Following the 2016 election, eight of the nine states that had Marijuana on the Ballot successfully passed legislation including Arizona, California, Florida, Massachusetts, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, and Nevada. Now, marijuana proponents are hoping for another green wave following the 2020 election on Tuesday, November 3, 2020.
Proponents of legalized marijuana believe that more states will see Marijuana on the Ballot, especially as a way to cure social justice and budgetary problems. “We’ve seen public support continue to grow every year,” said Karen O’Keefe, Director of State Policies for the Marijuana Policy Project. Marijuana sales in states where marijuana is legal for medical and/or recreational purposes totaled approximately $15 billion in 2019, and experts from BDS Analytics suggest that number could rise to $30 billion by 2024.
Marijuana on the Ballot in 2020
Arizona’s proposed legislation is similar to the legislation that was on the ballot in 2016. Proposition 207 would allow person 21 years and older to possess, consume, or transfer up to one ounce of marijuana and would create a regulatory system for the products’ cultivation and sale. Updates to Proposition 207 from the 2016 measure include justice provisions and criminal justice reforms, like record expungement.
Mississippi has two proposed legislations on the ballot this year to legalize medical marijuana. Initiative 65 seeks to allow physicians to legally recommend medical marijuana to patients who have any of the 22 qualifying conditions outlined in the legislation. Initiative 65 includes a regulatory program that would tax medical marijuana sales by 7%.
Conversely, Mississippi voters have the option to vote for House Concurrent Resolution 39 which would limit medical marijuana prescriptions to only terminally ill patients.
On the ballot in Montana is Ballot issue I-190 which would legalize the possession, sale, and use of recreational marijuana, and initiative CI-118 which would establish 21 years as the legal age to purchase, possess, and consume recreational marijuana within the state.
Ballot issue I-90 seeks to establish a 20% tax on marijuana sales. According to Montana’s proposed Marijuana Regulation and Tax Act Fiscal Note, the ballot measures will generate nearly $38.5 million in tax revenue to help fund services like substance abuse treatment and veteran’s services.
Ballot Issue I-90 also seeks social justice reform with a provision allows residents of the state who are serving a sentence for certain marijuana-related crimes to apply for record expungement or even a resentencing.
Question 1 in on the ballot in New Jersey, giving residents the power to decide whether a state constitutional amendment will be passed legalizing marijuana for persons 21 years and older.
Proponents of Question 1 suggest that tax revenue generated by the regulated sales of marijuana within the state will boost the state’s economy, especially after being hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. A report done by the New Jersey Policy Perspective suggests that New Jersey could benefit from an estimated $300 million in annual tax revenue from regulated marijuana sales.
Additionally, social justice groups advocating for Question 1 argue that recreational Marijuana legalization in New Jersey would decrease the number of people jailed for drug possession. “The fact is that every week, roughly plus or minus 600 New Jerseyans—600—the majority of whom are persons of color, will be arrested for marijuana possession, will have a criminal record that will hurt their prospects for getting a job and education, housing, you name it,” Gov. Murphy said; something lobbyists and proponents hope to stop if the amendment passes.
While North Dakota passed Statutory Measure No. 5, legalizing medical marijuana following the 2016 election, South Dakota has Measure 26 and Amendment A on the ballot this year, leaving it up to voters to decide whether to legalize medical marijuana for all persons 21 years and older and to adopt hemp and medical marijuana laws.
The South Dakota Legislative Research Counsel projects that Amendment A alone could generate approximately $29.3 million in tax revenue by 2024.