Six Cannabis Legalization Measures Make the November Ballot
Pre-COVID-19, it appeared as though citizens in as many as 12 states would have the opportunity to vote on medical or adult-use cannabis on Nov. 3, 2020. Had that come to pass, the 2020 election could have eclipsed the monumental events of Nov. 8, 2016, when eight states passed cannabis initiatives. But COVID-19 put a damper on the legalization push in the U.S., as many ballot measures lost steam due to the inability to gather signatures in person. Campaigns for legalization persisted though shelter-in-place orders stopped many signature drives, and with an October 2019 Gallup poll showing 66% support for full legalization, those campaigns that make it to the ballot seem likely to pass.
Despite difficulty gathering signatures, six measures have managed to make it to the November ballot: one in Mississippi for medical, three more in Arizona, Montana and New Jersey for adult-use and two separate measures in South Dakota for both. If all six of these proposals pass, they will expand medical access to 3.9 million more Americans and increase the number of adults with adult-use retail access by 13.5 million. Should all these proposals pass, they will push the population in medically-legal states to 241.1 million (71% of the country) and the number of adults in adult-use legal states to 83.3 million (34% of the country.)
While several of the initiatives were confirmed to be on the ballot in the early months of 2020, measures to legalize adult-use in Arizona and Montana were not officially on the board until late summer. Organizers for the Arizona Marijuana Legalization Initiative campaign submitted over 420,000 signatures in support of the measure before the July 1, 2020 deadline, well more than the 237,645 required to make the cut. Polling shows strong support in Arizona where a poll showed 65.5% in favor of legalizing adult-use, with support for the campaign being much more robust than the last effort to legalize, which narrowly lost in 2016. Voters in Montana will be voting on two separate legalization questions, one that proposes a constitutional amendment that will allow the legislature to legalize use, possession and purchase of cannabis, and another more detailed question that would establish an adult-use market with regulations that will be determined by the Montana Department of Revenue. With a February 2020 survey from the University of Montana showing 54% support for adult-use legalization, these questions stand a good chance of passing.
The election on Nov. 3, 2020 is unlikely to best 2016 in terms of new cannabis markets, but efforts spent pushing for cannabis reform were not wasted. The five states expected to expand cannabis access represent significant growth in the total legal U.S. market, especially New Jersey with its sizable adult population of 6.7 million. Even campaigns that failed to get legalization on the ballot made strong progress before COVID-19 upset their efforts, and succeeded in laying the infrastructure needed to push legalization through next time around.
|State||Medical or Adult-Use||Status|
|Arizona||Adult-Use||On the ballot.|
|Arkansas||Adult-Use||Campaign suspended due to COVID-19.|
|Florida||Adult-Use||Campaign suspended due to COVID-19, aiming for 2022.|
|Missouri||Adult-Use||Campaign suspended due to COVID-19, aiming for 2022.|
|Mississippi||Medical||On the ballot.|
|Nebraska||Medical||Campaign suspended due to COVID-19, aiming for 2022.|
|New Jersey||Adult-Use||On the ballot.|
|Ohio||Adult-Use||Campaign suspended due to COVID-19, aiming for 2022.|
|North Dakota||Adult-Use||Campaign suspended due to COVID-19, aiming for 2022.|
|South Dakota||Medical and Adult-Use||On the ballot.|
|Idaho||Medical||Campaign suspended due to COVID-19.|
|Montana||Adult-Use||On the ballot.|