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Recreational Marijuana Initiatives Rejected by Three States, Passed by Two

Maryland and Missouri voters supported efforts to legalize adult-use marijuana

Five states voted on marijuana measures during this year’s midterm elections.

All the states – Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota and South Dakota — permit marijuana for medicinal use.

Voters in Arkansas rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have permitted adults over the age of 21 to purchase marijuana for recreational purposes. Issue 4 would have allowed the state to issue a limited number of business licenses – a total of 20 cultivators and 120 dispensaries – to operate within the state. Businesses that currently have medicinal licenses would have been given recreational licenses.

Additionally, the amendment would have eliminated an existing sales tax on medical marijuana, introduced a sales tax on adult-use marijuana, and eliminated a cap on how much THC can be in medical marijuana-infused drinks and food portions, per 5 News.

Elected officials could not have altered the amendment without a vote from the public.

The marijuana amendment was the only citizen-initiated measure to be included on this year’s ballot. 

Arkansas voters passed an amendment for medical marijuana in 2016

In contrast, Maryland passed a proposed amendment legalizing the use and possession of recreational marijuana. Adults over the age of 21 will legally be allowed to have 1.5 ounces of marijuana in their possession starting on July 1, 2023. 

Possession of more than 1.5 ounces but less than 2.5 ounces will thereafter be punishable by a civil fine of up to $250,” noted The Washington Post. “Possession of more than 2.5 ounces will be punishable by up to six months in jail or a fine of up to $1,000.”

Maryland already permitted the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Otherwise, the substance is decriminalized but remains illegal until next summer.

The initiative will also allow residents to grow two cannabis plants out of public view in their homes. It does not legalize smoking marijuana in public, which will be punishable with up to a $250 fine.

The state’s General Assembly is expected to vote on additional regulation on the retail sale of marijuana during next year’s session.

Recreational marijuana will also be legal in Missouri after voters backed Amendment 3 on election day. Like Maryland, adults ages 21 and over will be permitted to possess and use marijuana for non-medical purposes. Missouri’s possession limit is three ounces – double the legal limit in Maryland. Additionally, the state’s amendment permits residents to have up to six marijuana plants at home.

The new licensing process, which may be subject to additional regulation, will go into effect on Feb. 7. 

The newly passed amendment also calls for 144 licenses, which essentially will be raffled off in a lottery to microbusinesses with priority given to minority groups who have been disproportionately incarcerated for simple marijuana offenses,” per KSHB.

Missouri legalized medical marijuana in 2018.

North Dakota voters rejected a proposal to legalize the purchase of recreational marijuana by people over the age of 21. Voters previously approved legalizing medical marijuana in 2016.

“North Dakota voters in 2018 also soundly rejected a marijuana legalization initiative that also included a provision that would have wiped out past pot-related convictions,” reports Fox News.

South Dakota will also not legalize recreational marijuana. Although voters had simultaneously approved the legalization of medical and adult-use marijuana in 2020, the state’s Supreme Court nullified the recreational-use law in 2021 because it included provisions for medical marijuana and hemp. The court found the law “violated the state’s requirement that constitutional amendments deal with just one subject,” per NPR

According to KFYR TV, advocates for the law are already planning to raise the issue again in 2024. Only people with a medical marijuana card are permitted to have up to three ounces of the substance and an unlimited number of plants. 

According to an April 2021 poll from the Pew Research Center, 91% of Americans believe marijuana should be legal in some capacity.  About 31% believe the substance should only be legal for medical purposes, while 60% support medical and recreational legalization.

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