It’s hard to believe — or maybe not — but in this year’s elections, legal marijuana in US was more popular than either Joe Biden or Donald Trump.
In South Dakota and Montana recreational marijuana ballot initiatives passed by 16 or more percentage points than either candidate garnered. South Dakota also voted in favor of a medical marijuana program. That initiative outperformed Biden by 34 percentage points.
Marijuana legalization initiatives in the US appeared on the ballot in five states — New Jersey, Arizona, Montana, Mississippi, and South Dakota. And all of them passed.
In Arizona, New Jersey, South Dakota, and Montana voters chose to legalize recreational marijuana. That makes fifteen states that have now committed to licensing recreational marijuana dispensaries. In South Dakota’s both recreational and medical marijuana initiatives passed with flying colors. Meanwhile, voters in Mississippi passed legal medical marijuana initiatives.
On a side note here, why would states such as Arizona and South Dakota enact both recreational and medical marijuana? The answer is because, as with alcohol, recreational marijuana will only be available at state licensed dispensaries and only to adults 21 and older. On the other hand, medical patients of all ages suffering from a wide array of conditions can benefit from having a medical marijuana card and shopping at a medical marijuana dispensary.
There might have been more states on the bandwagon this year, however, initiatives in a few states failed to make the cut. For example, in Florida, a state with a thriving MMJ Program, a recreational marijuana initiative failed to make it onto the 2020 ballot when Covid restrictions put the kibosh on petition signature collection. This might have been a good thing, however, as polls indicate that the vote would have been a close call. Delaying the vote by another two years might just help advocates to reach the 51 percent that they would need to pass adult-use legalization.
Other states are sure to follow and legal marijuana in US.
Be on the lookout for more states to legalize via legislative action over the next two years or via ballot initiatives in 2022. It has already become apparent in the weeks following the election that the six-for-six sweep is having an effect on legislators and advocates in other states as well.
For example, officials in Rhode Island have said there is a high probability that the state will legalize marijuana. And Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has also pledged to get the job done.
Northam expressed support for decriminalization during his 2017 campaign for governor and was successful in making that happen. However, he hadn’t expressed support for full legalization until post-election. And he did so in no uncertain terms.
“We are going to move forward with legalizing marijuana in Virginia,” Northam said. “I support this, and I’m committed to doing it the right way.” (Medical cannabis is already legal in Virginia.)
Aside from touting the medicinal benefits of marijuana, Northam also talked about the social consequences of prohibition and the war on drugs. The Gov. cited studies that show people of color are more likely to be arrested and convicted for marijuana-related charges.
If Virginia legalizes recreational marijuana, it would become the first state in the South to do so and others are sure to follow.
Support for federal legalization of marijuana is at an all-time high
Support for decriminalizing or legal marijuana in US at the federal level has been climbing steadily over the past half-century.
In 1992, nationwide support for legalization was around 25 percent. As of the election, the latest Gallup poll on the issue showed that a full 68 percent — more than two-thirds of Americans — now support legalizing marijuana, with Republican support nearing the 50 percent tipping point.
Just last week, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told Washington lawmakers that he plans to hold a vote in December on a decriminalization bill that would remove the drug from the Controlled Substances Act. Whether or not the bill will clear the currently Republican-controlled Senate depends on the outcome of two run-off votes in Georgia which could shift the balance of power there.
Federal lawmakers already legalized hemp at the end of 2018. The 2018 Farm Bill put the regulation of hemp and cannabinoids such as CBD, CBG, and CBN in the hands of the states.
Many advocates of federal cannabis policy reform are hoping the feds will do the same for marijuana and repeal the century-old prohibition and admit defeat in the disastrous war on drugs that has cost America billions of dollars and ruined countless lives.