expect the measure to make it to the November ballot.
Oklahomans voted to legalize adult-use cannabis in 2018. The market has since boomed, and regulators have struggled to enforce regulations and curb illicit activities. Beginning Aug. 26, a two-year moratorium on new licenses for growers, processors, and dispensaries will kick off to give the state time to catch up on compliance, according to MJBizDaily.
Nebraska activists submitted more than 90,000 petition signatures in late June to support an initiative that would put medical marijuana legalization on the November ballot. State election officials are still determining whether volunteers gathered enough valid signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot.
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts staunchly opposes cannabis legalization. In a memo from Feb. 2021, he wrote that legalization at the state level has caused “devastating effects on kids, tragic accidents, decreased participation in the workforce, and horrible mental health outcomes.”