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If you live in Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, or in either of the Dakotas - you could play a key role in the future of cannabis in the midterm elections this November. 

Recreational marijuana legalization initiatives are on the ballot in all five states. Currently, adult-use cannabis is legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia. If these five Election Day measures are approved, about half of all Americans will live in states with legal adult-use cannabis. 

Here’s a look at how voters in these five states can usher in a new era of legal cannabis. 

Arkansas

Medical marijuana has been legal in Arkansas since 2016 when voters in the Natural State approved Amendment 98. 

In November, Arkansas voters will have the chance to approve (or reject) Issue 4. The constitutional amendment would create a legal, regulated adult-use cannabis market in the state. It would also enact several updates to the state’s medical marijuana system, which was legalized in a 2016 ballot initiative. 

Under Amendment 4:

  • Purchase and possession of up to one ounce of cannabis will be legal under state law
  • Medical marijuana patients will be able to purchase recreational cannabis without it counting towards their medical cannabis purchase limit
  • The state’s 40 medical cannabis dispensaries will automatically receive licenses to begin selling recreational marijuana beginning March 8th, 2023
  • Dispensaries will be allowed to sell pipes, bongs, and other paraphernalia that was previously not allowed under state law. 
  • Cultivation facility and dispensary owners will no longer be required to be state residents 

The amendment also states that all retail cannabis sales will be subject to a 10% supplemental sales tax in addition to the 6.5% state sales tax. Also, 15% of all supplemental sales tax on adult-use sales shall go to a stipend for full-time law enforcement officers. The state’s Department of Finance and Administration will establish rules regarding the eligibility of recipients and the annual distribution of funds.

As Marijuana Moment reported this week, a new survey found a slim majority in favor of the initiative. Support began to decline as conservative lawmakers pushed back on the initiative recently. According to the survey, 51 percent of respondents support the initiative, as opposed to 59 percent in a survey held by the same firm in September. 

Missouri

Voters in the Show Me State seem poised to approve the next major legal marijuana market. 

If approved, Amendment 3 will:

  • Legalize the purchase and possession of up to three ounces of cannabis flower or an equivalent of other cannabis products
  • Legalize the consumption, delivery, manufacture, and sale of adult-use cannabis to people over 21 and older
  • Allow for people with certain non-violent marijuana-related offenses to petition for release from incarceration or parole or probation. It also allows them to petition to have their records expunged.
  • Direct courts to expunge misdemeanor marijuana offenses within six months 
  • Allow the cultivation of up to six mature cannabis plants after obtaining a non-commercial cultivation license. 
    Establish a six percent retail tax on cannabis sales, in addition to state and local sales taxes
  • Allow nurse practitioners to recommend medical marijuana.

In September, a survey showed a plurality of very likely Missouri voters (48 percent) support the Amendment while 35 percent are opposed. 

The amendment made its way onto the ballot in August after legalization supporters submitted more than double the necessary signatures. 

But it’s not without its detractors - including among legalization supporters. They argue that people who are incarcerated for cannabis offenses should not be required to petition the court to vacate their sentences.

Take issue with the fact that the state’s already established medical cannabis license holders will receive 80% of the adult-use license. Critics say this will unfairly advantage existing industry players and effectively freeze out the would-be competition. 

Maryland

Residents of Maryland are set to join neighboring Washington D.C. and usher in a legal adult-use marijuana market on Election Day. 

State Wise referendum question no. 4 would amend the state constitution to legalize adult-use marijuana. 

Under Question No. 4:

  • People over 21 in Maryland will be able to use and possess up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis
  • Possession of 1.5 to 2.5 ounces of marijuana will be a civil citation 
  • The General Assembly of the state shall “provide for the use, distribution, possession, regulation, and taxation of cannabis within the state.”

According to MJBizDaily, the legalization measure is expected to pass, and retail sales are expected to start in 2024 or 2025. The post stated that annual revenue will likely total “hundreds of millions of dollars soon after the market’s launch.”

The post also references a poll carried out in September that found that 73% of registered voters support legalizing the use of cannabis for adults over 21. 

North Dakota

Four years ago, a marijuana legalization initiative was trounced in the 2018 election. On the November ballot next month, North Dakota voters got another shot at making cannabis reform a reality. 

According to New Approach North Dakota, Under Measure 2:

  • Adults over 21 will be able to legally possess up to one ounce of cannabis, up to four grams of cannabis concentrate, and up to 500 milligrams of cannabis in an infused product
  • Adults over 21 will be allowed to cultivate up to three cannabis plants in a secure, enclosed location on their property 
  • Cannabis will be regulated, and the state will set up a comprehensive system to regulate adult-use and medical marijuana dispensaries, manufacturing, and testing laboratories

The measure allows the registration of no more than 18 recreational cannabis dispensaries in the state. No licensees will be allowed to have an ownership interest in more than four recreational marijuana dispensaries or one manufacturing facility. 

South Dakota 

In November 2020, South Dakota appeared to be next to join the ranks of legal cannabis states. 

On Election Day, voters approved South Dakota Constitutional Amendment A, which would have legalized adult-use cannabis in the state. 

Governor Kristi Noem - an opponent of the amendment - launched a legal fight to overturn the vote. In February 2021, a circuit court judge rejected the amendment. The judge stated that it violated the state's requirement that amendments deal with just one subject. The state's Supreme Court later upheld the ruling. 

South Dakota voters will get another chance to approve cannabis legalization on Election Day in November.

If approved, Measure 27 would:

  • Legalize the possession of up to an ounce of cannabis flower and eight grams of concentrate for adults 21 or older
  • Allow adults 21 or older to cultivate up to three cannabis plants in jurisdictions with no dispensaries

The measure will not establish a regulated legal recreational cannabis market in the state and public consumption will remain illegal.  

For legalization, the writing is on the wall

If these five initiatives are approved, Nebraska, Idaho, and Kansas will be the only remaining states that have yet to legalize medical marijuana and have no recreational cannabis program. 

In a Benzinga post last month, Morgan Fox, the Political Director at the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), said the writing's on the wall for politicians unsure about marijuana reform or legalization. 

“Some Democrats are definitely nervous about how it [legalization] could affect them, mainly if their election opponent focuses on it as a wedge issue. But just looking at how the electorate looks and how the polling has gone in recent years, being afraid of those attacks is a political misstep when it comes to cannabis.”

Americans have shown growing support for cannabis legalization and reform in several recent polls. In a 2021 Pew Research Center survey, 60% of U.S. adults said that cannabis should be legal for medical or recreational use. Just 31% said that they support only medical marijuana legalization, and only 8% said they oppose all legalization. According to nationwide survey data published in mid-October, two-thirds of voters say that “nobody should be in jail for [the] possession of marijuana.”

But even if your state is not voting on cannabis legalization, you can still follow the advice of Abbey Roudebush, the Director of Government Affairs for Americans for Safe Access and vote for candidates who are more likely to support legalization.

According to Roudebush, “I think the big thing that’s sort of discounted when people are talking about the midterms is not only are there ballot boxes, but who people vote for as their federal representatives is just as important."

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Ben Hartman, Content Manager
Rootwurks

Ben Hartman is a cannabis writing and marketing professional with over 15 years of experience in journalism and digital content creation. Ben was formerly the senior writer and research and analysis lead for The Cannigma.

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