The 2022 midterm elections were unique and historical for all sorts of reasons. Sure, there was the “red wave” that never came, but there were also ballot measures and victories that will change the trajectory of marijuana legalization in several states.
Two states, Missouri and Maryland, both voted to legalize recreational marijuana. Several others, Arkansas, North Dakota and South Dakota, shot down measures that would legalize recreational adult use marijuana in their states.
There were also some key wins for cannabis legalization advocates, which may help further the hope of cannabis legalization on the federal level.
Maryland Votes Big to Legalize Recreational Cannabis
More than 65% of Maryland voters supported a ballot measure to legalize marijuana in the form of a constitutional amendment on election day. You might be wondering what this means exactly going forward. “The constitutional amendment defines that recreational marijuana would not be legal until July 2023 for people 21 and over, subject to a requirement that the General Assembly pass legislation in its next session regarding distribution, regulation and taxation of cannabis,” according to the Associated Press.
Cannabis is already legal to the North (New Jersey) and South (Washington D.C.). In fact, much of the North Eastern United States has gone green, with Pennsylvania being the largest exception, but more on the Keystone state later.
Missouri Legalizes Weed and Initiates Automatic Expungement
Missouri citizens voted 53.1% to 46.9% to legalize marijuana on election day. This decision is not only a victory for cannabis enthusiasts, but also for those who support criminal justice reform for non-violent cannabis crimes.
According to The Kansas City Star, “It will legalize recreational marijuana for adults over the age of 21 and create a licensing system for businesses who wish to sell or grow marijuana.” The Star also goes further, explaining that the law “allows for people with past non-violent weed charges to have their criminal records expunged.”
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This is a major victory for those looking to destigmatize those convicted of low level marijuana crimes. Missouri also joins Alaska and other Red states in the recreational marijuana family, proving that legalizing cannabis is not as partisan an issue as many once thought.
North and South Dakota Both Vote Down Cannabis Measures
Both North Dakota and South Dakota had ballot measures that offered citizens the chance to legalize marijuana. Both ballot measures failed. In North Dakota, the measure failed by almost 10 percentage points. The South Dakota Measure to legalize adult use for those 21 or older lost by a much smaller margin of 52.9% voting “No” and 47.1% voting “Yes.”
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While many were optimistic that these measures could pass, there are several reasons they couldn’t make it to the finish line. According to TIME, “The failure of three out of five of these marijuana ballot measures this year is largely due to lower voter turnout in a non-presidential election—and opposition from prominent conservative voices who were staunchly against the measures.”
There was high hope that Arkansas could be yet another red state to pass marijuana legalization measures this midterm election, but the Arkansas ballot measure lost 57% to 43%.
There are several possible reasons why this hopeful measure failed fairly considerably. From lower voter turnout (which is standard in a non-presidential election year), to an imperfect bill, there are plenty of places to point the finger. But the bill also received loud and considerable opposition. According to the TIME article,“Legalization efforts in Arkansas faced heavy opposition from groups like the Arkansas Family Council Action Committee, which worked with former Vice President Mike Pence to encourage citizens to vote no on the measure.”
Cannabis Advocates Win to Fight Another Day for Legalization
John Fetterman flipped a senate seat in Pennsylvania, where recreational cannabis is still illegal, and marijuana is still criminalized. Fetterman has been an outspoken advocate for marijuana legalization, as we have previously reported, so it will be interesting to see what happens with cannabis in the Keystone state over the next four years.
Congresswoman Nancy Mace, the republican congresswoman looking to move forward a bi-partisan federal cannabis legalization bill, won re-election in South Carolina. This will give her a chance to move forward with the States Reform Act. Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, who is sponsoring his own legislation on the other side of the aisle, also won reelection.