Congress appears to be wimping out on the prospect of decriminalizing marijuana and removing it from the federal schedule of controlled substances, thanks to pressure from police and prohibition lobbyists (and a general lack of support from Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden).
But the states are continuing to legalize on their own with the support of their voters, and more marijuana initiatives are on the ballot in November. South Dakota and Mississippi voters will be asked to permit the use of medical marijuana as a treatment for certain medical conditions. South Dakota voters will also be offered the chance to legalize recreational use, as will voters in Arizona, Montana, and New Jersey.
Mississippi. The Mississippi ballot initiative is a complicated mess that will require voters to tick multiple boxes. There are actually two competing bills to allow for medical marijuana, Proposition 65 and Alternative 65A. Voters will first be asked whether they want either measure to pass. Then regardless of whether they want either measure to pass, they'll be asked to choose which measure they'd prefer. So technically, a voter can oppose medical marijuana legalization but then also decide which version they'd prefer if it passes anyway, and that vote will count.
Prop. 65 will allow the use of medical marijuana to treat more than 20 specific medical marijuana conditions and establishes possession limits and a sales tax rate for sales. Alternative 65A is the version put on the ballot by state lawmakers and would restrict medical marijuana use only to those with terminal illnesses.
Polling from earlier in the year showed a majority voting in favor of Prop. 65 by 52 percent. But this week Marijuana Moment reported that a sample ballot being circulated by the American Medical Association and the Mississippi State Medical Association (MSMA) is telling voters to vote no for both of them, but then to select the more restrictive 65A as their second option. This would seriously limit who would be allowed legal access to medical marijuana.
South Dakota. South Dakota voters get to decide whether to legalize medical marijuana and also to legalize recreational use. Measure 26 would establish medical marijuana as a legal treatment for anything certified as a "debilitating medical condition" by a physician. It would establish possession limits and would permit registered patients to grow marijuana at home.
South Dakota voters will also have the option to amend the state's constitution to fully legalize recreational marijuana use. Constitutional Amendment A will allow recreational marijuana use for those over the age of 21 and possession and distribution of up to one ounce. The sale of marijuana would be taxed at 15 percent. Half of that revenue would be earmarked for public schools. The South Dakota amendment would allow residents who don't live in a jurisdiction with a licensed retailer to grow their own.
Arizona. Arizona voters narrowly voted down marijuana legalization in 2016, but it's back on the ballot again as Proposition 207. The proposition will legalize consumption by those over 21, allow people to grow up to six plants as long as they are in an enclosed area and not within public view, and would set a 16 percent sales tax rate.
Early polling had support for legalization widely ahead, but the latest numbers have voters split. Republican Gov. Doug Ducey opposes legalization, complaining that "Kids would become easy prey for an industry hungry to create a new generation of users."
New Jersey. New Jersey's vote is actually a referendum put on the ballot by the state's legislature. This is the first time that state lawmakers actually voted to refer the matter to the voters, partly because the lawmakers themselves could not settle on a bill.
New Jersey's referendum, Question 1, would update the state's constitution to allow those over 21 to consume marijuana recreationally and would create a regulatory system to oversee a recreational marketplace. Current polls show marijuana legalization in New Jersey has strong support. The ad campaign there focuses on how much money the state spends arresting people for pot possession ($143 million annually).
Montana. Montana voters will have two marijuana ballot initiatives. The first, I-190, would allow legal consumption for adults over the age of 21. It will allow private cultivation of up to four plants, establish a retail regulatory regime, and set retail taxes at 20 percent.
There's also a separate constitutional initiative, CI-118, that would amend the state's constitution specifically to allow the state the authority to set a minimum legal age for the consumption of marijuana, just like it does for alcohol.
So even as Congress continues to stumble around and fail to respond to poll numbers showing that Americans support marijuana legalization, the states and voters are reforming their laws regardless.