Five States Get to Vote on Legalizing Adult-Use or Medical Marijuana

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When we originally posted this article on January 7, three states had made the ballot with marijuana voter initiatives that, if passed, would legalize recreational or medical use. They were New Jersey and South Dakota (both rec) and Misssissippi (med). 

A number of other states had their eyes on the prize as well. Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Kentucky Ohio, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Carolina were all in the midst of petition drives to get marijuana measures on the November ballot.

Arizona (rec) became the fourth state to make the ballot on August 9 and Montana (rec) the fifth on August 13. Here's the breakdown. 


Proposition 207 (Marijuana Legalization Initiative) was approved for the Arizona ballot by Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who tweeted:

The measure, proposed by Smart & Safe Arizona, would "legalize the sale, possession and consumption of one ounce of marijuana (of which five grams can be concentrate) for adults at least 21 years old." It allows for the creation of a commerical cannabis market at a 16% tax rate. Home growing is not permitted and there's a 10% THC cap on edible products.

The largest donors to Safe & Smart Arizona are Harvest Enterprises with $1.2 million, CuraLeaf with $600,000)and Cresco Labs with $300,000.

In 2016, a similar rec initiative, Prop 205, lost by a 51%-49% margin.



An early decrim state, Mississippi has lagged behind most of the nation when it comes to medical marijuana, except for a CBD law passed in 2014. That can all change with passage of Mississippi Initiative 65 (Medical Marijuana Amendment), which has been approved for the ballot.

The ballot summary reads:

Initiative Measure No. 65 proposes to amend the Mississippi Constitution to allow qualified patients with debilitating medical conditions, as certified by Mississippi licensed physicians, to use medical marijuana. This amendment would allow medical marijuana to be provided only by licensed treatment centers. The Mississippi State Department of Health would regulate and enforce the provisions of this amendment.

However, unhappy with Initiative 65, in March the state legislature approved a second initiative, Alternative 65A, which will also be on the ballot. The key difference between the initiatives is Alternative 65A only allows patients with terminal conditions to smoke cannabis. It is a much stricter amendment.

Mississippians for Compassionate Care's lead funder is Marijuana Leadership Campaign with  $283,000.



In April, New Approach Montana sued Secretary of State Corey Stapleton and the State of Montana to to allow electronic signature gathering and extend the deadline. The state responded by asking the court to toss the case.

As it turned turned out, enough signatures were submitted by New Approach Montana in July and on August 13, the state approved two different ballot initiatives. Montana Initiative-190 (Marijuana Legalization Initiative) would legalize cannabis and create a commercial market at a 20% tax rate. 

Here's where the taxes would go:

"10.5% of the tax revenue goes to the state general fund, with the rest dedicated to accounts for conservation programs, substance abuse treatment, veterans’ services, healthcare costs, and localities where marijuana is sold."

CI-118 is a constutional amendment that focuses on the legal age to consume cannabis. It's currently 18 in the Big Sky State.

The largest contributor to New Approach Montana is the North Fund with $4.6 million.

New Jersey

In lieu of the state legislature failing to pass a legalization measure in 2019, the lawmakers decided to leave it up to the people. New Jersey Policy Question 1 (Marijuana Legalization Amendment) reads:

Do you approve amending the Constitution to legalize a controlled form of marijuana called "cannabis"?

Only adults at least 21 years of age could use cannabis. The State commission created to oversee the State’s medical cannabis program would also oversee the new personal use cannabis market. 

Cannabis products would be subject to the State sales tax. If authorized by the Legislature, a municipality may pass a local ordinance to charge a local tax on cannabis products.

If the vote fails, the legislature will not be able to consider the marijuana legalization for another three years. 

The is no campaign financing information about this campaign.


South Dakota

This is surprising since South Dakota is one of the three states in the country without any sort of legalization, medical, decrim or CBD laws, yet a local organization, South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, succeeded in getting adult-use measure Constitutional Amendment A (Marijuana Legalization Amendment) on the ballot. 

The ballot summary reads:

This constitutional amendment legalizes the possession, use, transport and distribution of marijuana and marijuana paraphernalia by people age 21 and older. Individuals may possess or distribute one ounce or less of marijuana. Marijuana plants and marijuana produced from those plants may also be possessed under certain conditions.

The amendment authorizes the State Department of Revenue ("Department") to issue marijuana-related licenses for commercial cultivators and manufacturers, testing facilities, wholesalers, and retailers. Local governments may regulate or ban the establishment of licensees within their jurisdictions.

The Department must enact rules to implement and enforce this amendment. The amendment requires the Legislature to pass laws regarding medical use of marijuana. The amendment does not legalize hemp; it requires the Legislature to pass laws regulating the cultivation, processing, and sale of hemp.

The amendment imposes a 15% tax on marijuana sales. The tax revenue will be used for the Department's costs incurred in implementing this amendment, with remaining revenue equally divided between the support of public schools and the State general fund.

Judicial clarification of the amendment may be necessary. The amendment legalizes some substances that are considered felony controlled substances under current State law. Marijuana remains illegal under Federal law.

In addition, New Approach South Dakota was able to get Measure 26 (Medical-Marijuana Initiative) on the November ballot. The measure "legalizes medical use of marijuana by qualifying patients, including minors." It allowe patients to possess three ounces and grow three plant at home.

New Approach PAC has contributed $892,000 to the passage of both Amendment A and Measure 26.

RELATED: Former Senate Minority Tom Daschle Backs South Dakota Legalization Measures


Ballot Bonuses in Oregon

The first state to decriminalize marijuana in 1973, Oregon is leading the way again in 2020 with two daring initiatives:

• Measure 109 (Psilocybin Services Program Initiative) would "establish a regulated psilocybin therapy system." Read more about it here.

Measure 110 (Drug Decriminalization and Addiction Treatment Initiative) would "would reclassify personal/non-commercial drug possession offenses" from misdemeanors to violations. This would include all scheduled drugs, including heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine. Taxes from the state's "marijuana account" would pay for the proposed Drug Treatment and Recovery Services Fund.

Drug Policy Action is the measure's biggest financial backer with $3.4 million, followed by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Advocacy with $500,000. The latter is a nonprofit run by Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan.


Initiative 81 in Washington, DC

In the Nation's Capitol, Initiative 81 (Entheogenic Plants and Fungus Measure) is on the ballot as well.

If passed, the initiative would:

"Make the investigation and arrest of adults for non-commercial planting, cultivating, purchasing, transporting, distributing, possessing and/or engaging in practices with entheogenic plants and fungi among the Metropolitan Police Department’s lowest law enforcement priorities; and

"Codify that the people of the District of Columbia call upon the Attorney General for the District of Columbia and the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia to cease prosecution of residents of the District of Columbia for these activities."

Entheogens are defined in the measure as "plants and fungi that contain ibogaine, dimethyltryptamine, mescaline, psilocybin, or psilocyn."

I-81's main backer Decriminalize Nature DC has raised $550,000, mostly from New Approach PAC. Local activist Adam Eidinger contributed $6,200.


Ballot Initiative History 

From 1972-2018, there have been 46 statewide marijuana ballot intiatives. The first to win was Prop 215 in California (med) in 1996. Over the years, 60% of the votes were victorious (28 won, 18 lost). The last state to succeed was Michigan (rec) in 2018.

This chart was compiled by Steve Bloom and designed by Joe Gurreri for Freedom Leaf in 2018

This article was originally posted January 7. It has been updated several times.

Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.