Voters in five states — Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota — will decide this Election Day on statewide ballot measures to legalize the use of marijuana by adults.

Currently, 19 states — comprising 44 percent of the US population — have legalized and regulated adult-use marijuana markets. If voters approve these measures, approximately half of all US residents will reside in a jurisdiction where the possession and use of cannabis are legal for adults.

According to recent polling, most of these measures enjoy majority support from the public. “Voters’ support for repealing cannabis criminalization crosses party lines,” NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano said. “That is why, historically, these ballot initiative efforts have been equally successful at the ballot box in both ‘red’ states and in ‘blue’ states. We anticipate similar outcomes this November.”

In 2020, voters in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota approved similar adult-use legalization measures. (South Dakota’s election results were later nullified by the state’s Supreme Court.) In 2016, California, Massachusetts, Maine, and Nevada voters approved similar initiatives. 

Several of this year’s ballot initiatives faced protracted litigation by opponents, who sought to have the measures removed from the ballot over perceived technicalities. Most of those efforts were unsuccessful; however, one such effort succeeded in postponing voters’ opportunity to decide a similar ballot question in Oklahoma. 

“With public support for marijuana policy reform reaching super-majority status in recent years, prohibitionists and other political opponents have largely abandoned efforts to try and influence public opinion,” NORML’s Armentano said. “Rather, they are now relying on anti-democratic gamesmanship to prevent voters from weighing in on the issue.”

In addition to these statewide efforts, voters in dozens of cities will be deciding on municipal ballot questions this fall. For instance, voters in five Texas cities — Denton, Elgin, Harker HeightsKilleen, and San Marcos — will decide on measures seeking to amend local laws curtailing police officers’ authority to “issue citations or make arrests for Class A or Class B misdemeanor possession of marijuana offenses” absent a defendant’s alleged involvement in a “felony level narcotics” case. Voters in several Ohio cities will also decide on municipal measures depenalizing activities involving marijuana possession.

“These additional local efforts help create pressure from the ground up. We will be reaching out to voters in these localities to ensure they are registered to vote, know about the issues on the ballot and get out to the ballot boxes,” says Jax James, NORML’s State Policy Manager. “Between local and state efforts, these initiatives will affect over 18 million Americans.” 

In Rhode Island, voters in 31 towns will decide on measures determining whether or not to allow licensed cannabis retailers in their localities. Voters in cities in several other states, including Colorado, Michigan, and Montana, will also decide on similar local ballot measures.

“We are optimistic about the success of these state and local cannabis measures,” added NORML’s Political Director Morgan Fox. “More jurisdictions ending the criminalization of marijuana for adults should encourage federal lawmakers to enact sensible policy reforms before the end of the current congressional session.”

For a detailed breakdown of 2022 ballot initiatives, please visit NORML’s Election Central.

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