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Five states eye cannabis legalization in November

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Voters in five states – Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota and South Dakota – will make their voices heard regarding the legalization of cannabis for adults in November. In South Dakota, the vote looks like a “do-over” after the state Supreme Court overturned the electoral victory two years ago.

All five states set a legal age of consent of 21 or older. Missouri and the two Dakotas allow you to grow a few plants at home. Arkansas continued to ban home growing and Maryland left the details to state legislators. According to recent polls, most of these measures enjoy majority support from the public.

As America heads to the 2022 vote, 19 states — home to about 44 percent of the U.S. population — have already legalized and regulated adult marijuana markets. If voters approve five of the new ballot measures, about half of the nation’s residents will live in a jurisdiction where the possession and use of cannabis is legal for adults.

Success story with voters

Activists Chris Conrad and Mikki Noris with their ‘Yes on Prop 215’ sign for medical use, 1996.

In 2020, voters in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota approved similar measures legalizing adult use. Prohibitionists tried to overturn three of these through lawsuits, but the SD results were overturned by the state Supreme Court. Mississippi’s successful medical marijuana law was also overturned by the state court, but the legislature passed the measure as a law instead.

In 2016, voters in California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada approved similar initiatives and Arizona came within one percentage point of victory. Colorado and Washington legalized adult use in 2012 and Oregon and Alaska did so in 2014.

This is based on a series of electoral victories for medical marijuana that dates back to 1996, when California first legalized medical use and cultivation for any health condition, with the approval of a doctor.

Run-down: What’s at stake this time

A victory for Arkansas State Issue 4, adding a constitutional amendment allowing the sale of cannabis to adults 21 and older – and the new state-licensed dispensary market could generate more than $2 billion in sales in the next five years, as Cannabis Business News Digital Editor Eric Sandy said.

Maryland state legislators looked at legalization, but then they pointed and gave the question to voters, 73% of whom support the legalization of adult use, according to recent polls. Referendum Question 4 would legalize the possession and purchase of cannabis for adults aged 21 and over, and lawmakers would be tasked with determining additional specific market parameters – including licensing and taxes.

Missouri voters will decide on Constitutional Amendment 3, whether to allow adults 21 and older to own, consume, buy and grow cannabis in the state. The measure also provides for automatic disqualification, adds equity support and makes some improvements to the state’s existing medical marijuana access program.

North Dakota voters get their second chance at legalization through Statutory Measure No. 2. The ballot initiative would launch a regulated and licensed industry for adult use and allow people 21 years and older to buy, possess and consume cannabis. In a rare cannabis loss at the ballot box, a previous reform effort suffered a 20-point defeat in 2018, so this is a comeback opportunity for the state.

South Dakota voters still have a procedure just two years after approving an adult-use measure in the 2020 election that was later overturned by the state Supreme Court on a technicality. Despite a recent poll suggesting support has waned over the past two years, supporters remain optimistic and suggest voter turnout is the key to success.

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