The nation may not know who is president on election day, but the people have spoken when it comes to cannabis legislation. Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota have all legalized marijuana for adults 21 and older, as voters in each state approved their respective ballot initiatives at the ballot box. The Garden State has gone green as the closely watched state of New Jersey approved adult-use cannabis.
“Today, New Jerseyans voted overwhelmingly to legalize cannabis for adult use. This is a vital first step for shifting away from punitive cannabis prohibition and toward a regulated market that prioritizes racial and social justice,” said ACLU-NJ Campaign Strategist, Ami Kachalia, on behalf of New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform (NJUMR). “Now, we call on New Jersey legislators and the Governor to implement the vision of cannabis legalization that voters have pushed forward – one that begins to repair the harms of marijuana prohibition and creates an accessible and inclusive new cannabis industry. In determining the details of implementation, lawmakers must include expungement, community reinvestment, and meaningful opportunities for those most harmed by unjust enforcement of marijuana laws to enter into the industry.”
NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said: “Garden State voters spoke resoundingly. They are demanding their lawmakers end the failed policy of marijuana criminalization, and instead pursue a more sensible path of regulation and legalization. “Law enforcement in New Jersey arrests more citizens each year for minor marijuana violations than almost any other state in the nation. By moving to end this fiscally wasteful and morally repugnant policy, state officials will now be able to prioritize law enforcement resources toward combating more serious criminal activities, better respect the personal freedom and civil liberties of their citizens, end the racist application of marijuana prohibition laws against communities of color, and direct new tax revenues toward important social programs such as education and infrastructure development.”
South Dakota also passed a medical marijuana initiative and became the first state in American history to enact both policies on the same day. The Marijuana Policy Project was instrumental in the Montana and South Dakota campaigns. “This historic set of victories will place even greater pressure on Congress to address the glaring and untenable conflicts between state and federal laws when it comes to cannabis legalization,” said Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. “A few years ago, nobody would have predicted that South Dakota would legalize marijuana before New York,” said Matthew Schweich, deputy director of the Marijuana Policy Project and one of the leaders of the South Dakota campaign. “But that’s the power of the ballot initiative process.”
“South Dakotans sent an unequivocal message in support of allowing patients the ability to legally access it under the advice of their physician,” stated NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri. “When operational, this program will provide lab-tested medical cannabis products to thousands of South Dakotans who can benefit from them. These patients cannot wait, and voters were right to take action to make this access a reality.”
Montana voters have approved two complementary ballot initiatives that legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana for adults 21 and over. “By legalizing marijuana, Montanans have adopted a policy that is good for public health, good for public safety, and good for public finances,” said Ted Dick, New Approach Montana campaign manager, and co-founder. “The initiatives will free up law enforcement to focus on serious crime, as Montana ends the practice of arresting otherwise law-abiding adults for personal use of marijuana. At the same time, 118 and 190 will expand access to medical marijuana for many patients, including veterans, and provide a new funding source for important state programs.”
Initiative 190, which establishes state laws to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana, was approved by an initially reported margin of 57%-43%. Constitutional Initiative 118, which amends the state constitution to allow state law to set a minimum legal age of 21 for marijuana, was approved by a margin of 58%-42%. “This is the culmination of a two-year campaign and belongs to the people of Montana,” said New Approach co-founder and political director Pepper Petersen. “During that time, we heard from thousands of Montanans who were demanding commonsense marijuana policy for our state. Now, thanks to their effort and their votes, we have that.”
Mississippi voters approved a constitutional ballot initiative to establish a medical marijuana program for patients with debilitating conditions. Initiative 65, which provides for a state-regulated marijuana access system for qualified patients. Voters rejected a far more restrictive effort placed on the ballot by the legislature, Measure 65A.
NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “Initiative 65 puts the needs and interests of patients first. This was a grassroots effort to provide patients with access to a treatment option that patients already enjoy in 34 other states and in the District of Columbia. By contrast, Measure 65A was a cynical effort by lawmakers to misdirect voters. The same state lawmakers that for decades had refused to ever seriously address the issue were the ones behind 65A, and voters wisely rejected their campaign.”
“It is great to see that the tides of change are continuing to flow across the country and now they have come to Mississippi,” said Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, which was founded in 1995 and has played a central role in eight state-level legalization victories over the past eight years. “As we saw in Utah in 2018, and as we see in Mississippi this year, medical marijuana can pass in any state in the country.”
“From the Badlands to the Jersey Shore, and from the Grand Canyon to Big Sky Country, Americans across the country have embraced the idea that marijuana legalization is the policy decision that best serves the interests of public health, public safety, and, most importantly, justice,” said Schweich, deputy director of the Marijuana Policy Project and one of the leaders of the Montana and South Dakota campaigns.
“With the passage of these initiatives, one-third of the population now lives in jurisdictions that have legalized cannabis for adult use, and 70% of all states have embraced cannabis for medical use. The federal government is out of step with a clear national trend toward legalization,” said Hawkins. “Regardless of who controls the White House, the House, and the Senate, we should demand landmark federal marijuana reform in 2021. This is not a partisan issue. And with more Republican Senators representing states with medical marijuana and legal marijuana for adults, we’re hopeful that marijuana reform can serve as an opportunity for bipartisan cooperation.”