In 2012, Colorado shocked the nation by legalizing cannabis, the notion is no longer a western fad. Recently Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota have joined Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington in legalizing recreational cannabis.
Recreational Cannabis Isn’t the Only 2020 Victor
A nationwide first, South Dakota legalized both medical and recreational cannabis in this election. Additionally, 67.95% of Mississippi voters voted for a relatively robust medical cannabis legislation for the south. In this same election, 59% of Oregon voters voted to decriminalize the possession of all drugs. So while recreational cannabis won big, almost getting 10% of states to legalize it, the war on drugs in toto is grinding to a needed halt. Americans aren’t interested in punishing people for using substances and are interested in the profits from promising alternative pharmacological and recreational substances, such as cannabis. Obviously, all states have only permitted legal recreational cannabis for those 21 and older.
Proposition 207 allows adults to grow up to six plants and approves recreation cannabis sales with a 16% tax. 59.85% of Arizona voters voted for this proposition, which will expunge the records of those with cannabis convictions.
New Jersey Legalization
Without a set limit for plants, 66.95% of New Jersian voters voted for New Jersey Public Question 1, which allows for recreation sales and adult possession. While the state sales tax of 6.625% is applied to cannabis, other taxes are prohibited, except for local governments, which are permitted to add a 2% tax.
56.89% of Montana voters voted to legalize recreational cannabis with a 20% tax and allow for the resentencing or expungement of cannabis convictions. Initiative 190 would allow individuals to possess an ounce and up to four plants. However, there’s already a lawsuit filed against the initiative, trying to get it scrapped for appropriating tax revenue, which should be the job of the Legislature.
South Dakota Legalization
South Dakota’s Amendment A won 53.41% of voters, allowing adults to grow up to 3 cannabis plants if they don’t live close to any stores. However, 69.21% of South Dakotans voters voted for South Dakota Measure 26, which will create a medical cannabis program.
2020 Voters Made it Clear, No More Drug War. Legalize Cannabis
In every state which legalized cannabis, cannabis was more popular than either Trump or Biden. Although only medical marijuana was more popular in South Dakota than their preferred candidate, medical cannabis had an +8.45% advantage over Trump. With legalization and expungement on the ballot, Americans made it clear. They no longer want people to suffer for victimless crimes, and they want to repair the economy through ethical and proven means.
Now that legalization occurred for these states; the individual jurisdictions will decide how to move forward. In Arizona, medical shops will get priority, but they will have to wait until January to apply for recreational licenses. Similarly, Montana has limited all application for recreation licenses to medical cultivators for the first month, and aim to launch recreational sales by October 2021. Meanwhile, New Jersey aims to have a recreational market running in six months.
As everyone else did, all of these newly legal states will have to wade through bureaucracy and paperwork to figure their systems out. Luckily for them, they have ample examples to follow. However, it would be wise to listen to Drug Policy Alliance’s Emily Kaltenbach statement on Arizona’s legalization, New Mexico’s future, and social equity:
“Arizona will join Colorado as a destination for New Mexicans to purchase legal cannabis – Colorado already reports that nearly 40% of their sales are to out-of-state residents, many of those being New Mexicans in the northern part of the state who easily hop over the border to purchase. Last night’s win in Arizona now offers communities in the Western and Southern parts of the state, including Gallup, Reserve, Silver City, Lordsburg, and Las Cruces, equal access. New Mexico will continue to see an outflow of dollars that could instead be cannabis tax revenue that the state could use to reinvest back into communities impacted by cannabis arrests.
“New Mexicans are ready for cannabis legalization, and they want to see equity built into the legislative proposal to help right the many wrongs caused by the failed war on drugs. Legislation introduced in the upcoming 2021 legislative session must reinvest back into communities most harmed by drug prohibition, particularly Hispanic/Latino, Black, and Native populations in New Mexico. Repairing the damage done by cannabis prohibition is not negotiable. It is time to stop criminalizing people for cannabis and instead realize the economic and social benefits of having cannabis possession and sales regulated in New Mexico.”