Here are the results from yesterday’s cannabis reform initiatives at the ballot box nationwide.
Voters in South Dakota voted against Ballot Measure 27 to legalize marijuana in the state. A previous reform initiative was passed in 2020 but was later overturned by the courts.
Despite early polling showing insufficient support to pass the revised measure on this year’s ballot, South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws (SDMBL) were still confident the initiative would pass, legalizing cannabis for adults 21 and older.
However, opponents of the reform released numerous ads designed to insight fears regarding the impact of legal marijuana on children. For example, one of the videos said, “these are future drug addicts, future suicide victims, future victims of an impaired driver.”
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem (R) also actively campaigned against the measure and was one of the leading forces behind the state’s Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the 2020 legalization reform that voters approved.
Supporters are hopeful that the state House will eventually pass legislation legalizing adult-use cannabis to go along with the state’s already voter-approved medical marijuana program.
Despite criticism from marijuana reform activists and opponents alike, Missourans voted to approve Amendment 3, legalizing adult-use cannabis in the state on Tuesday.
Dan Viets, Missouri NORML coordinator and chair of the Amendment 3 advisory board, said, “This is truly a historic occasion. This means that the great majority of the 20,000 people who have been arrested year after year in Missouri will no longer be subject to criminal prosecution for victimless marijuana law violations.”
"This is truly a historic occasion. This means that the great majority of the 20,000 people who have been arrested year after year in Missouri will no longer be subject to criminal prosecution for victimless marijuana law violations.”
- Dan Viets, Chair of the Amendment 3 Advisory Board
However, the approval of the initiative was not without some controversy. Along with the expected resistance to the measure by opponents of legalization, some cannabis reform advocates also voiced strong concerns over particular details of the Amendment regarding industry equity for minorities.
Although not perfect, supporters of Amendment 3 believe its passage is a significant step in the right direction for providing safe and legal cultivation and consumption of cannabis and cannabis products in the “Show Me” state.
Maryland voters said “Yes” to Question 4, legalizing marijuana for adult use in the state, on Tuesday.
Among the five states deciding on major cannabis reform on Election Day, experts were almost unanimous in their belief that Maryland would be the most likely to approve marijuana legalization based on multiple polls and the fact that other states in the region already have legal adult-use cannabis.
The referendum language was relatively straightforward. It asked voters: “Do you favor the legalization of the use of cannabis by an individual who is at least 21 years of age on or after July 1st, 2023, in the state of Maryland?”
Over 65% of those who voted answered with a resounding “Yes” to that question paving the way for citizens of the Terrapin state to have legal access to marijuana and marijuana products beginning in 2023, provided they are 21 years or older.
Now that the initiative has received voter approval, a complementary bill implementing basic program regulations will be triggered.
A senior policy analyst with the Marijuana Policy Project, Olivia Naugle, said that with the vote, "the state will finally end the failed era of cannabis prohibition and take a more just and equitable approach towards cannabis policy.”
"...the state will finally end the failed era of cannabis prohibition and take a more just and equitable approach towards cannabis policy.”
- Olivia Naugle, Sr. Policy Analyst, Marijuana Policy Project
North Dakotans voted against Statutory Measure 2 to legalize marijuana on Tuesday. This rejection follows the defeat of a previous attempt to legalize adult-use cannabis in 2018.
State Rep. Jason Dockter (R) drafted a bill similar to the initiative introducing it in the state legislature in 2021. However, it was shot down in the full Senate after passing in the House.
The state’s voters did approve a medical marijuana program in 2016, and while proponents of legalization have made several attempts to enact legalization in the "Peace Garden" state over the years, they continue to come up just short of their ultimate goal.
On Tuesday, voters in Arkansas rejected Issue 4, which would have created a regulated cannabis market for all adults 21 and older in the state.
The measure, backed by the Responsible Growth Arkansas campaign, seemed to be trending toward approval, according to polls leading up to Election Day. However, the promising momentum toward ratification ultimately fell short due to the concerted efforts by key conservative elected officials to oppose the initiative.
Among those loud and influential voices imploring voters to deny the marijuana referendum were Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) and U.S. Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and John Boozman (R-AR).
Had the initiative passed, a recent economic projection estimated that the Arkansas cannabis market would have conservatively generated close to $1 billion in annual cannabis sales and more than $460 million in tax revenue over five years.
Much like with the congressional and state races, the result from Election Day for marijuana legalization reform was a mixed bag. Voters in Maryland and Missouri chose to go with the majority of Americans in approving adult-use cannabis in their states. Meanwhile, those in the Dakotas and Arkansas decided to reject the inevitable juggernaut of nationwide legalization of a plant expected to generate $72 billion in revenue by 2030.
Regardless, cannabis is now legally available to more Americans today than it was yesterday. Moreover, with more and more pressure on the Biden Administration and Congress to finally end the wildly unpopular ban on the magical marijuana plant, the wasteful and unproductive political rancor over whether to legalize “here” or “there” will hopefully be a bad but distant memory very soon.