We’ve come a long way since 2012, when Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize recreational marijuana.
Medical marijuana is now legal in 34 states (plus Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands). And there are 11 states that allow adults 21 and over to use cannabis recreationally, plus Washington DC, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and several tribal territories. Many more are eager to join the club.
There are campaigns actively working in more than a dozen states, pushing ballot initiatives to legalize cannabis for both medical and recreational purposes. Here’s the breakdown:
New Jersey – a constitutional amendment (the “New Jersey Marijuana Legalization Amendment 2020”) will be on the ballot in November. The amendment was proposed by the state legislature, and if passed, would legalize recreational pot for adults over the age of 21. The cultivation and sale of cannabis would be overseen by the CRC, which currently supervises New Jersey’s medical marijuana program. The details — possession limits, rules regarding home grow and retail, etc. — are not specified, and would need to be ironed out through further legislation.
South Dakota – in South Dakota, there are two marijuana initiatives on the ballot this year. The first, Constitutional Amendment A, would legalize, tax and regulate recreational cannabis, and compel the state legislature to legalize medical marijuana and hemp production. The second, Initiative 26, would only legalize medical marijuana, and allow patients to possess up to 3 ounces, and/or grow 3 plants for personal use, and only with a doctor’s approval.
Mississippi – Mississippi also has two competing initiatives on the ballot, both of which would allow marijuana for medical use. The first, Initiative 65, is backed by a citizen movement which collected more than 200,000 signatures in order to qualify to be on the ballot. It would allow patients with more 20 qualifying conditions to access marijuana for medical purposes, possess up to 2.5 ounces, and sets the tax rate at 7%.
The second, Initiative 65A, is a much more restrictive measure proposed as an alternative by the state legislature. It would restrict medical use to terminally ill patients, and give the legislature the power to oversee cultivation and distribution, and determine the tax rate and other details. The conservative legislature in Mississippi is generally opposed to any marijuana use, and this measure is seen by many as a strategic move to confuse voters, divide the vote, and do everything possible to prevent or limit access to cannabis.
Arizona – the Smart and Safe Arizona campaign reports that it has collected 320,000 signatures on behalf of Initiative 23, well over the 237,645 needed to qualify for the ballot this November. They are now in the process of submitting the petition to the state legislature for approval. The measure would allow adults to possess up to an ounce of marijuana for recreational use, grow up to six plants at home, and enable people to petition to have former marijuana convictions expunged from their record.
Several other states were on track to have initiatives on the ballot this year. Indeed, 2020 was shaping up to be a banner year for the legalization movement. But sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic, and subsequent stay-at-home and social distancing requirements, has shut down traditional signature collection for the last two months.
But the movement hasn’t completely stalled. Some campaigns have petitioned reluctant state governments to allow for electronic signature collection. Ohio’s “Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol” campaign was suspended earlier this month after a judge denied their e-signature request, continuing a long run of failed campaigns in that state.
Arkansas and Montana have both launched “sign at home” campaigns which allow citizens to download a form, and send in their signatures by mail. However, it is still unclear whether enough signatures can be collected in this way before the ballot initiative deadlines this summer.
Below is a summary of states that are still fighting to get cannabis initiatives on the ballot in 2020:
Arkansas – Arkansas for Cannabis Reform is collecting signatures for a recreational marijuana initiative.
Montana – New Approach Montana is collecting signatures for a recreational marijuana initiative.
Nebraska – Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana, as the name suggests, is advocating to legalize medical marijuana.
North Dakota – Legalize ND has resumed their campaign after being suspended for 2 months, and is currently gathering signatures in person at multiple locations.
In addition, three other states have active legalization campaigns with their sights set on 2021:
Florida – Make It Legal Florida
Idaho – Idaho Cannabis Coalition
Missouri – Missourians for a New Approach
You can show your support for cannabis reform by volunteering or making a donation to one of these campaigns. And make sure you exercise your right to vote in November, and make your voice heard.