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Pot in the Polls – Legalization on the 2020 Ballot

By Stephanie Wilson
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Cannabis legalization is on November ballots in five states this November. Here’s what you need to know before the 2020 election.

As of September 2020, 33 states have passed medical marijuana laws, and 11 states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for adult use. And according to New Frontier Data, 98.6 percent of the US is living in a state with a legal cannabis market.  
The last presidential election year was a banner one for cannabis legalization, as measures passed in eight out of the nine states with legalization on the ballot. This year looked as if it was going to put the final nails in the War on Drugs coffin, with voters casting ballots in favor of spreading legalization across the land.  
Alas, the thing that spread across the land this year was a pandemic. As a result, 2020 will be a big-ish year for cannabis legalization at the polls. It would have been bigger had COVID-19 not taken over the collective consciousness, forcing us all to drop whatever we were doing, go home, and stay there. “Before the COVID-19 pandemic derailed legalization efforts in a handful of states, there were as many as 11 with momentum toward legalizing cannabis for adult use in 2020, with another 12 considering legalization for medical use,” explains Kacey Morrissey, senior director of industry analytics for cannabis industry authority New Frontier Data.  
In November, voters in four states will be deciding whether to approve cannabis for adult (aka recreational) use: Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota. Two states— Mississippi and South Dakota—are voting on medical marijuana legalization. Here’s a quick breakdown of what’s on America’s ballots. 



Arizona Proposition 207, aka The Marijuana Legalization Initiative 

A “yes” vote indicates support for the ballot initiative creating an initiated state statute legalizing cannabis for adult use. The measure states: “In the interest of the efficient use of law enforcement resources, enhancing revenue for public purposes, and individual freedom, the responsible adult use of marijuana should be legal for persons 21 years of age or older, subject to state regulation, taxation, and local ordinance.” 


Montana Constitutional Initiative 190, aka Montana Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act
A “yes” vote supports legalizing cannabis possession and use for adults age 21+. It requires the state Department of Revenue to license and regulate the cultivation, transportation, and sale of cannabis and cannabis products, and establishes a 20-percent tax on recreational cannabis sales; 10.5 percent would go to the state general fund, with the rest dedicated to accounts fo conservation programs, substance abuse treatment, veterans’ services, healthcare costs, and localities where marijuana is sold. And it allows a person currently serving a sentence for an act permitted by I-190 to apply for resentencing or an expungement of the conviction. It also prohibits advertising of marijuana and related products.  
New Jersey
Public Question 1, aka The Marijuana Legalization Amendment  
A “yes” vote supports the state’s constitutional amendment to legalize the possession and use of marijuana for persons age 21 and older and legalize the cultivation, processing, and sale of retail marijuana. If this passes, New Jersey will be the first state in the Mid-Atlantic region to legalize cannabis for adult use.  

South Dakota  

Constitutional Amendment A, aka The Marijuana Legalization Initiative  
A “yes” vote supports the constitutional amendment to legalize adult use of marijuana and require the South Dakota legislature to pass laws providing for the use of medical marijuana and the sale of hemp by April 1, 2022. 



Initiative 65 and Alternative 65A, aka Medical Marijuana 2020 Amendment 

Voting “either measure” is the same as voting “yes” on this amendment legalizing medical marijuana. To have a ballot count, however, voters in favor of “either measure” must then choose one. Both amendments legalize medical marijuana in some capacity, but that capacity is the key difference between the two. Under Initiative 65, patients with any of more than 20 debilitating conditions (Parkinson’s disease, Crohn’s disease, PTSD, chronic pain, epilepsy and seizure conditions, and more) are eligible to become medical marijuana patients under a doctor’s supervision. Alternative 65A limits medical marijuana use to only the terminally ill. 

South Dakota  

South Dakota Initiated Measure 26, aka Medical Marijuana Initiative 

A “yes” vote supports establishing a medical marijuana program in South Dakota for individuals with a debilitating medical condition as certified by a physician. Patients would be allowed to possess a maximum of 3 ounces of cannabis, and patients registered to cultivate marijuana at home could grow three plants at minimum, or another amount prescribed by a physician.