Voters in Maryland and Missouri voted to legalize recreational marijuana in Tuesday’s midterm elections, bringing the total number of states that have legalized cannabis for use by adults to 21. Ballot measures to legalize marijuana failed to win a majority of votes in Arkansas, North Dakota and South Dakota, however, with voters in those states instead opting to maintain nearly a century of cannabis prohibition.
Maryland Approves Question 4
In Maryland, voters approved Question 4, a referendum that amends the state constitution to legalize marijuana and directs the state legislature to pass legislation to regulate commercial cannabis activity. With 82% of the votes counted on Wednesday afternoon, Question 4 was on its way to approval with nearly two-thirds (65.5%) of the vote, according to data from The New York Times. Troy Datcher, the CEO of California-based The Parent Company (TPCO), said that he is encouraged by the passage of Question 4 in Maryland, noting that the measure mandates expungement for eligible cannabis convictions and includes resentencing provisions for other offenses. He also noted the high level of support for legalization in the state. In July, TPCO, the home of Jay-Z’s luxury cannabis brand Monogram, announced that it would be entering Maryland’s medical marijuana market through a partnership with Curio Wellness.
“The fact that Question 4 garnered more support than any adult-use cannabis ballot measure in the country’s history speaks to the shared support that Americans of all political stripes have for moving past the unjust cannabis laws that have criminalized Americans for nearly a century,” Datcher said in an email to Cannabis Now. “Tuesday’s vote also reflects the massive potential of adult-use legalization to stimulate Maryland’s economy, creating tens of thousands of new jobs for its residents and generating considerable tax revenue for the state.”
Missouri Voters Say Yes To Legalization
In Missouri, Amendment 3 was projected to be approved by voters, tallying more than 53% of the votes on Wednesday afternoon with 89% of ballots counted. The successful amendment to the state’s constitution legalizes the possession, use, sale and delivery of marijuana for personal use and sets a 6% tax on commercial cannabis sales. Additionally, the amendment includes provisions for the expungement of certain marijuana-related convictions. Jeffrey M. Zucker, vice chair of the Marijuana Policy Project board of directors and president of the consulting company Green Lion Partners, praised the work of activists who campaigned to make legal recreational marijuana part of the state’s constitution.
“It is an exciting time for the people of Missouri as their state legalizes adult-use cannabis,” Zucker said in an emailed statement. “I am in awe of the hard work that cannabis activists have done in Missouri, and I look forward to seeing how both established medical marijuana dispensaries and new players in Missouri’s regulated cannabis industry grow and begin to thrive over the coming months.”
With the approval of the cannabis legalization measures, Maryland and Missouri have become the 20th and 21st states to legalize recreational marijuana for adults. Mason Tvert, communications adviser for the cannabis and psychedelics law firm Vicente Sederberg LLC, noted that in addition to ending the criminalization of cannabis, the successful ballot measures in Maryland and Missouri will spur economic development and create new jobs.
“With legal cannabis in these two states comes new economic opportunity. Expansion of the regulated cannabis market will result in new businesses, more jobs, and significant tax revenue,” Tvert wrote in an email. “There is still plenty of work to be done when it comes to implementing the new law and ironing out all the rules. Marijuana-related policy discussions will become the new norm in state and local governments, much like we see with alcohol. Ending prohibition is just the beginning.”
Three States Decline To Legalize Weed
Despite the strong showing for cannabis policy reform in Maryland and Missouri, voters in Arkansas, North Dakota and South Dakota rejected ballot measures to legalize recreational marijuana. Arkansas voters said no to Issue 4, with more than 56% of the electorate voting against the measure. In South Dakota, cannabis legalization initiative Measure 27 only garnered 47% of votes, with 53% voting against it. And in North Dakota, where voters approved a 2020 ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana that was invalidated by the state Supreme Court, voters declined to repeat their previous approval of reform. Measure 2, which would have legalized the possession and use of cannabis for adults, received the approval of 45% of voters, with nearly 55% voting against the measure.
Other Races Bode Well For Continued Reform
Although marijuana legalization measures were only on the ballot in five states on Tuesday, other races in this week’s midterm elections are likely to foster progress on cannabis policy reform efforts. In Minnesota, control of the state Senate was won by Democrats, giving the party control of both houses of the legislature and the governor’s office. With the new majority in the Senate, lawmakers are likely to advance legislation to legalize adult-use cannabis, according to a report from Marijuana Moment.
“We are excited about the prospects for full legalization, but Minnesotans who want to see legalization will still have work to do,” said Maren Schroeder, coalition director for the MNisReady Coalition. “We’re optimistic that we’ll get it across the finish line in 2023.”
In Pennsylvania, voters elevated Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, an outspoken advocate of cannabis policy reform, to the US Senate, where he will be a new voice for progress on the issue at the federal level. Voters also selected fellow Democrat Josh Shapiro as governor over Republican Douglas Mastriano, who characterized recreational marijuana legalization as a “stupid idea,” according to a report from Marijuana Moment. Tracey Kauffman, founder and chairperson of cannabis consulting firm Cannaspire, says that the results in her home state of Pennsylvania indicate a willingness among voters to support candidates who are in favor of cannabis policy reform.
“Yesterday was a huge victory for cannabis in Pennsylvania. Both John Fetterman and Josh Shapiro support legalizing adult-use cannabis and expungement, so hopefully we will see swift changes in our state,” Kauffman wrote in an email. “I would like to see a cannabis task force organized so we can analyze key learnings from how our neighbors in New York and New Jersey have approached legalization and translate them into what will be successful in Pennsylvania.”
The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) lauded the approval of cannabis legalization measures in Tuesday’s election, noting in a statement on Wednesday that in addition to the successes in Maryland and Missouri, marijuana decriminalization measures were passed by voters in several cities located in states that maintain prohibitions on adult-use cannabis, including Texas and Ohio.
“While this year’s mid-term elections may not have been a ‘clean sweep’ for reform advocates, our momentum continues unabated,” NORML deputy director Paul Armentano said in a statement from the advocacy group. “Are we in a stronger place today than we were yesterday? Of course we are. Two more states, Maryland and Missouri, have wisely elected to legalize and regulate cannabis — policies that will expand the freedoms and civil liberties of over 7 million Americans. In addition, voters in cities across this country — including over 400,000 Texans — acted to end the senseless and counterproductive policy of arresting and prosecuting those who possess and use cannabis.”