It’s not just the presidency or the make-up of Congress that will be decided on November 3, 2020. Residents in five states will also be able to decide if marijuana will be legalized from a recreational or medical standpoint.
It was originally thought that there would be six, but Nebraska has been forced to remove a medical marijuana legalization initiative on the state’s November ballot following a legal challenge. The Nebraska Supreme Court released its final opinion Thursday 10th September, determining that the proposal did violate the states single-subject rule and cannot proceed to the ballot.
Currently, 33 states have legalised the use of marijuana for medical purposes with 11 of these having legalized the consumption and/or retail sale for recreational users.
Here is a list of the five states guaranteed to be voting on marijuana in November.
Voters in New Jersey will be asked to support or oppose the constitutional amendment that would legalize the possession, use, production, processing, and sale of cannabis to persons aged 21 and older. A poll, released in July, indicated that almost 68% of voters either strongly or were basically in favor of legalization so it appears likely that this amendment may well pass.
Arizona’s Proposition 207 would allow persons aged 21 and over to possess and use cannabis and would require the states’ Department of Health and Human Services to develop and enforce regulation for the industry. It would also add on a 16% tax to the sale of marijuana, in addition to existing taxes.
One might be tempted to view this as a means of increasing tax revenue rather than a desire to appease supporters of legalizing marijuana but whatever the underlying reason it may well mean residents in the state will be able to legally use cannabis.
Voters in Montana have two voting options to choose from. Montana CI-118 would be a constitutional amendment that, if passed, will allow the legislature to establish a minimum legal age for the possession, use, and purchase of cannabis for adults over the age of 21.
Amendment I-190 aims to legalize adult-use of marijuana for those aged 21 and over and imposes a 20% tax rate on legalized sales, and requires the Department of Revenue to come up with rules that would guide businesses.
Additionally, those currently incarcerated for marijuana offenses may be eligible for resentencing or having their conviction expunged.
Support appears to have increased in the state over the past year, although not to the same extent as in Montana, so the vote could be close and go either way.
As with Montana voters in South Dakota have two options to consider. The first, Measure -26 would create a medical marijuana program within the state for patients with defined debilitating medical conditions. The Health Department would decide what conditions would be covered.
The second, Constitutional Amendment A, would legalize adult-use of marijuana for those aged 21 and over and impose 15% statewide tax to be levied on recreational purchases. Once again it appears that tax revenue is the driving force behind this proposal. As this state is recognised to be a fairly conservative one Measure 26 seems to stand a better chance of passing than that proposing full legalization.
This state has decided on a very confusing way to offer voters an opportunity of voting either for or against legalizing cannabis for medical only use.
Voters will first be asked if they support medical marijuana by choosing “either measure” or “neither measure” on their ballot. Having passed this question they will then be asked if they would prefer Initiative 65 or Alternative 65A.
Initiative 65 would allow medical marijuana to be prescribed for 20 specific qualifying conditions, with a tax on medical sales at the state’s 7% tax rate. Initiative 65A would limit access to terminally ill patients and will also require additional medical oversight for those seeking to use medical marijuana in their treatment.
Indications are that support for marijuana usage in the state is not that high, but considering the substantial support throughout the country this vote might just squeeze through if sufficient publicity in favor can be brought to bear.
It will be interesting to see how voting in these states may influence the policy of an incoming administration when they consider legalization at a federal level. The evidence for medical marijuana’s benefits is increasing all the time and if more states legalize the arguments for maintaining a federal ban must weaken.
We didn’t mention Oregon because they have a very strange option to put to voters. IP 44 would remove criminal penalties for the personal, non-commercial possession of all drugs listed as Schedule I, II, III, or IV by the federal Controlled Substances Act. Possession of small quantities would be classified as a “violation” similar to a speeding ticket. Penalties would be a $100 fine and/or a health assessment at an addiction recovery center. However, it would not allow or regulate the sale of drugs. I-44 does not remove or invalidate the state’s current regulations regarding the manufacture and sale of cannabis. So really it does not legalize marijuana it simply reduces the penalty for possession when for personal use.