Where was marijuana legalized on Election Day? A state-by-state guide


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Americans are making progress toward a greener future. Weed-wise, at least.

As of Nov. 3, 2020, marijuana is currently medically legal in 33 states and recreationally legal in 11 states, as well Washington, D.C. Though cannabis remains illegal at a federal level, five states have marijuana measures on their ballots in 2020 — more proof that an “overwhelming majority” of Americans are ready for a more cannabis-friendly country.

This year, a variety of drug reforms are on the ballot in six states and Washington, D.C. Recreational marijuana legalization initiatives are up for a vote in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota. In Mississippi, voters will decide on a medical marijuana initiative that would allow doctors to recommend cannabis for medicinal use to treat a variety of conditions.

But it’s not just marijuana that is on the ballot this year. Oregon, which legalized cannabis for recreational use in 2014, voted on two additional measures: one that would essentially decriminalize all drugs, including heroin and cocaine, and one that would legalize psilocybin mushrooms for medicinal use. There’s also an initiative in Washington, D.C. that would decriminalize psychedelic substances.

Marijuana is clinically proven to effectively treat a number of conditions, from pain management to easing nausea to aiding sleep. Psychedelics have been used for centuries throughout history, and a growing body of research suggests that drugs like LSD and MDMA may be able to aid in treating mental issues like major depression and PTSD.

The Food and Drug Administration approved esketaminea ketamine-based antidepressant —for “treatment resistant” depression in March 2019. Later in the year, it fast-tracked psilocybin (the compound that makes magic mushrooms hallucinogenic) in clinical trials to treat depression as well. In January, the FDA opened up 10 sites nationwide for 50 patients with PTSD to receive MDMA treatments under a doctor’s supervision.

In addition to legalization and decriminalization efforts, marijuana-related initiatives on the ballot included measures that accounted for social justice reform. The Black Lives Matter movement brought on a new wave of progressive approaches to drug abuse and addiction, since over-policing communities of color for drug-related crimes contributes to the disproportionate incarceration rates of Black Americans. Instead of treating drug use like a criminal issue, the measures on this year’s ballots treat drug use like a public health issue for which every voter is responsible.

Here’s how Americans voted on Tuesday. As results come in, we’ll keep this post updated.

Arizona

Arizona’s results aren’t in yet, but we will update this post when they are.

Medical marijuana has been legal in Arizona since 2011, but this year under the Smart and Safe Arizona Act (Proposition 207), adults 21 and older will be allowed to possess as much as one ounce of recreational marijuana. If passed, roughly 130 already existing medical dispensaries will be allowed to recreationally sell marijuana, with a 16 percent tax on any recreational sales.

The Smart and Safe Arizona Act also addresses social equity concerns, and will offer 26 recreational retail licenses to “people historically disadvantaged by marijuana laws,” AZ Central reports. Certain marijuana-related convictions for crimes that are no longer illegal under the new act will be dismissed as well, following an ongoing trend of cities and states attempting to undo the harm the war on drugs had on marginalized communities.

Lastly, Proposition 207 will leave most of the regulation of marijuana products to the Department of Health Services, including capping the potency of edibles at 10 mg of THC each. Tax revenue will go to public safety and community colleges.

Gov. Doug Ducey opposes Proposition 207, and in an open letter citing traffic concerns and influence on teenagers, asked voters to vote against the measure.

Mississippi

Mississippi’s results aren’t in yet, but we will update this post when they are.

Mississippi had two cannabis-related measures on the ballot this year, Initiative 65 and the more restrictive Initiative 65A.

Under Initiative 65, Mississippi doctors can prescribe medical marijuana to patients with a variety of conditions, including cancer, Crohn’s disease, and persistent nausea. Regulating medical marijuana would fall under the state’s Department of Health, which would have to establish a program by August 2021. Medical marijuana would be taxed at 7 percent, and patients could possess up to 5 ounces of flower.

Under Initiative 65A, only the terminally ill will be allowed to obtain medical marijuana, instead of anyone suffering from at least one of 22 approved conditions. Regulating a medical marijuana program would fall under the responsibility of the state legislature, and there would be no deadline to establish it.

This year’s ballot also involved a two-step voting process, which has caused confusion among voters.

Gov. Tate Reeves is openly against Initiative 65, and tweeted that “most non-stoners” urge caution.

Montana

Montana’s results aren’t in yet, but we will update this post when they are.

Medical marijuana has been legal in Montana since 2004, and was expanded in 2016. There are two related measures up for vote this year: I-190 and CI-118.

Under I-190, residents would be allowed to legally purchase marijuana, possess up to an ounce of weed, and also have up to four cannabis plants and four seedlings in their home. Furthermore, I-190 allows any residents convicted of low-level marijuana-related crimes to request re-sentencing or expungement. Marijuana would be taxed at 20 percent, and a portion of the revenue would go toward land and water conservation efforts, which is why the initiative is backed by so many public land protection groups.

The other measure, CI-118, would amend I-190 so that only adults 21 and over could purchase and use recreational marijuana. If I-190 passes and CI-118 doesn’t, then the age limit for recreational marijuana would be 18.

Gov. Steve Bullock, who’s at the end of his gubernatorial term and is running for Senate this election, is generally supportive of medical marijuana, but his stance on I-190 and CI-118, specifically, are unclear.

