This November could be crucial to furthering cannabis legalization across the county and promotes an overall trend in sensible drug policy reform.

This November, significant efforts to legalize marijuana throughout the US are expected as multiple citizen-led initiatives are set to appear on several states’ ballots. Nineteen states currently have full medical and recreational legalization for marijuana, and yet there are 11 states that still maintain bans on cannabis, creating an incomplete and patchy framework for its use across the country. With that, activists are determined to ensure cannabis plays a significant role in November’s election through the following:

ARKANSAS

Over the summer, local organization Responsible Growth Arkansas filed a request for a constitutional amendment fully legalizing cannabis for adults 21 years and older to the Arkansas Secretary of State. The state established the Arkansas’ framework for legal medicinal cannabis usage in 2017. Now, the new Arkansas Adult Use Cannabis Amendment, also known as Amendment 98, has mustered support in the form of more than 190,000 signatures to potentially expand statewide access to adult use cannabis.1

As of writing, the likelihood of success for the ballot is very much up in the air. On August 25, Safe and Secure Communities filed a motion with the Arkansas Supreme Court against the amendment, claiming it was “misleading, fraudulent, and illegal” under state law due to the existing medical THC requirements.2 That said, according to a recent poll, 59% of its citizens want the ballot to pass while the remaining 41% would prefer cannabis to be recreationally restricted.3

MARYLAND

Maryland attempted legalization of adult use cannabis last year, but even after its failure through the state legislature, voters are much more optimistic about a November ballot referendum. The state’s House and Senate approved a constitutional amendment for the ballot asking for the favor of legalization of cannabis with House Bill 837.4 The ballot referendum would add an amendment to the state constitution and advance a law allowing Maryland adults over the age of 21 to use and possess cannabis.5

Unlike Arkansas’ ballot initiative, this referendum will give voters an opportunity to approve or reject the legislation, which was already passed by state lawmakers. The likelihood of the success still varies, but in a recent poll, Maryland voters appeared to be nearly split down the middle on accepting full cannabis legalization.6

MISSOURI

Missouri voters will have a chance to vote on adult use cannabis sales with Amendment 3, however, lawmakers are eyeing their own method of legalization. Amendment 3 would give current medical marijuana licensees the first chance in applying for recreational cannabis licenses and place a cap on the number of marijuana businesses that can operate in the state. Legislatures, however, argue that the ballot measure is not properly written and “may negatively impact minorities, people of color, and low-income earning Missourians.”7

Instead of Amendment 3, several bipartisan lawmakers have urged Missouri Governor Mike Parson (R) to hold a special legislative session on marijuana legalization sometime this month. The likelihood of Amendment 3’s success is anything but clear for Missouri as the proposal qualified to appear on the ballot but, later in August opponents filed a lawsuit to block the initiative.8 Along those lines, this week, Missouri Democrats publicly advised that they were refusing to endorse or take a position on Amendment 3.9

OHIO

In Ohio, activists are working on decriminalizing cannabis in smaller, local jurisdictions Corning, Helena, Hemlock, Kent, Laurelville, Rushville and Shawnee. Although Ohio established a medical cannabis program in the state in 2016, recreational sales are still not permitted. Of the effort, the Sensible Movement Coalition activist group confirmed: “NORML Appalachia of Ohio have secured enough petitions to put the issue before the voters in seven cities.”10 If approved, this would build upon the seven local jurisdictions that voted last November to decriminalize cannabis possession – Martins Ferry, Murray City, New Lexington, New Straitsville, Rayland, Tiltonsville, and Yorkville.

OKLAHOMA

Advocates in Oklahoma have also gathered enough signatures to bring recreational cannabis legalization to the ballot in November with State Question 820 (SQ 820), however the state missed the deadline to verify the signatures. The state introduced a petition process which allowed groups to obtain enough signatures to help get on ballots, which received pushback from Republican lawmakers who made the process to verify voter signatures harder. In a petition to the Oklahoma Supreme Court SQ 820 proponents wrote:

“Since filing their initiative more than six months ago, proponents have done everything in their power to expedite the unwieldy Oklahoma initiative petition process so the People of Oklahoma can exercise their right to vote on the measure at the next general election. Yet they have been stymied by state officials (or their hand-picked vendors) who are either unable or unwilling to perform their administrative duties in a timely and efficient manner”11

Despite the legitimacy of the ballot effort, its success is subject to judicial review as four separate legal challenges have been filed with the Supreme Court over SQ 820.12

