Cannabis policy reform won big on election night. Adult use and medical measures passed in all five states with ballot initiatives considering legal cannabis.
Adult use initiatives passed in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota. In a leapfrog move, South Dakota voters simultaneously approved medical cannabis. Mississippi voters chose the more comprehensive of two medical marijuana options presented on the ballot.
“During the most divisive election in modern U.S. history, Americans demonstrated unity around at least one issue — cannabis policy reform,” said Aaron Smith, co-founder and chief executive officer of the National Cannabis Industry Association. “These state-level victories will mean tens of thousands of fewer arrests and new jobs, much-needed tax revenue, and increased public safety. We look forward to building on this progress as we continue to work with Congress to end the conflict between outdated federal laws and the growing number of states with regulated cannabis markets, and help undo the racially and economically disparate harms caused by prohibition. There is still a lot of work to do, but the wind is at our backs.”
New Jersey’s Question 1 passed with massive support, garnering 67% of the vote. It makes cannabis legal for adults age 21 and older, and will implement a regulatory structure, as well as set limits for possession and home cultivation.
Voters in South Dakota approved a medical cannabis initiative by 69.2% and a separate adult-use initiative by 53.4%. Measure 26 will allow medical marijuana patients to possess up to three ounces of cannabis, as well as grow their own cannabis at home. Amendment A will legalize possession of up to an ounce for adults age 21 and older and permit them to grow up to three plants if they live in a jurisdiction with no licensed cannabis retailers. South Dakota is the first state to approve an adult use initiative or bill without a pre-existing medical cannabis system.
In Arizona, an adult-use initiative passed with 59.7% support after voters narrowly defeated an earlier legalization measure in 2016. Proposition 207 will make possession of up to an ounce of cannabis flower and up to five grams of cannabis concentrate legal for adults aged 21 and older, and allows adults to grow up to six plants at home in an enclosed, locked area out of public view. Retail licenses will be limited to no more than one per every 10 pharmacies in the state.
An adult-use measure was approved in Montana by 56.9% of voters, along with a companion initiative that allows the legal age for cannabis to be set at 21 and older. Initiative 190 allows adults to possess up to an ounce of cannabis flower and up to eight grams of concentrate, and permits home cultivation of four plants per person or eight per household. Initiative 190 also allows people convicted of behavior made legal by the law to apply for resentencing or expungement.
Mississippi voters overwhelmingly approved an advocate-backed medical cannabis initiative, and supported it over a much more restrictive alternative proposition offered by lawmakers by a significant margin. Initiative 65 will allow qualified patients to purchase or possess up to two and a half ounces every 14 days but does not allow home cultivation.
Cannabis will now be legal for adults in 15 states as well as the District of Columbia, and the territories of CNMI and Guam. Thirty-six states now have comprehensive medical cannabis laws.
Statistics provided by the National Cannabis Industry Association.