Cannabis is back on the ballot this fall, as voters in five U.S. states decide on cannabis legalization in the Nov. 8 midterm elections. 
Should Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota and South Dakota join 19 other states in legalization, Americans in more than half of U.S. states will have access to adult-use cannabis. 
Organizers in two other states came close to qualifying initiatives for the ballot while organizers in Nebraska failed to collect an adequate amount of signatures to qualify. A group of organizers in Oklahoma collected enough signatures, but after a legal challenge, the state Supreme Court ruled there wasn’t adequate time to put the language on the ballot, Reuters reported.
The election season comes as the popularity of cannabis legalization increases across the U.S. Some 91 percent of Americans approve of some form of legalization, according to Pew Research. Even President Joe Biden, known for his hard stance on drug policies, has finally come around, pardoning federal convictions for cannabis possession and ordering a review of federal policy. Some speculated that the move was politically calculated ahead of a tough midterm election for Democrats.
Unlike 2020, when cannabis swept the ballot boxes, these initiatives may face a tougher sell in some states. Although cannabis is an increasingly bipartisan issue, it’s still a more popular issue among Democrats. Some 72 percent of Democrats or Democrat-leaning adults approve of medical and adult use legalization, according to Pew, whereas only about 40 percent of their Republican and Republican-leaning counterparts feel the same.
Aside from Maryland, where polling from MJBizDaily shows the Maryland initiative pulling ahead with 73 percent in support, the other four states considering cannabis legalization in the midterms voted Republican in the 2020 election, according to 270 to Win. The polling, conducted in mid-October, shows just 50.5 percent of Arkansas voters polled in support of the initiative. Initiatives in Missouri and South Dakota, on the other hand, don’t seem to have the support needed.
The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled in late September that votes for adult use legalization will count, after a challenge from the State Board of Election Commissioners. 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, but the commissioners had denied certification of the measure in early August, arguing it didn’t fully explain the amendment’s impact.
Responsible Growth Arkansas, the group responsible for gathering signatures, appealed the decision, and the state Supreme Court overturned the block. 
“The people will decide whether to approve the proposed amendment in November,” Justice Robin Wynne wrote, according to the Associated Press.
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 of 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 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.”
North Dakotans will be able to vote on adult-use cannabis legalization Tuesday, following a successful campaign by New Approach North Dakota. Medical marijuana has been legal in the state since 2016.
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.
South Dakota is the only state where voters will choose whether to legalize cannabis possession and home grow, but will not vote on a regulated market for cannabis sales. Regardless, organizers celebrated after the South Dakota secretary of state certified in May that they’d submitted enough petition signatures to qualify the adult-use cannabis initiative.
“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.