Voters will help shape state cannabis policy this fall
Five US states will decide whether or not to legalize adult use in November's midterm elections, as did 19 other states and the District of Columbia. Here is a summary of the situation before the November 8 vote:
Public support for drug legalization has grown in recent years, and President Joe Biden announced Thursday that he was pardoning thousands of people who had been convicted of marijuana possession. Shares of producers and sellers in the United States jumped on Thursday after President Joe Biden took executive action to change US drug policy, pardoning all previous federal offenses of simple possession of marijuana.
Voters in Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota and South Dakota will vote to allow adults to use recreational marijuana.
The South Dakota initiative is something of a restart. Residents approved an earlier marijuana referendum in 2020, but Gov. Kristi Noem, a Republican, challenged the result in court. The state Supreme Court struck down the amendment last year, finding it violated the constitution on technical grounds. This year's initiative was more closely tailored to avoid a similar outcome.
A group in Oklahoma also collected enough signatures for a referendum. After lengthy legal challenges, the state Supreme Court ruled that there was not enough time to put the question on the November ballot. The initiative will likely go to voters in 2024.
Referendums for 2023 or 2024 are also underway in Florida, Nebraska, Wyoming and Ohio.
In addition to statewide referenda, voters in select cities across the country will decide whether to decriminalize marijuana possession laws and allow licensed cannabis retailers in their area.
Residents of New Jersey, Arizona and Montana have voted to legalize marijuana in 2020. A total of 19 states and the District of Columbia allow recreational use of marijuana, and 37 states regulate cannabis at medical purposes.
Polls show that a majority of Americans support legalization. According to a Morning Consult/Politico survey published this week, 60% of respondents think the drug should be legal, compared to 27% who disagree.
Democrats are more inclined to support legalization. According to the poll, 71% of Democrats support it and 16% oppose it, compared to 47% for and 41% against among Republicans.
Efforts to pass federal legislation have stalled in the Senate, largely due to Republican opposition.