Cannabis Legalization Ballot Initiatives Pass In Montana, South Dakota, Arizona

The November 2020 elections have been good for ballot initiatives focused on cannabis legalization, with majorities in five states casting their votes in favor of ending prohibitionist policies.

In addition to New Jersey voting to allow adult-use cannabis, and Mississippi voting for medical use, voters in Arizona, Montana, and South Dakota also passed legalization initiatives.

In Arizona, 59.81 percent (1,678,682) of voters approved Proposition 207, which legalizes cannabis possession and use as well as the home cultivation of up to six plants for adults over the age of 21.

Medical cannabis policies are already in place in Arizona.

Under Proposition 207, the Arizona Department of Health Services is responsible for implementing regulation policies, including the licensing of retail outlets, cultivation facilities, and production facilities.

Proposition 207 also adds a 16 percent cannabis sales tax to the existing transaction privilege and use taxes.

Under Proposition 207, people with certain cannabis-related convictions involving cultivation, possession, consumption, or transportation may petition for expungement starting July 12, 2021.

Marijuana Policy Project Executive Director Steve Hawkins says that the federal government is out of step with the national trend toward legalization.

“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,” says Hawkins. We can put an end to the social injustices and other harms that result from the criminalization of marijuana.”

Hawkins says that, while cannabis is not a cure-all for ending the war on drugs, it’s a necessary step that provides an opportunities for long-oppressed communities to heal.

In Montana, 56.72 percent (330,950) of voters approved Initiative-190, which legalizes the possession and use of up to one ounce of cannabis for legal adults, as well as the home cultivation of up to four mature plants and four seedlings within an enclosed area that is locked and away from public view.

Montana approved medical cannabis use in 2004 by voting for Initiative-148, which was later repealed by the restrictive Senate Bill 423, which banned medical cannabis advertisements, limited dispensaries to three users, and required doctors who recommended medical cannabis to more than 25 patients in a year to undergo a state review.

Voters overturned Senate Bill 423 in 2016 by approving Initiative-182, which removed patient restrictions and added qualifying conditions.

Initiative-190 adds a 20 percent sales tax to adult-use cannabis products in Montana, which, after covering administrative costs, will go toward the general fund, conservation programs, veterans programs, drug addiction treatment programs, initiative enforcement, and healthcare workers.

People serving sentences for offenses that are no longer crimes under Initiative-190 will be able to request a re-sentencing or have their conviction expunged, depending on the situation.

Initiative-190 goes into effect on January 1, 2021.

South Dakota voters also voiced their support for medical cannabis on election day, with 69.20 percent (260,795) approving Measure 26.

Measure 26 establishes a state medical cannabis program for certified patients with qualifying conditions, which include seizures, severe nausea, wasting syndrome, and debilitating pain.

The measure also authorizes the Department of Health to add qualifying conditions.

Under Measure 26, patients may possess up to three ounces of cannabis and grow a minimum of three plants, or a higher amount if specified by a physician.

Measure 26 requires the Department of Health to enact rules to implement the state medical cannabis program no later than 120 days after the initiative’s effective date.

Because ballot measures take effect on July 1 after the State Canvassing Board completes its official canvass, Measure 26 should go into effect on October 29, 2021.

The Department of Health must also issue registry identification cards no later than 140 days after the effective date.

South Dakota voters also passed Constitutional Amendment A with 53.41 percent (200,574) approval, legalizing adult-use cannabis in the state.

The Amendment allows for the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis and eight grams of concentrates in addition to permitting the home growing of up to six plants for people living in jurisdictions without licensed shops.

The Amendment requires the South Dakota legislature to pass laws for the medical cannabis program and the sale of hemp by April 1, 2022.

South Dakota is the first state to pass medical and adult-use cannabis measures at the same time.


*Vote tallies are current as of 11:30 PST, November 5, 2020