New Jersey

New Jersey’s results aren’t in yet, but we will update this post when they are.

New Jersey legalized medical marijuana in 2010. This year, under Public Question 1, adults 21 and over will be allowed to possess and purchase recreational cannabis. The Cannabis Regulatory Commission, which was established by the state last year, will determine the logistics of regulation and possession limits if the measure passes.

Public Question 1 also establishes a staggeringly low tax rate for recreational marijuana — legal weed will only be taxed at 6.625 percent, and local legislatures can tax an additional 2 percent on top of that. (Washington and Illinois, for comparison, tax recreational marijuana at a hefty 43.5 percent and up to 31.5 percent, respectively.) New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney told NBC 10 that high taxes could dissuade residents from purchasing legal cannabis, and by establishing such a low tax rate, New Jersey could freeze out black market dealers.

If the initiative passes, there’s nothing in the bill that would automatically stop arrests for marijuana possession.

Gov. Phil Murphy is an outspoken supporter of Public Question 1, citing social justice reform and tax revenue as reasons to vote yet on the measure.

South Dakota

South Dakota’s results aren’t in yet, but we will update this post when they are.

There were two marijuana-related items on the ballot this year in South Dakota: Initiated Measure 26, which would let doctors prescribe medical marijuana to treat a variety of conditions, and Constitutional Amendment A, which would allow for adults 21 and over to use marijuana recreationally. Marijuana Policy Project deputy director Matthew Schweich told ABC News that this is the first time in U.S. history that Americans have voted on both medical and recreational marijuana on the same ballot.

Under Initiated Measure 26, medical marijuana patients can possess up to three ounces of marijuana and have up to three plants in their homes. Minors who qualify for a medical card will have a designated “caregiver” over 21 to administer the medicinal cannabis. Regulation will be delegated to the the Department of Health, which will hash out the details at least 120 days after it passes.

With Constitutional Amendment A, any person 21 and over can purchase and consume marijuana. They’ll be allowed to possess up to one ounce of flower — up to eight grams if it’s concentrate — and grow up to three plants if they live in a town without a dispensary. The Department of Revenue would distribute licenses and regulate manufacturing, testing, sales, and more. Local governments still have the power to ban dispensaries from opening up, though.

South Dakota is one of the most conservative states when it comes to marijuana, and has some of the harshest consequences for possession. Gov. Kristi Noem has spoken out against the legalization effort, and recently urged residents to vote no in a video ad.

Oregon

Oregon’s results aren’t in yet, but we will update this post when they are.

There are two measures on the ballot in Oregon, where weed has been recreationally legal since 2014. Measure 109 would legalize psilocybin, including magic mushrooms, for medicinal use to treat mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, PTSD, and addiction. Measure 110 would decriminalize all drugs, shifting the approach to drug addiction as a public health issue instead of a criminal one.

Measure 109 sets up a different procedure than the state uses for medical marijuana. Instead of getting an OK from a doctor, buying products at a licensed dispensary, and using them at home, anyone with a medical shrooms card will buy and consume products at a “psilocybin service center.” There, a trained facilitator will walk them through their trips. The Oregon Health Authority would regulate medical psilocybin, and is yet to determine which medical conditions qualify for a prescription.

Measure 110 would not only decriminalize all drugs — including heroin and cocaine — but also direct tax revenue from marijuana sales to addiction treatment and recovery programs. Note that this is NOT legalizing all drugs. Residents won’t be allowed to buy meth at dispensaries, for instance, but they won’t be arrested for possessing small amounts of it for personal use.

Thanks to over-policing, drug arrests and incarceration disproportionately affect communities of color. Instead of arresting people for noncommercial possession, Measure 110 would give them the option of either paying a fine of up to $100 or go to an addiction recovery center for a “completed health assessment.”

Gov. Kate Brown has not publicly expressed her opinion on the measures, but in 2018, she declared the state’s prevalence of mental illness a “public health crisis.”

Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C.’s results aren’t in yet, but we will update this post when they are. 

Under Initiative 81, D.C. will no longer enforce laws against “etheogenic plants and fungi,” and would push prosecutors to drop cases related to noncommercial psychedelic cultivation, distribution, and possession.

Like Oregon’s decriminalization measure, Initiative 81 won’t allow for retail licenses. You won’t see shroom dispensaries popping up, but enforcement of laws against psychedelic mushrooms, cacti, iboga, and ayahuasca will be the police department’s lowest priority instead of being classified as Schedule I drugs. It isn’t technically legal to consume psychedelics in D.C., but if you’re caught possessing them, you won’t be prosecuted for it. Again, it’s shifting the narrative of drug use to a public health issue instead of a criminal justice one.

Mayor Muriel Bowser said she’ll vote no on Initiative 81 since it doesn’t seem like “an organically D.C.-created initiative,” she said in a press conference last week. She may have been referencing the initiative’s backing from New Approach, a progressive political action committee that supports marijuana and other drug reform laws.

Despite, you know, everything else on fire this election season, the mere inclusion of these measures is proof of the progress the United States is making toward a more equitable, less policed future. It’s not a drug free-for-all, but it’s setting the foundation for a healthier public.

This story is developing…





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