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Five States To Vote on Recreational Cannabis This Election Season

Current legalization of adult-use cannabis in Washington, D.C., Washington, D.I., and 19 other states, territories, Washington, D.C., is in effect. However, medical cannabis law in 36 states, three territories, D.C., and 37 others. If the five states were to approve adult-use marijuana, approximately half of America’s population would be in jurisdictions where cannabis possession and usage is legal.

While many states in these areas are more conservative than they should be, the year 2015 also marks progress towards cannabis reform. Political parties seem less relevant.

As Americans collectively look ahead to midterms, let’s take a closer look at the cannabis policy these states will consider this year:

Arkansas – Issue 4

Back in 2016, Arkansas voters legalized medical cannabis, by a vote of 53.11% to 46.89%, winning in 38 of the state’s 75 counties. Arkansans are expected to vote for Arkansas Issue 4 (the Arkansas Adult Use Cannabis Amendment) in November.

Here’s what it doesAdults over 21 would be allowed to possess, use and consume cannabis. One ounce would be permitted for residents. The amendment would also come with a 10% tax on cannabis states, requiring the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Division to develop rules to regulate cannabis businesses. 

The amendment that legalized medical cannabis in the state allowed for a maximum of 40 dispensaries and eight cultivators; this year’s recreational amendment would increase the maximum number of cultivation facilities to 20 and the maximum number of dispensaries to 120.

The polls are telling us: In September 2017, Arkansas voters had voted in favor of the initiative. This was despite it being a two-to-1 result. The Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College survey of 835 likely Arkansas voters was conducted September 12 and found that 58.5% were for the initiative, 29% were against it and 12.5% were unsure.

In February the same group surveyed 961 Arkansas voters and found a large majority supporting adult-use cannabis. 53.5% supported it, 32% supported only medical cannabis and 10.5% supported legalization. 4% were unconvinced.

Maryland – Question 4

Maryland legalized medical cannabis on April 14, 2014. The state has had sales of marijuana since 2017 and there is a growing movement for reform. Medical usage is booming: As of November 2021, the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission reported nearly 150,000 state-registered patients and about $600 million in sales, according to state regulators—a huge leap from 2020’s $423 million and 2019’s $255 million in revenue.

With Maryland Question 4 or the Marijuana Legalization Amendment, the voters will decide whether to continue the cannabis train.

Here’s what it does Amendment legalizes marijuana for adult 21-year-olds starting July 2023. This directs Maryland State Legislature to adopt laws for its use, distribution, and taxation.

The General Assembly also passed companion legislation that would become effective upon 4’s passing and provide additional clarity around the implementation of the amendment. House Bill 837 clarifies, that if Question 4 is passed, possession of up 1.5 ounces cannabis or 10 grams concentrate would be immediately decriminalized. Small administrative fines will apply. Possession of these quantities would become completely legal after June 30, 2021.

The HB 837 notes that residents will be permitted to grow up to 2 cannabis plants per home. Any previous convictions for cannabis possession that are legalized under these new provisions will be automatically expunged. Persons currently on sentence can also apply to have their possession convictions resentenced. 

The polls are telling us: Maryland has seen consistent support over the years for marijuana in polls. Goucher College has released the most recent poll. Washington PostBoth events at the University of Maryland took place in September. 

According to the Goucher survey, 59% said they would approve of the question. 34% voted against it and 7% remained undecided. These were the results. Post poll shows even more support, with 73% in favor of legalizing adult-use cannabis, with 23% against and 4% stating “no opinion.” 

The support was consistent with a 2019 PostAccording to a -UMD survey, 66% Maryland residents support legalizing medical cannabis. A Goucher poll in March 2022 found 62% Maryland residents were supportive of legalizing recreational marijuana. Many experts believe that the bill will be passed by voters.

Missouri – Amendment 3

Missouri Amendment 3 is a referendum on cannabis that will be voted for by Missouri voters. It was approved four years ago, just after a successful initiative to legalize cannabis in Missouri.

Here’s what it does Voting yes to Amendment 3 would amend the Missouri Constitution in order to allow adults 21 and older the right to possess, consume, use, deliver, make, or sell cannabis. This amendment will allow those convicted of certain cannabis-related offences to apply for release, parole, probation or exoneration. It would also impose a tax of 6% on recreational marijuana retail prices.

The petition also outlines a system that would grant 144 additional licenses for “microbusiness facilities,” comprised of six dispensaries and 12 wholesale facilities in each of Missouri’s congressional districts. These licenses will go through a lottery and would allow licensees to grow and manufacture cannabis products.

The polls are telling us: Numerous new polls provide insight into the possible outcome of the election, but they may leave people with more questions than answers.

