This spring, it looked like eight states would legalize cannabis adult use. But Delaware’s governor vetoed his legislature’s action in May, Ohio’s state executives interfered with a ballot initiative, also in May, pushing it to 2023 in a court settlement, and Oklahoma’s supreme court ruled in September that because of pending legal challenges to a cannabis ballot initiative it would be delayed to 2023.
That leaves five states with active ballot questions that could legalize adult use cannabis possession on Nov. 8: Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Not all are a sure thing, and each state has a completely different approach to cannabis legalization. Here’s a rundown of what to watch for in each state.
The Arkansas Adult Use Amendment, Issue 4, has been run by Responsible Growth Arkansas, which submitted over 190,000 signatures, twice the amount needed for certification. The measure has been off and on again this year, due to a series of certification struggles with the state’s Board of Election Commissioners. But on Aug. 10, the state supreme court ordered the issue be put on the Nov. 8 ballot.
A Sept. 12 poll conducted by Hendrix College and Talk Business & Politics, an insider Arkansas politics publication, found the issue is highly likely to pass, with 58.5% of 835 likely voters supporting the issue, 29% against, and 12.5% undecided.
If passed, the issue would:
- Directly amend the state constitution, by-passing statute;
- Legalize cannabis for adults 21 and older;
- Allow the state’s 32 licensed medical dispensaries to sell adult use, and each create a second dispensary;
- Create 40 additional adult use dispensary licenses and 18 “Tier Two” cultivation licenses, to be distributed by lottery;
- Authorize the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Division to regulate the industry; and
- Levy a 10% retail sales tax.
The proposed constitutional amendment makes no mention of social equity, expungement, or of legalizing home grow.
Last April the Maryland Legislature voted to place adult use legalization on the ballot as a straight up or down question for voters. The referendum, Question 4, was accompanied by companion legislation that would be enacted if the Question passes, that would legalize possession up to 1.5 ounces and provides for expungement as of July 1, 2023.
Since then, a number of organizations have formed to support the measure, including MD Can 2022. Compared to other states, the lift for legalizing adult use seems pretty light, especially since a Sept. 27 Washington Post-University of Maryland poll showed 73% of likely Maryland voters support passage.
“You don’t want to assume anything but we’ve known for many years there have been polls showing two-thirds to three-quarters of Marylanders have wanted to legalize marijuana. The big thing for us in Maryland is that all of those voters get out and vote,” said Tracey Lancaster Miller, president of the Maryland Medical Dispensary Association.
If the measure passes, the state’s General Assembly would be directed to author and pass legislation creating a structure for adult use production and retail sales. Although, as we reported in August, exactly what that would look like is very unclear.
Last May Legal Missouri 2022 submitted 385,000 signatures to get their adult use legalization effort on the ballot, more than twice the 160,000 needed. After a brief legal tussle with the state’s secretary of state to certify signatures, the measure was added to the ballot as Amendment 3, to amend the state’ constitution.
Despite broad support for adult use legalization generally, the referendum effort has met opposition from diverse groups, including some terse words against the measure by GOP Gov. Mike Parsons, a refusal to endorse the referendum by state Democratic legislators, and a number of Black-led groups who all focus on concern with the law – which is extreme detailed – being embedded in the state constitution and unable to be amended without a follow up popular referendum.
As a result, recent voter surveys have shown flagging support for the measure, with a pair of September polls showing less than majority support.
Despite that, legalization proponents remain optimistic.
“We think the campaign is going very well,” said Legal Missouri spokesman John Payne. “We certainly welcome support from elected officials, but if we were popular among elected officials we would have done this by now. That’s why we have a referendum, because the popular electorate has to get this done.”
Payne says his internal polls portend a victory for the referendum on Nov. 8.
If passed, Amendment 3 would:
- Legalize possession for 21 and older;
- Create 144 more dispensary licenses, on top of the 192 already in place;
- Immediately give adult use licenses to current medical license holders; and
- Include expungement measures.
But, like the state’s medical provision, Missouri’s proposed Amendment 3 does not include social equity measures.
This is something of a do-over for the northern plains state, since a 2018 legalization referendum failed 59-41%. Earlier this year New Approach North Dakota submitted 26,000 signatures to get on the ballot, only 15,500 were needed. The resulting Statutory Measure Number 2 mandates the legislature create a program by Oct. 1, 2023.
While there are no statewide polls available on Measure Number 2, this year’s campaign is significantly different from the last effort since a number of groups that opposed the measure in 2018, including the North Dakota Petroleum Council and Greater North Dakota Chamber announced they will sit out this election.
If passed, the measure would:
- Legalize one ounce of adult use possession for people over 21;
- Allow licensing of 7 manufacturers (growers) and 18 dispensaries; and
- Allow home grow of up to three plants per person.
The measure includes no mention of expungement or social equity.
A 2020 legalization vote, which passed 54-46%, was struck down by the state supreme court after a ruling that the 2020 proposed constitutional amendment addressed more than one subject, which is not allowed by the state’s constitution.
Despite past success, this year’s effort is struggling, as a recent South Dakota State Poll found 47-45% split, with 8% undecided.
If passed, the measure would:
- Legalize possession by 21 and up for up to one ounce;
- Allow home grow of up to 6 plants; but
- The measure does not create a system for production or sales of cannabis, or taxation.
Since the measure would only legalized adult use possession, the legislature would then have to take up creating a sales mechanism – or not, depending on the political winds of the day, an important consideration since South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has well-known presidential aspirations.