by Therin Miller | October 18, 2022
On their ballots in November, voters in five states will determine whether to legalize marijuana, and voters in one state will have the option to pass a historic law that would make it legal to possess psychedelics.
The surge of state-level policy changes is likely to intensify in the midterm elections as Congress continues to put off comprehensive drug policy reform.
The fact that four of the five states voting on cannabis legalization are historically conservative makes this year's votes all the more noteworthy. It demonstrates the growing nonpartisan character of marijuana reform. Most campaigns are doing well in the polls as Election Day approaches.
These states are:
Arkansas - Marijuana Legalization
In July, the Responsible Growth Arkansas campaign submitted the necessary number of signatures to be included on the ballot, and the state later that month certified those petitions.
Even when the state approved the activists' submitted signatures, it was uncertain whether votes for the initiative would be counted. The campaign filed a lawsuit with the Arkansas Supreme Court after the Board of Elections rejected the proposition due to insufficient ballot text. After several weeks, the court decided in the campaign's favor in September, assuring that votes would be counted.
If voters approve legalization, Arkansas may witness annual cannabis sales of around $1 billion and more than $460 million in tax revenue over five years.
According to a poll conducted in September, Issue 4 is supported by 59 percent of probable Arkansas voters, while only 29 percent oppose it, and 13 percent are uncertain.
Although supporters of competing initiatives have subsequently admitted they wouldn't be able to gather enough signatures to qualify this year, Responsible Growth Arkansas is just one of several groups that sought cannabis reform through the ballot this year.
Missouri - Marijuana Legalization
Missouri voters will decide whether to legalize marijuana, and the reform movement has already prevailed over a significant legal obstacle that may have prevented it from starting.
Since the state certified it for the ballot, polling on the Legal Missouri 2022 initiative has been inconsistent. Still, the most recent poll revealed that most Missouri voters would likely support it.
According to the Emerson College Polling and The Hill poll, 48% of voters support Amendment 3, 35% are opposed, and 17% are unsure. The most recent poll was done roughly a week after a different company published a study that revealed 62% of Missouri potential voters are "certain to vote yes" on Amendment 3.
Majorities of all political parties were represented, including Democrats (77%) and Republicans (57%).
Even yet, the Emerson/Hill poll offers greater hope for the initiative's success than the Remington Research Group and Missouri Scout survey, which revealed that only 43% of likely voters support it. The same company behind that study previously missed the mark when it found very marginal support for a 2018 medical cannabis ballot question that, in the end, passed resoundingly.
In the meantime, a group of activists recently organized a campaign to persuade voters to oppose the initiative and force the governor to add cannabis reform to the legislative agenda of a special session. The activists included:
A former lieutenant governor of Missouri.
The director of the state chapter of Americans for Prosperity.
Rep. Ron Hicks (R) submitted a revised marijuana legalization bill in September to encourage the governor to extend the special session so that the emergency reform legislation could be discussed instead of a cannabis ballot initiative.
North Dakota - Marijuana Legalization
In 2021, a similar proposal was made to the legislature. The House passed Rep. Jason Dockter's (R) bill, but the Senate's entire chamber rejected it once it emerged from committee.
North Dakota has little polling data on marijuana reform, although one survey from 2018 revealed that 51% of state people support legalization.
With the release of two radio advertisements starring backers and the announcement of grassroots "get out the vote" campaigns, activists in the state have recently stepped up their efforts to persuade voters to support the initiative.
Maryland - Marijuana Legalization
Maryland voters will decide on a marijuana legalization referendum on the ballot this year thanks to a legislative act.
Additionally, if voters approve the proposal, a separate bill to establish the program's initial regulations will be enacted.
Maryland election officials recently completed the fundamental cannabis referendum's language and published a formal summary. If the ballot initiative passes, lawmakers would likely address concerns about cannabis manufacturing and sales controlled and taxed through additional legislation during the following session.
According to two recent surveys, most Maryland voters say they will support the referendum. If the reform is passed, there is also strong support for vacating earlier cannabis convictions.
Colorado - Psychedelics Legalization
The landmark law aims to make it legal for adults 21 and older to carry psychedelics like psilocybin and ibogaine and permit "healing centers" where psilocybin can be administered for therapeutic purposes.
According to two recent polls, there are mixed results regarding how voters will feel about the historic initiative.
Strong support for the reform was discovered (70%) in one survey commissioned by the Yes On 122 campaign; opposition to the change was shown by a majority of voters (41%) in the other.
When asked recently about the likelihood of passing psychedelics reform in his state, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) admitted that supporters are attempting to pass the measure through the ballot and also stated that he supports the idea of decriminalizing the drugs.
When the federal government finally approves the use of MDMA prescriptions, as is likely to happen, Polis signed a bill in June to align state law.
South Dakota - Marijuana Legalization
Voters in South Dakota approved the legalization of marijuana on the ballot in 2020, and they will have another opportunity to do so this November after the earlier initiative was ruled unconstitutional by a judge.
A new study, with most respondents opposing the reform, indicates that public opinion may have changed, while activists contest the poll's conclusions.
By submitting sufficient legitimate signatures to place the marijuana question on the November ballot, South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws (SDBML) overcame a significant obstacle. They submitted almost 20,000, and the secretary of state's office verified in May that they had gathered 16,961 signatures to be included on the ballot.
Legalization was easily approved, with 54 percent of the vote on the 2020 ballot. The state Supreme Court ultimately nullified the vote on procedural grounds, concluding that the proposition violated the state Constitution's single-subject rule when Gov. Kristi Noem (R) brought a legal challenge.
The 2022 proposal does not include any sections from the previous version that dealt with taxes and regulations, leaving those decisions to the legislature to avoid that issue this time around.
While advocates would have liked lawmakers to adopt the policy change, that did not happen in this session. The House rejected a legalization bill passed by the Senate in March, ultimately leaving it up to activists to re-enter the election.
To examine cannabis policy change, a Marijuana Interim Study Committee led by legislative leaders was established last year. The panel's final recommendation was for the legislature to consider legalizing this year. One of the direct results of the recommendation was the legislation that was defeated in the House.