Missouri Scout commissioned Remington Research Group to conduct a mid-September poll. Only 43% supported Amendment 3 and 47% opposed. 10% were unsure. Another poll was conducted by Emerson College Polling. The HillThe results of the survey, which were distributed at the end September, showed that 48% supported legalization, 35% opposed, and 17% weren’t sure.

Another poll, conducted in mid-September by SurveyUSA, complicates things further: It found that 62% of voters are “certain to vote yes” on Amendment 3, with 22% opposed and 16% unsure. Many have said that the vote on Amendment 3 is not worth it, despite all of the data available and the time remaining until Voting Day.

North Dakota – Statutory Measure 2

North Dakota voters approved Measure 5, or the North Dakota Compassionate Care Act in 2016. This law allows for the sale and use of medical marijuana. North Dakota Legislative Assembly had to take two years before they created regulations. Governor Doug Burgum, however, reduced the penalties for cannabis possession and increased the number of conditions that medical cannabis patients can qualify for in 2019.

Voters will determine this year whether the state goes one step further with Statutory Measure 2.

Here’s what it does The measure would create a new chapter of the North Dakota Century Code, legalizing the production, processing and sale of cannabis and the use of “various forms of cannabis” for adults 21 years old and up. It would allow for the possession of as little as one ounce, up to four grams of concentrated cannabis and up to 500mg THC in an infused product. A law would permit adults over the age of 18 to cultivate up to three cannabis plants. The Department of Health and Human Services must also establish regulations to regulate the market. 

This measure would allow the department to also license seven cannabis cultivation facilities, and 18 marijuana retailers.

The polls are telling us: North Dakota, a conservative state is where the voters of 2018 rejected an identical ballot measure to legalize marijuana.

One July Poll from The Dickinson Press looked specifically at southwest North Dakota readers, finding that 39% supported the measure, 43% were opposed and 18% didn’t have a preference. The paper also suggested that opinions may have shifted in the area over time, as a similar 2018 poll found southwestern North Dakotans supported that year’s legislation 60% to 40%, despite the outcome.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any other publicized and recent polls on the issue. However, one key difference this year, versus 2018’s effort, that could push the conversation in another direction is money, U.S. News According to the Associated Press. While cannabis activists had very little funding four years back, North Dakota’s legalization group received $520,000 this year.

Additionally, the North Dakota Petroleum Council, which helped fund opposition to the measure in 2018, will not contribute to the fight against cannabis legalization this time around, according to the group’s president Ron Ness. 

There are several factors that could spell success for the effort, but unfortunately without more concrete polling data, it’s tough to anticipate where the vote could go.

South Dakota – Initiative Measure 27

After passing the state’s medical cannabis legalization initiative in 2020, with the state’s first licensed dispensary opening its doors July 2022, South Dakota voters will once again vote on cannabis with Initiative Measure 27. This state’s history with cannabis is rich, making this vote a little different from other states that pose similar questions.

Here’s what it does Initiative Measure 27 is a yes vote. It legalizes the possession, distribution and consumption of marijuana for those aged 21 or over. It does not include licensing, taxation or local regulations regarding cannabis and hemp.

Amendment A was approved by voters in 2020. This amendment would legalize recreational cannabis, authorize the State Department of Revenue in issuing cannabis-related licenses to grow, test, manufacture, wholesale, and retail cannabis, impose a 15% sales tax, and allow local governments the authority to regulate licensees within their borders. It also requires the legislature to approve laws for hemp and medical cannabis.

Voters approved the measure 54% to 46% in the November 3, 2020 general election, but the Supreme Court overturned the measure February 8, 2022, with Judge Christina Klinger ruling it was unconstitutional for violating South Dakota’s single-subject rule (state law says constitutional amendments can only cover a single issue) and because it was a revision of the constitution rather than an amendment.

This time around, advocates aren’t risking invalidation, instead moving forward to strictly enforce legalization. If separate laws or votes are passed, cannabis sales may be possible in the future.

The polls are telling us: Two years ago voters approved similar initiatives, but recent polls reveal that South Dakotans remain divided on the matter.

South Dakota State University published the results from their poll of South Dakota voters. They found that 47% supported legalization, 47% opposed, and 8% weren’t sure. Another poll from Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy of Florida, conducted in July, found that 43.8% of respondents supporting legalization of recreational cannabis, while 54.4% opposed it. 


We can theorize all we want, but of course we’ll have to collectively hang tight to witness the final outcomes in these states. While we might not see all five states enacting cannabis reform this year, we’re likely to escape election season with a little more state support for recreational cannabis.