Recreational marijuana could be legal in half the country if the handful of states that passed cannabis measures on November’s ballots pass them.
Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota and South Dakota have measures on their ballots this fall for voters to consider legalizing recreational marijuana. They would join 19 states and the District of Columbia with recreational cannabis.
A decade after Colorado and Washington approved recreational cannabis, bans have fallen across the country: in large, populated states like California and New York and in small, rural states like Maine and Vermont. Deep Southern states have not legalized recreational marijuana for the most part, but many have embraced medical cannabis programs.
Here’s more information on which states are considering legalizing recreational marijuana:
WHERE DOES THE MARIJUANA MOVEMENT GO NEXT?
– The Arkansas Supreme Court cleared the way in September for voters to consider whether people 21 and older can use marijuana recreationally. The court overturned a decision by the Board of Election Commissioners, which said the proposal failed to explain the impact. Arkansas approved medical marijuana in 2016.
– Maryland lawmakers voted earlier this year to put the question on the ballot, asking voters whether marijuana should be legal for those 21 and older. The proposed constitutional amendment states that recreational marijuana would not be legal until July 2023, with a transition period between January 1 and July 1.
– The Missouri amendment would also approve cannabis for those 21 and older. People are also starting to buy it and grow it for personal use as early as this year. Missouri voters approved medical marijuana in 2018. Missouri’s Republican-led legislature failed to enact recreational marijuana use for years, leading advocates to approach voters for approval instead.
– A North Dakota ballot initiative successfully put the issue of recreational marijuana before voters this year. This means that if the issue is approved, people 21 and older could legally use marijuana at home as well as possess and grow a controlled amount of cannabis. The measure also puts in place policies to regulate retail stores, growers and other marijuana businesses.
– South Dakota voters passed a 2020 cannabis legalization amendment, but Gov. Kristi Noem backed a lawsuit challenging it, and the state’s Supreme Court ruled it violated the Constitution of the state. This year, voters will once again have the opportunity to weigh in on the legalization of recreational marijuana for ages 21 and older.
– Supporters of a ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana in Oklahoma have secured enough signatures to put the issue in front of voters there, but not in time to put it on the ballot of November. Instead, they will vote in March.
CANNABIS IS APPEARENTLY OK EVERYWHERE NOW, AT LEAST MEDICAL MARIJUANA. WHERE IS IT ILLEGAL?
At the federal level, marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I drug, alongside heroin and LSD, and can carry criminal penalties for possession.
Idaho, Kansas and Nebraska are the only states that do not have any type of public-use marijuana program in place, whether medical or recreational, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
WHAT ELSE CHANGES WITH MARIJUANA LAWS?
In October, Democratic President Joe Biden announced he was pardoning thousands of people for federal marijuana possession convictions.
He also asked the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the United States Attorney General to review the classification of marijuana under federal law. The White House has not set a timeline for the review. Biden also said he believes that as federal and state marijuana laws ease, there should be limitations on underage trafficking, marketing and sales.
Mike Catalini can be reached at https://twitter.com/mikecatalini
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