Voters Approve Marijuana Measures in Five States

By: - November 4, 2020 12:00 am

A woman trims the leaves of marijuana plants at Compassionate Care Foundation’s medical marijuana dispensary in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey. New Jersey was among the five states where voters approved marijuana legalization measures on Tuesday. Julio Cortez/The Associated Press

In a clean sweep of all marijuana legalization ballot initiatives, voters in Arizona, New Jersey, Montana and South Dakota on Tuesday approved recreational marijuana sales and voters in South Dakota and Mississippi approved medical marijuana sales.

Once the measures are implemented, 15 states will allow recreational marijuana sales and 25 will allow marijuana to be sold to patients with certain medical conditions.

That means a third of Americans will live in states that allow recreational pot use, and almost three-quarters of Americans will live in states that allow either medical or recreational use.

“This historic set of victories will place even greater pressure on Congress to address the glaring and untenable conflicts between state and federal laws when it comes to cannabis legalization,” said Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington, D.C.-based group that advocates for marijuana legalization.

Advocates say taxing and regulating pot is more important than ever, given state budget deficits due to the coronavirus pandemic and nationwide protests over unfair policing practices. But opponents argue that marijuana sales provide relatively limited tax revenue and pose public health risks, such as potential increased addiction and drugged driving.

In a sign of growing acceptance of other drugs, Washington, D.C., voters on Tuesday passed a ballot measure to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms and Oregon voters approved the consumption of psychedelic mushrooms in controlled settings. Oregon voters also approved a measure that reduces criminal penalties for possessing drugs such as heroin and would spend marijuana tax revenue on substance abuse treatment.

New York could be the next state to legalize pot though legislation. Local media reported that Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, asked at a recent event when New York would legalize, said, “Soon, because now we need the money.” Lawmakers in the state tried and failed last year to agree on a pot legalization bill.

And pro-pot groups already are looking to the 2022 election. Ballotpedia, an online election encyclopedia, is tracking 11 potential or certified ballot measures that would legalize medical or recreational marijuana in Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, North Dakota and Oklahoma.

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Sophie Quinton

Sophie Quinton writes about fiscal and economic policy for Stateline. Previously, she wrote for National Journal.