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Election Day 2022: These 5 States Could Legalize Marijuana

Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota and South Dakota may soon join the 19 states that allow adult-use cannabis.

Hands holding marijuana and 'vote' button
Marijuana referendums are on the ballot in Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota and South Dakota.
Getty Images

Marijuana legalization is on the ballot in five states today. If all the referendums pass, Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota and South Dakota would join the 19 states that have already approved adult-use cannabis. (A Oklahoma referendum failed to make it on the ballot in time, but will be the subject of a special election in March 2023.)

In October, President Joe Biden pardoned all federal marijuana possession convictions and encouraged governors to do the same.

"Just as no one should be in a federal prison solely due to the possession of marijuana, no one should be in a local jail or state prison for that reason, either," Biden said in a statement.

Here's what you need to know about the cannabis initiatives on the ballot this year.  

Arkansas

Arkansas's Issue 4 nearly didn't make it on the ballot after the state Board of Elections denied certification, claiming the language drafted by advocacy group Responsible Growth Arkansas was unclear. The state's Supreme Court overturned the board's decision in September, however, paving the way for Arkansas voters to decide whether recreational cannabis should be legalized.

The measure would allow adults to purchase up to an ounce of cannabis from licensed retailers. It would also implement a 10% sales tax on cannabis sales, which analysts predict would generate more than $460 million in tax revenue by 2027, Arkansas Business reported

Unlike several other states, Issue 4 doesn't include a provision to expunge criminal records for marijuana convictions.

A September poll conducted by Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College found 59% of likely voters support legalization, with 29% opposed and 13% undecided.

Maryland

After lawmakers in Annapolis passed legislation establishing a framework for recreational marijuana legalization, advocates were able to get Question 4 before voters on Nov. 8.

It asks voters, "Do you favor the legalization of the use of cannabis by an individual who is at least 21 years of age on or after July 1, 2023, in the State of Maryland?"

If passed, the amendment would make the purchase and possession of up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis legal in the state, along with the cultivation of up to two plants for personal use.

Convictions for possession of up to 2.5 ounces would be automatically expunged, while individuals with convictions for possession with intent to distribute could petition the courts for expungement three years after completing their sentence.

If proponents of Question 4 win, retail sales would likely start in 2024 or 2025, after state legislators addressed taxation and regulation issues in subsequent legislation.

Sixty-three percent of Marylanders support the legalization of recreational marijuana, according to a Baltimore Sun/University of Baltimore poll on Oct. 31, compared with  25% who are against it and 12% who remain undecided.

Missouri

Missouri's Amendment 3 would allow adults to purchase and possess up to three ounces of cannabis and, with a license, cultivate up to six flowering marijuana plants, six immature plants and six clones.

A 6% sales tax on recreational cannabis would be imposed, with revenue going toward substance treatment programs, veterans' health care and the state's public defender system.

In addition, the amendment would erase convictions of people with non-violent marijuana offenses.

Read more: Marijuana Laws in all 50 State

Licensing would fall to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, with priority given to existing medical marijuana dispensaries, low-income applicants and people who have been disproportionately impacted by drug criminalization.

According to government estimates, legalizing marijuana would cost the state $5.5 million each year, compared with annual revenues of at least $40.8 million. Individual jurisdictions could still ban cannabis retailers with voter approval, though.

According to a FOX 4/Emerson College poll from September, 48% of state voters support Amendment 3, compared with 35% who oppose it and 17% who are unsure.

North Dakota

Measure 2, drafted by New Approach North Dakota, largely follows the language of legislation passed by the Republican-controlled North Dakota House of Representatives last year that was defeated in the state senate.

If it passes, adults in North Dakota would be able to purchase and possess up to one ounce of cannabis and four grams of marijuana concentrate. They could also cultivate up to three plants for personal use.

No additional tax would be levied on cannabis and there are no provisions for expunging the criminal records of individuals convicted of marijuana-related offenses.

Regulators would have until Oct. 1, 2023, to implement regulations for adult-use cannabis.

South Dakota

South Dakota voters approved legalizing recreational marijuana back in 2020, but that initiative was invalidated by the state Supreme Court following a legal challenge by Republican Gov. Kristi Noem.

Now Measure 27, drafted by South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, would allow adults to purchase and possess up to an ounce of cannabis and cultivate up to three plants for personal use.

To avoid another legal challenge, the current ballot initiative omits language about regulation and taxation, which would be addressed by subsequent legislation.