Preview: These 5 States Will Vote on Adult-Use Cannabis in 2022Jonathan Rose / Oct 19, 2022
And why 1 state's Supreme Court is making voters wait another 2 years
Nov. 8 is looking to be a big day for drug-reform advocates and the wider cannabis industry. The 2022 elections will see several municipalities like Colorado Springs, Colorado; Granite County, Montana; Petoskey, Michigan; and several Texas cities voting on either opening up the adult-use market or — in the case of Texas — depenalizing personal cannabis possession.
But the real action is happening in the South and Midwest (mostly).
Here are the states we're watching as we full-on enter election season:
Arkansas is one of only a few states in the South to have a fully functional medical cannabis program, and it could up its game with adult-use sales in 2023 should Responsible Growth Arkansas succeed in its ballot measure. The group recently submitted twice the number of signatures necessary to get on the November ballot, and after a challenge, the state Supreme Court ruled that the proposed constitutional amendment will appear on the Nov. 8 ballots.
But if approved, experts say, the market would be the strictest in the U.S.
Maryland also has its own booming medical cannabis program, and 2022 looks like it will be the year that grows to adult-use. But rather than being activist-led, this change is going top down: The Maryland House and Senate have both approved a constitutional amendment that would legalize adult-use sales to those 21 and older come July 2023.
Sister legislation would make possession of 1.5 ounces of cannabis legal and change possession of as much as 2.5 ounces from a criminal offense to a civil violation. It would also automatically expunge many past cannabis convictions. Citizens will vote the legislation up or down in November.
Sixty-two percent of Missouri voters are in favor of legalizing adult-use cannabis in medical-only Missouri come November, according to Legal Missouri 2022, which turned in enough signatures to get Amendment 3 on the ballot.
Should the initiative pass, nonviolent cannabis convictions will automatically be expunged, and industry participation will be broadened to set small businesses, low-capital entrepreneurs, and those harmed by the drug war up for success.
The Peace Garden State may see a big change if the advocacy organization New Approach North Dakota is successful. Measure 2 will establish a process for licensing adult-use cannabis stores, manufacturers, testing laboratories, and other cannabis businesses.
If passed, regulators must pass rules and implement the program by Oct. 1, 2023. According to NORML, which is tracking these initiatives, North Dakota has historically had among the highest arrest rates for cannabis possession in the country “despite having among the lowest reported marijuana use of any state.”
Oklahoma — the one that got away
Oklahomans for Sensible Marijuana Laws appeared to have successfully placed an initiative on the medical marijuana state’s November 2022 ballot. However, the state Supreme Court stepped in and ruled that voters will not have the chance to open up an adult-use market until 2024.
It seems that South Dakota voters are doing their best to legalize cannabis programs every two years. Prohibitionist state leadership has done its best to block any progress in cannabis reform: Citizens approved two ballot initiatives that would have legalized adult-use sales while also establishing a medical marijuana program in 2020.
The state Supreme Court struck down the adult-use measure, but the medical program survived.
Activists are setting a lower bar this year with Measure 27, which would legalize growing cannabis (up to three plants), possessing as much as 1 ounce of cannabis, and gifting the plant (not selling it).
This time next year, we may see more than 20 legal adult-use states and 40-plus medical states. The big question is: Will the federal government ever catch up?
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