Will Widespread Marijuana Legalization Occur in November?

November is slated to be a big month for marijuana legalization initiatives. These 5 U.S. states could go green.

Widespread marijuana legalization in the U.S. in November could certainly put a positive spin on an otherwise tumultuous year.

A global pandemic, widespread lockdowns, and economic turmoil have defined 2020, though, amid all of this, the cannabis industry has remained surprisingly resilient.

On top of cannabis dispensaries seeing increased sales during the pandemic, following their designation as "essential" stores, many cannabis legalization initiatives have also sprung up to be voted on in November.

It should be mentioned that these initiatives are separate from the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, which was slated to be voted upon this month, and has since been postponed.

While the MORE Act could be revolutionary by removing cannabis from the list of controlled substances, many experts believe that once the bill reaches Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is known for his hawkish views on drugs, it is dead in the water.

With that aside, let's take a look at some of the other marijuana legalization initiatives and ballots scheduled for November, and let's see how likely they are to occur.

1. New Jersey

At the end of last year, the 'New Jersey Public Question 1, Marijuana Legalization Amendment' was passed, which will allow New Jersey residents to decide whether marijuana should be legalized in the state's 2020 ballot.

The ballot is scheduled to occur on the 3rd of November and would amend New Jersey's Constitution to permit the possession, production, and retail sale of cannabis to those age 21 or older. Moreover, it's looking like the ballot may indeed be approved, with polling data from Monmouth University showing that 61% of respondents saying that they will vote for the measure.

The ballot question to push for the legalization of cannabis in New Jersey is as follows: "Do you approve amending the Constitution to legalize a controlled form of marijuana called 'cannabis'?

Monmouth's poll revealed that New Jersey's marijuana legalization efforts were most supported by Democratic voters, of which 74% were in favour of the bill, and Independents, with 64%. Only 40% of Republican voters supported the bill.

2. Arizona

Following the narrow loss of Arizona's proposition 205 in November 2016, which received 49% support, The Arizonan Dispensaries Association has since filed a new marijuana legalization initiative.

Known as both the 'Smart and Safe Act' and 'Prop 207,' the new initiative, if passed, would legalize adult-use cannabis in Arizona.

In July, the Smart & Safe Initiative had received over 420,000 signatures, nearly double the necessary 237,645 signatures required.

A recent poll by Monmouth University also revealed that the ballot should receive a slight majority of the votes, meaning that Arizona could very well become the 12th U.S. State to legalize adult-use cannabis.

3. South Dakota

Lastly, is South Dakota, where there will be two marijuana initiatives on the November ballot. One, named Initiated Measure 26 which will decide if voters wish to legalize medicinal marijuana, and a second, named Constitutional Amendment A, which will decide if voters wish to legalize recreational marijuana.

While there isn't yet polling data on the general attitudes of South Dakotans on cannabis legalization, the fact that these initiatives made it onto the ballot means they had to surpass the signature threshold, which in this case was upwards of 30,000 signatures.

There are some factors working against the State, however, given that South Dakota is considered a "deep-red" state, and that the state has previously rejected two prior medical marijuana initiatives.

4. Montana

Montana has two marijuana ballot initiatives slated for 2020, following a campaign led by New Approach Montana.

The first initiative is a statutory initiative that seeks to legalize cannabis use for adults over the age of 21, as well as setting up the necessary provisions for a legal marijuana market.

The second initiative is a constitutional amendment that would make the legal minimum age for marijuana use at 21.

The ballot measures required 25,000 valid signatures from registered voters in order to qualify the statutory initiative and 51,000 signatures for the constitutional proposal to implement age restrictions.

As of August 13th, after collecting over 130,000 signatures, the Montana Secretary of State announced that the campaign had submitted enough signatures to qualify both initiatives for the ballot.

5. Mississipi

In the case of Mississipi, voters will be deciding whether medical marijuana becomes legal in the state, potentially making Mississipi the 34th U.S. state to do so. The question appearing on the November ballot is as follows:

'Should Mississippi allow qualified patients with debilitating medical conditions, as certified by Mississippi licensed physicians, to use medical marijuana?'

Despite being a red, or Republican state (which traditionally means being more reticent toward cannabis legalization), recent polling data shows that nearly eight-out-of-ten Mississipi voters support legalizing medical marijuana. Should the ballot go ahead unimpeded, it's looking like Mississipi will have legalized medical marijuana by the end of November.

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Louis O'Neill
Louis O'Neill

Louis is a writer based in Sydney with a focus on social and political issues. Having interviewed local politicians and entrepreneurs, Louis now focuses on cannabis culture, legislation & reform.

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