Recreational marijuana could become legal in half the country if the handful of states with cannabis measures on the ballot this November pass them.
Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota and South Dakota have put measures on their ballots for voters to consider legalizing recreational marijuana this fall. They will join 19 states and the District of Columbia on recreational marijuana.
A decade after Colorado and Washington legalized recreational marijuana, prohibitions have fallen across the country: in large, populous states like California and New York, and in small, rural states like Maine and Vermont. States in the Deep South have largely not legalized marijuana for recreational use, but many have enacted medical cannabis programs.
President Joe Biden on Thursday announced his three-step plan to reform federal marijuana laws, including an immediate amnesty for all federal simple possession convictions.
Here’s more about states looking to legalize recreational marijuana:
Where is the marijuana movement headed next?
• The Arkansas Supreme Court cleared the way in September for voters to consider whether people 21 and older can use recreational marijuana. The court reversed the decision of the Board of Election Commissioners, holding that the proposal did not explain the effect. Arkansas legalized medical marijuana in 2016.
• Maryland lawmakers voted to put a question on the ballot earlier this year, asking voters whether marijuana should be legal for those 21 and older. The proposed constitutional amendment says recreational marijuana won’t be legal until July 2023, with a transition period between January 1 and July 1.
• Missouri’s amendment would similarly allow cannabis for those 21 and older. People also start buying and growing it for personal use as early as this year. Missouri voters approved medical marijuana in 2018. Missouri’s Republican-led legislature has failed to pass recreational marijuana use for years, leading advocates to go to voters for approval.
• A North Dakota ballot initiative succeeded in putting the question of recreational marijuana before voters this year. That means if the question is approved, people 21 and older can legally use marijuana at home, as well as possess and cultivate controlled amounts of cannabis. The measure also sets policies to regulate retail stores, growers and other marijuana businesses.
• South Dakota voters passed a cannabis legalization amendment in 2020, but Gov. Christie Noem backed a lawsuit challenging it and the state’s highest court ruled it violated the state constitution. This year, voters will again have the opportunity to weigh in on legalizing recreational marijuana for those 21 and older.
• Supporters of a ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana in Oklahoma received enough signatures to get the issue before voters there but not in time to get it on the ballot this November. They will vote on it in March instead.
Many states that are legalizing marijuana have plans to help communities affected by the war on drugs and create a legal weed industry that reflects those communities. But getting those businesses off the ground requires more than “magical thinking” from regulators, says Smoak Wallin, board member of the US Hemp Roundtable.
Cannabis is okay everywhere now, at least medical marijuana. Where is it illegal?
Federally, marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I drug, along with heroin and LSD, and its possession carries criminal penalties.
Idaho, Kansas and Nebraska are the only states that have not implemented any type of public use marijuana program, either medical or recreational, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
What else is changing with marijuana laws?
In October, Democratic President Joe Biden announced that he was pardoning thousands of people for federal marijuana possession convictions.
He also directed the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the US Attorney General to review how marijuana is classified 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 loosen, there should be limits on trafficking, marketing and sales to minors.
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