Maryland and Missouri Vote to Legalize Recreational Cannabis
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Two US states have just voted to legalize recreational, adult-use cannabis.
As part of the US midterm elections, Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota all had recreational cannabis proposals on their ballots.
Voters in two of the states, Maryland and Missouri, have approved their legalization measures. Voters in Arkansas, North Dakota, and South Dakota, however, have rejected their respective ballot proposals.
Once the Maryland and Missouri policies are implemented, which could take months or years, the US will include 21 states (and the District of Columbia) that permit the use of recreational cannabis.
Two wins and three losses for cannabis
In Arkansas, voters rejected the marijuana measure, Issue 4, which would have allowed adults aged 21 or older to possess up to an ounce (28 grams) of cannabis. A 10% cannabis sales tax would have helped fund state law enforcement and operations at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
At time of writing, state votes are still being counted, but the Arkansas legalization proposal appears to have lost by 56% to 44%, according to the New York Times.
In Maryland, voters approved Question 4, which will now allow aged 21 or older to posses up to 1.5 ounces (43 grams) or two cannabis plants from July 1, 2023. The measure also allows those with criminal records of cannabis possession to seek expungements. A “business assistance fund” will be established, too, to help fund small cannabis businesses.
At time of writing, state votes are still being counted, but the Maryland legalization proposal appears to have won by 66% to 34%.
In Missouri, voters also passed Amendments 3, which will now allow adults aged 21 and over in the state to purchase and possess up to three ounces (85 grams) of cannabis and grow up to six plants at home. A 6% cannabis sales tax will help fund veterans’ health care and substance misuse treatment. Automatic expungements will also be processed for people with certain non-violent marijuana offenses on their criminal records.
At time of writing, state votes are still being counted, but the Missouri legalization proposal appears to have won by 53% to 47%.
“It just shows that this is not a partisan issue,” John Payne, who led the Missouri campaign to legalize recreational cannabis, told the Associated Press. “This is something that transcends partisan divides.”
In North Dakota, voters rejected a ballot measure that would have allowed adults aged 21 and over to buy and possess up to an ounce (28 grams) of cannabis and 0.14 ounces (4 grams) of concentrates. If the ballot had been approved, the state’s legal market was set to open on October 1, 2023. There were no provisions for criminal expungements.
At time of writing, state votes are still being counted, but the North Dakota legalization proposal appears to have lost by 55% to 45%.
In South Dakota, voters also rejected their ballot measure that would have legalized adult-use cannabis. The measure would have permitted adults aged 21 and older to buy and posses up to an ounce of cannabis (28 grams) and to grow up to three plants for personal use. The proposal didn’t include any provisions on cannabis sales taxes or criminal expungement.
The result marks a turnaround for South Dakota. Back in 2020, voters in the state actually approved an adult-use legalization measure during the presidential election. But the measure was ultimately overturned by state courts. Now, two years later, given the same question again, some voters appeared to have changed their minds.
At time of writing, state votes are still being counted, but the South Dakota legalization proposal appears to have lost by 53% to 47%.
Reactions to the news
While most of the ballot measures were rejected by state voters, many legalization advocates are still celebrating the two victories in Maryland and Missouri.
“A growing number of voters recognize that cannabis policy reform is in the best interest of public health and safety, criminal justice reform, social equity, and personal freedom,” Toi Hutchinson, president and CEO of the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement.
“State-level legalization victories are what’s necessary to move the needle forward at the federal level. That is how we build cannabis champions in Congress who are committed to taking meaningful action to put an end to prohibition once and for all.”