Five states had cannabis legalization measures on the ballot on November 8. Voters in Maryland and Missouri approved legalization, but in Arkansas and the Dakotas it was rejected. With these results, 21 states and Washington, DC have now legalized cannabis for adult use.
There were also significant cannabis decriminalization victories, with five cities in Ohio approving such measures.
Meanwhile, Colorado’s measure to allow possession of certain psychedelics and create regulated psilocybin “healing centers” has passed.
Missouri was the only red state out of the four to approve legalization.
All five of the statewide cannabis ballot measures have been called by major news networks. Notably, four of the five states concerned are red states. Still, more Republican voters nationally support legalization than oppose it. Advocates speaking to Filter had expressed confidence, stating that age might be a more telling factor than party affiliation in determining a person’s cannabis vote.
Yet Missouri was the only red state to approve legalization. At publication time, the state’s votes stood at 53 percent in favor versus 47 percent opposed. Polls had shown a slightly higher margin for the yes camp, but had been tightening.
Amendment 3 allows over-21s to purchase and possess up to 3 ounces of cannabis, and to grow their own if they obtain a registration card. It imposes a 6 percent tax on adult-use sales; revenues are slated to be used to facilitate automatic expungements of certain cannabis convictions, and to fund substance use treatment, veterans’ health care and the state’s public defender system. A microbusiness licensing system is meant to prioritize applicants with low incomes, or those in communities disproportionately impacted by criminalization.
However, concerns over barriers in the licensing system and the efficacy of the expungement provisions led some legalization supporters to oppose Amendment 3; for these reasons, the Missouri Democratic Party remained neutral on the question.
Maryland, the only blue state with cannabis legalization on the ballot, had widely been expected to pass its Question 4. At publication time, the race had been called with current approval of over 65 percent—somewhat heavier support than polls had suggested.
A bill previously passed by the state’s lawmakers will now be enacted. It sets basic regulations, including legalization of purchase and possession of up to 1.5 ounces and personal growing of up to two plants, though some other elements are yet to be determined. Advocate Kevin Ford Jr. of the Uplift Action Maryland PAC previously described to Filter his group’s efforts to reach Black voters and underline the social justice implications of legalization.
“The passage of Question 4 is a huge victory for criminal justice reform and racial justice in Maryland.”
“The passage of Question 4 is a huge victory for criminal justice reform and racial justice in Maryland,” said Olivia Naugle, senior policy analyst at the Marijuana Policy Project, in a press statement. “It will save thousands of Marylanders from arrests and further criminalization for cannabis possession, and it will begin to repair the decades of harm cannabis prohibition has caused, disproportionately in communities of color, by expunging records and reinvesting back into those communities. We look forward to working closely with Maryland lawmakers to ensure that the implementation of legalization is centered around equity.”
But there was disappointment elsewhere. In Arkansas, Issue 4 was defeated, with 56 percent opposed as of publication time. Past polling had shown a healthy majority in support, but the figures later tightened. Relentless attacks on legalization by the state’s Republican lawmakers may have taken their toll.
In North Dakota, where there was little available polling, Measure 2 was voted down, with 55 percent opposed at publication time. It may be limited consolation to advocates that support has risen since 2018, when almost 60 percent of voters in the state said no to a previous legalization measure.
In South Dakota, Measure 27 lost by a tighter margin; just under 53 percent of voters opposed it, with 99 percent of votes counted. It will be a heavy blow to advocates when the state already passed legalization in 2020, with 54 percent support—in 2021, the South Dakota Supreme Court invalidated that victory on procedural grounds.
Public polling had shown the 2022 South Dakota race to be on a knife-edge, although South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, a group advocating for Measure 27, found more encouragement in its internal polling. “The biggest risk we face is complacency from pro-Measure 27 voters who do not always participate in midterm elections,” a representative told Filter in October.
Update, November 10: This article was edited to reflect the outcome of Colorado’s psychedelics measure.