Marijuana legalization is on the ballot next week in Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota and South Dakota, reflecting a growing push nationwide to decriminalize the drug.
If passed, it would join 19 states (along with Washington, DC) where recreational use is legal. Thirty-seven states, three territories and the District of Columbia allow the medical use of marijuana products, according to state legislatures.
Medical marijuana is currently legal in each of the five states that will vote on recreational use this month.
A constitutional amendment known as Issue 4 would allow adults to possess and consume cannabis, as well as allow licensed facilities to sell it. It would allow possession of an ounce of cannabis and some of the tax revenue would help fund law enforcement.
Melissa Fults, a board member of the Arkansas chapter of the National Organization for Marijuana Law Reform, known as NORML, expressed dismay at the proposed amendment, saying it would create a “huge monopoly” for Arkansas growers and retailers. The initiative would create a lottery for 12 additional cultivation facility licenses and 40 additional adult-use dispensary licenses to join the 80 that will be issued to existing medical dispensaries.
He also criticized the fact that there is no way to exonerate criminal records for people who have been convicted of marijuana crimes.
“It was written by the farmers, paid for the crops and it only benefits the farmers. It will hurt patients, consumers and Arkansans,” Fults told CNN. “If it passes, it will be the worst and most expensive marijuana program in the nation.”
The Family Council Action Committee, which is usually on the opposite side of NORML when it comes to relaxing marijuana laws, expressed concern about the proposed regulation.
“If Proposition 4 passes, Arkansas will have one of the least regulated cannabis industries in America,” Jerry Cox, executive director of The Family Council Action Committee, told CNN. “State and local officials will not be able to limit marijuana or raise taxes. A few businesses and bureaucrats will control marijuana in Arkansas. That’s a recipe for disaster.”
If approved, the legalization would take effect on March 8, 2023.
Maryland’s proposed Constitutional Amendment, Question 4, would allow voters to legalize recreational marijuana for those 21 and older. If approved, it would go into effect on July 1, 2023 and would allow possession of 1.5 ounces or two plants.
It would also allow those previously convicted of possession and intent to distribute cannabis to apply for expungement.
“For decades, overly restrictive cannabis laws have been a pipeline to prison that disproportionately affected people of color. Legalizing recreational cannabis in Maryland puts us on the path to reforming our outdated drug laws and creating more equity in our justice system,” Maryland House Speaker Adrienne Jones told CNN. presidents, democrats. “Our views and research on cannabis have changed; federal laws have changed. It’s time for our policies to do the same.”
Possession of small amounts of marijuana is already decriminalized in Maryland.
A proposed constitutional amendment in Missouri would allow voters to end the state’s ban on marijuana and allow personal use by those 21 and older.
It would allow personal possession of up to three ounces.
The amendment would allow people with non-violent marijuana-related offenses to seek release from prison or probation and parole and have their records expunged. The amendment prohibits marijuana facilities from selling cannabis-infused products that may be attractive to children.
Amendment 3 would also impose a 6% tax on the retail price of recreational marijuana. The language of the amendment states that it will not allow the use of marijuana while operating a motor vehicle or “the performance of any task under the influence of marijuana where doing so would constitute negligence or malpractice.”
If approved, it would be implemented 30 days after the election.
A citizen-initiated ballot measure in North Dakota would allow the use of marijuana “in a variety of ways” if passed by those at least 21 years old.
The petition also states that all cannabis will be tested at a facility for “product potency and the presence of pesticides” and that cannabis businesses will be subject to random inspections.
It would allow possession of one ounce of cannabis.
North Dakota voters rejected a ballot measure aimed at fully legalizing marijuana in 2018.
If passed, it would become law 30 days after the election.
Marijuana legalization is back on the South Dakota ballot after state courts overturned the results of the 2020 legalization ballot measure.
Measure 27 would legalize the possession, use and distribution of marijuana, according to the ballot measure. If passed, possession of up to an ounce of marijuana would be legal. It would also legalize the possession of marijuana paraphernalia.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a Republican whose office previously defended the repeal process on constitutional grounds, told CNN she would implement Measure 27 if reauthorized.
If approved, it would be implemented on July 1, 2023.
Under federal law, marijuana is illegal, although individual states have moved toward legalizing its use for recreational and medical purposes.
But in October, the Biden administration announced that President Joe Biden had pardoned all people convicted of federal marijuana possession through executive action.
“No one should be in prison for using or possessing marijuana,” Biden said at the time as he encouraged governors to take similar measures to pardon state marijuana possession offenses.
Biden also called on the Department of Health and Human Services and Attorney General Merrick Garland to “expeditiously” review how marijuana is scheduled under federal law, a first step toward easing its federal classification.
Under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, marijuana is listed in Schedule 1, along with drugs like heroin and LSD, meaning it has “no currently recognized medical use and no significant potential for abuse.” But in recent years, its medicinal benefits have become more recognized.