NORTH & SOUTH DAKOTA

New Approach North Dakota revealed that in July, the organization obtained over 10,000 the required signatures to for retail cannabis sales to make the ballot in North Dakota this fall. Since North Dakota has the highest marijuana asset rates in the nation, legalization may be a step to help bring quality reform while adding to the booming industry.13 Despite its potential, proponents have recently sounded the alarm on a potentially misleading fiscal summary that is set to be included with the ballot, arguing that the data is “incomplete” and “misleading” for voters.14

In South Dakota current governor Kristi Noem (R) is actively trying to keep cannabis out of the state, and has blocked efforts to establish a state framework for medicinal cannabis regardless of the state’s 2020 election results. House Minority Leader Jamie Smith (D) is instead working to ensure that November’s ballot addresses the legalization of marijuana.15 The newly proposed Initiated Measure 27, would bring recreational cannabis to the state, but currently seems to be lacking in public support.16


Other states such as West Virginia and Texas have also tried to get a marijuana policy on the ballots, but have yet to gain statewide traction.17 Nebraska initially failed to gather support signatures for their November ballot initiative for medical cannabis access, although a recount is currently being considered by the Nebraska Secretary of State.18 Wisconsin, Louisiana, and Indiana have each proposed adult-use bills, but were more or less dead on arrival upon introduction.19

With so many advocates in various states pushing for the expansion of marijuana laws, this November could be key to furthering sensible drug policy in general. Not only has the summer been crucial for cannabis activists, but for psychoactive mushrooms as well. At the start of the month, psilocybin mushrooms were decriminalized in San Francisco,20 and Colorado voters are eyeing psilocybin mushrooms’ full legalization November.

If you have any questions regarding the legal status of cannabis in your state, contact us.

 

  1. Jaeger, Kyle. “Arkansas Marijuana Campaign Submits Double the Signatures Needed to Qualify Legalization Ballot Initiative.”
  2. Staff, MJBizDaily, et al. “Arkansas Governor Plans to Vote against Recreational Marijuana Legalization.”
  3. Jaeger, Kyle. “ Arkansas Poll Shows Growing Majority Support for Marijuana Legalization Ballot Initiative As Top Republicans Urge ‘No’ Vote.”
  4. Schiller, Melissa. “Maryland Elections Officials Finalize Adult-Use Cannabis Legalization Measure for November Ballot.”
  5. Grablick, Colleen. “Legalizing Marijuana Is On Maryland’s Ballot This Fall. Here’s What You Need To Know.”
  6. Jaeger, Kyle. “Majority Of Maryland Voters Back Marijuana Legalization Referendum And Expungements, Poll Finds.”
  7. Suntrup, Jack. “Missouri Democrats decline to endorse marijuana ballot measure.”
  8. Herrington, A.J. “Missouri Lawmakers Want Weed Legalization Added to Upcoming Special Session.”
  9. Suntrup, Jack. “Missouri Democrats decline to endorse marijuana ballot measure.”
  10. Jaeger, Kyle. “Ohio Voters in Seven More Cities Will Decide on Marijuana Decriminalization at the Ballot This November.”
  11. Admin. “Oklahoma Supreme Court to Consider Marijuana Legalization Question.”
  12. Jaeger, Kyle. “Oklahoma Marijuana Legalization Initiative Faces Two More Legal Challenges In State Supreme Court As Complaint Deadline Closes.”
  13. NORML. “North Dakota: Marijuana Legalization Measure Approved for the Ballot.”
  14. Herrington, A.J. “Activists Accuse North Dakota of Misleading Voters About Cannabis Legalization Initiative”
  15. Jaeger, Kyle. “South Dakota Governor’s Push to Block Voter-Approved Marijuana Legalization Slammed in Campaign Ad.”
  16. Pfankuch, Bart. “Statewide poll shows referendum on recreational marijuana legalization in South Dakota could fail.”
  17. Jaeger, Kyle. “Ohio Voters in Seven More Cities Will Decide on Marijuana Decriminalization at the Ballot This November.”
  18. Staff, MJBizDaily, et al. “Nebraska Recount Raises Hopes Medical Marijuana Legalization May Make Ballot.”
  19. Zhang, Mona and Paul Demko.“Where Cannabis Legalization Efforts Stand across the Country.”
  20. Jaeger, Kyle. “San Francisco Lawmakers Unanimously Approve Psychedelics Decriminalization Resolution.”

 

 

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