Voters Approve Recreational Marijuana in Maryland, Missouri | Associated press

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Voters approved recreational marijuana in Maryland and Missouri but rejected it in two other states, signaling growing support for legalization even in conservative parts of the country.

The results mean that 21 states have now approved the recreational use of marijuana. Voters in Arkansas and North Dakota rejected legalization proposals in Tuesday’s election. A similar initiative was pitched to voters in South Dakota, but early Wednesday it was too early to call.

The lawyers said the results send a message to lawmakers in Washington about support for legalization across the country.

“A growing number of voters recognize that cannabis policy reform is in the interest of public health and safety, criminal justice reform, social equity and personal liberty” , said Toi Hutchinson, president and CEO of the Marijuana Policy Project, in a statement. . “Legalization victories at the state level are what is needed to move the needle to the federal level.”

The state’s vote follows steps taken by President Joe Biden to decriminalize marijuana. Biden announced last month that he was pardoning thousands of Americans convicted of simple possession of marijuana under federal law.

Proponents of the marijuana initiatives said Biden’s announcement could give their efforts a boost.

Missouri’s measure will legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older and expunge records of past arrests and convictions for nonviolent marijuana-related offenses except for selling to minors or driving under influence.

“It just goes to show it’s not a partisan issue,” said John Payne, who led Missouri’s campaign to legalize marijuana use. “It’s something that transcends partisan divides.”

Payne said he expects recreational sales to begin in Missouri early next year.

Opponents have said they will work to limit Missouri’s implementation of legalization, such as working with cities and towns to refuse to license dispensaries.

“The devil is in the details, and we will remain actively involved in Missouri’s implementation because we don’t need another big tobacco industry harming Missouri’s children,” said Kevin Sabet, president of SAM. Action, an anti-legalization group.

Maryland will also make criminal law changes and create automatic expungements for prior marijuana possession convictions.

Before the election, recreational marijuana was legal in 19 states, and polls showed opposition to easing legalization. Every state with recreational marijuana on the ballot except Maryland voted for Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election.

About 6 in 10 voters support the legalization of recreational marijuana use nationwide, according to VoteCast, an extensive survey of more than 90,000 voters nationwide for The Associated Press by NORC at the ‘University of Chicago.

“Support for ending marijuana prohibition in states is spreading much like it did for ending alcohol prohibition,” said Mason Tvert, partner at VS Strategies, a cannabis policy and public affairs company. “

All five states that voted on Tuesday have legal medical marijuana programs. That includes Arkansas, which in 2016 became the first Bible Belt state to approve medical marijuana. State dispensaries opened in 2019 and more than 91,000 patients have cards to legally purchase marijuana for medical conditions.

Legalization campaigns have raised approximately $23 million across the five states, with the vast majority in Arkansas and Missouri. More than 85% of contributions in those two states came from donors associated with companies holding medical marijuana licenses, according to an Associated Press analysis of the latest campaign finance reports.

In Arkansas, supporters ran upbeat ads touting the thousands of jobs they said would be created by the measure. Opponents aired more ominous spots, warning voters to “protect Arkansas from the big marijuana.”

“The marijuana industry has spent millions of dollars trying to fit into the Arkansas Constitution,” said Jerry Cox, executive director of the Family Council Action Committee, one of the groups opposing the measure. . cronyism policy.”

The initiative has drawn criticism from traditional opponents of legalization as well as some medical marijuana advocates, who said Arkansas’ proposal imposes too many limits and would only benefit a handful of dispensaries. Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a former head of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, also opposed the measure.

Fans have indicated they plan to try again in Arkansas.

“Tonight we made history by putting cannabis for adult use on the ballot for the first time. Although we were not successful, we look forward to continuing this effort to build this momentum until in 2024,” said Robert McLarty, campaign manager for Responsible Growth Arkansas. .

David Owen, who led North Dakota’s legalization effort, said he wasn’t sure another effort would be made after the proposal was rejected.

“Tonight was not what we wanted, but people have spoken and we have to prepare for the next steps,” Owen said.

North Dakota’s proposal would have allowed people 21 and older to legally use marijuana at home as well as possess and grow restricted amounts of cannabis. It also reportedly established policies to regulate retail stores, growers, and other types of marijuana businesses.

“It’s pretty clear that families in North Dakota don’t want marijuana statewide,” said Luke Niforatos, executive vice president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a Virginia-based political organization against the legalization of marijuana. marijuana, which helped fight the measure in North Dakota.

South Dakotans, including a significant number of Republicans, voted to legalize marijuana possession in 2020, but that law was struck down by the state Supreme Court in part because the proposal was associated with the medical marijuana and hemp. This year, the recreational pot stood all alone in front of voters.

In Colorado, where recreational marijuana has been legal for nearly a decade, voters on Tuesday passed a proposal that would allow the use of certain psychedelics. If approved, it would make Colorado the second state to take such a step. The vote was too early to call early Wednesday.

Melody Finley, a Republican from Little Rock, Arkansas, said she voted for the state legalization measure because she thinks it can help some people under certain conditions.

“If you can buy booze, you can buy it too,” said Finley, 47, a dance instructor.

But Rick Huffman, a voter in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, voted against that state’s legalization proposal, two years after he backed recreational marijuana in South Dakota’s 2020 ballot.

“I have a child who is a teenager now,” he said. “So I think it will eventually happen, but maybe I’ll wait until my kids grow up.”


Associated Press writer Stephen Groves in Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Summer Ballentine in Jefferson City, Missouri; James MacPherson in Bismarck, North Dakota; and Dave Kolpack in Fargo, North Dakota, contributed to this report.


Follow AP coverage of the 2022 midterm elections at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections. And learn more about the midterm issues and factors at play at https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-elections.

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