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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

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Election wrap-up: Two more states legalize, MD and MO

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Voters in two states, 65.55% in Maryland and 53.11% in Missouri, passed ballot measures to legalize cannabis for adults – the 20th and 21st states to do so. Meanwhile, voters in various cities nationwide approved ballot measures to end marijuana-related arrests and prosecutions. Three states, Arkansas, North Dakota and South Dakota, rejected the ballot measures; even though at least 44% of voters in each state voted in favor of legalization.

“While this year’s midterm elections have not been a ‘clean sweep’ for reform advocates, our momentum continues unabated,” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said. “Are we in a stronger place today than we were yesterday? Of course. Two more states have expanded the liberties and civil liberties of more than 7 million Americans. Voters in cities across the country – including more than 400 000 Texans – took action to end the senseless and counterproductive policy of arresting and prosecuting people who possess and use cannabis.

“Poll after poll shows record public support for the legalization of adult marijuana use. This support is a testament to the fact that most Americans are now well aware of the failures of marijuana prohibition and of the harm it continues to cause, and that the growing number of states that have enacted legalization are doing so in a safe and effective way that is in line with the wishes and expectations of voters. In the coming weeks, we anticipate that the Congressional lawmakers will move forward with long-standing promises to advance federal reform legislation while, at the state level, we anticipate that numerous governments will once again take up a variety of bills that protect and expand the rights of those adults who consume cannabis responsibly.”

NORML’s blow by blow

Maryland and Missouri are the 20th and 21st states to adopt legalization for adults.

In Maryland, voters approved a referendum (Question 4) directing state legislators to establish rules and regulations governing the production and sale of cannabis to adults. By approving Question 4, voters also enabled the enactment of separate complementary legislation (HB 837) that defines marijuana possession limits and facilitates the automatic review and expungement of low-level cannabis convictions. Under the legislation, which was passed by lawmakers this spring, adults will be legally allowed to possess up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis and/or 12 grams of cannabis concentrates starting in July 2023. Civil penalties apply. ) Adults will also be allowed to grow up to two cannabis plants in their home for their own personal use. Possession of amounts between 1.5 ounces and 2.5 ounces will be subject to civil fines, while possession of larger amounts will remain subject to existing criminal penalties. Those with past records for marijuana-related crimes can also begin petitioning the courts for expungement early next year.

In Missouri, about 53 percent of voters decided in favor of a ballot initiative (Amendment 3) that would legalize the possession, cultivation and sale of licensed cannabis for ages 21 and older. Starting December 8, 2022, adults will be allowed to possess up to three ounces of cannabis and to grow at home up to six flowering plants, six immature plants and six plants under 14 inches for their own personal use. It also establishes a program to automatically review and expunge criminal records for eligible non-violent marijuana-related offenses. The measure seeks to expand participation in the licensed cannabis market to include small business owners and those representing disadvantaged populations, including those with limited capital, residents of high-poverty communities, service-disabled veterans, and those who have been previously convicted of nonviolent marijuana. offense Additionally, the initiative makes some improvements to the state’s existing medical marijuana access program.

Voters in three states: 56% in Arkansas, 54.95% in North Dakota, and 53% in South Dakota rejected measures to legalize marijuana. In two of these states, the proposals sought to regulate the sale of commercial cannabis, while South Dakota’s measure sought more strictly to end marijuana possession arrests.

Locals are decriminalizing in TX, OH and RI

In contrast, voters in the Texas cities of Denton, Elgin, Harker Heights, Killeen, and San Marcos all voted in support of municipal measures that would broadly prohibit local police officers from either arresting or citing people for Class A or Class B marijuana felonies. More than 400,000 Texans reside in these cities.

In May, voters in the city of Austin overwhelmingly approved a similar local ballot measure.

Texas leads the nation in marijuana-related arrests. Under state law, possession of two ounces or less of cannabis is a felony, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine. Those arrested are disproportionately African American.

In addition, voters in five Ohio cities—a total of about 30,000 people—passed as many ballot measures that reduce or eliminate local penalties for marijuana possession. Those cities are Corning, Kent, Laurelville, Rushville and Shawnee. A separate measure in Helena that was approved by voters has been legally challenged. To date, voters in some two dozen Ohio cities have enacted similar ordinances.

In Rhode Island, voters in 25 of 31 eligible cities have voted in favor of measures that allow the opportunity to have licensed marijuana sales establishments in their localities. In Michigan, voters in several counties have decided in favor of similar local measures to allow the retail sale of cannabis products for adults or doctors. In Connecticut, voters in two cities – Ledyard and Waterbury – have decided in favor of ballot measures to allow the sale of cannabis at retail.

For a full list of election results related to marijuana, see Central Election NORML.

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