Maryland Gov. Wants To Avoid Long, Drawn-out Cannabis Rollout

Voters in Maryland last year elected a new governor and approved an initiative legalizing recreational cannabis. 

Now, the freshly sworn-in Gov. Wes Moore will lead the effort to implement the state’s marijuana law.

“People of the state overwhelmingly chose to decriminalize cannabis. So we as a state now have an obligation to make sure that the will of the people is both heard, but that we do have a swift and equitable rollout,” Moore, a Democrat, told Politico in an interview that was published this week.

Moore won handily in his race against Republican Dan Cox in November, 65% to 32%, to become Maryland’s first black governor. 

In the same election, Maryland voters approved Question 4, which legalized recreational marijuana use for adults in the state and also laid the groundwork for a regulated retail cannabis market, by roughly the same margin. 

When the calendar flipped to 2023 this month, parts of that new cannabis law took effect

Possession of as many as one-and-a-half ounces of weed no longer constitutes a crime in Maryland; instead, it is currently only a civil violation. It will be fully legal starting in July.

Additionally, Marylanders who have a marijuana-related conviction on their records will have it expunged from their records by the summer of 2024, although they have the option to petition and ask a judge to resentence in order to have it scrubbed sooner. 

The state’s regulated cannabis market, however, likely won’t launch until 2024 or 2025. 

In his interview with Politico this week, Moore said it is important for the rollout of the new marijuana program to not be long and drawn out.

“That is something that we will be [working with] the legislature during this session and something that we are going to have to lay out when we look at our budgetary agenda.

That is how we’re making sure that the process of the rollout of cannabis is going to be equitable, it’s going to be transparent and it’s going to be quick,” said Moore, who was sworn in as governor on Wednesday. “We cannot have a process that takes 18 to 24 months to roll out, because if this goes on too long, what you’re doing is you’re inviting the illegal market back into it. Then you’re going to run into some of the same challenges that some of these other states are having or have had.”

Moore added, “This has to be something where, once we have everything in place when it comes to cannabis, from distribution, taxation and revenue returns, [if you’re buying on the black market] then that, like any other illegal transaction, is now an illegal transaction. I think that’s one of the reasons why, again, we want to make sure we’re being transparent, equitable and quick within this process.” 

Sixty-seven percent of Maryland voters approved Question 4 in November, while only 33% voted against the measure. 

Question 4 was backed financially by the cannabis giant Trulieve, which already operates medical marijuana dispensaries in the state.

The “Yes on 4” campaign was led by Eugene Monroe, a former player for the Baltimore Ravens.

“Tonight voters in Maryland made history by bringing the era of failed marijuana prohibition to an end,” Monroe said in November after Question 4 passed. “For decades, the unequally enforced criminalization of cannabis in Maryland inflicted damage upon Black and Brown communities. We must turn the page on that disturbing history by centering Maryland’s legal marijuana market around racial equity. Cannabis legalization will create good-paying jobs, open up doors for small business owners, and generate new tax revenue for our state. Legislators in Maryland have a responsibility to ensure people in historically underserved communities are able to enjoy those benefits.”

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Maryland Voter-Approved Legalization Measure Takes Shape in New Year

Maryland might still be years away from the launch of its new legal marijuana market, but the start of the new year has still marked the beginning of the post-prohibition era mid-Atlantic state.

A large majority of Maryland voters approved a ballot initiative in November that will both legalize recreational pot use for adults in the state and also establish a regulated retail cannabis market. 

Per local news station WJLA, although “recreational marijuana won’t be fully legal until July 1, as of now possession of up to 1.5 ounces is no longer a crime”; instead, according to the station, “It’s a civil violation carrying a $100 fine.”

“For amounts up to 2.5 ounces the fine is $250,” the station reported.

But the new law will yield immediate changes on the criminal justice front. 

According to WJLA, Marylanders with a cannabis-related conviction on their criminal record on will have it automatically be expunged by July 1, 2024, but they do not have to wait that long.

“You can go to the Maryland Courts website and apply for an expungement without any help from an attorney. They even have instructional videos,” the station said.

WJLA continued: “There is also very good news for those currently locked up for cannabis-related crimes. As long as that is the only crime for which they’re serving a sentence, they can immediately ask for resentencing and a judge must resentence to time served and they must be released.”

Sixty-seven percent of Maryland voters approved Question 4 in November, making the state the latest to end the prohibition on cannabis use. 

The “Yes on 4” campaign was bankrolled by Trulieve, a major cannabis company with a significant presence in Maryland’s existing medical cannabis market. 

The campaign also deployed former Baltimore Ravens player Eugene Monroe as its chairman. 

“Tonight voters in Maryland made history by bringing the era of failed marijuana prohibition to an end,” Monroe said in a statement following its passage in November, as quoted by the Associated Press. “For decades, the unequally enforced criminalization of cannabis in Maryland inflicted damage upon Black and Brown communities. We must turn the page on that disturbing history by centering Maryland’s legal marijuana market around racial equity. Cannabis legalization will create good-paying jobs, open up doors for small business owners, and generate new tax revenue for our state. Legislators in Maryland have a responsibility to ensure people in historically underserved communities are able to enjoy those benefits.”

The success of Question 4 was foreshadowed by a series of encouraging polls for the campaign.

One that was released in early October by the University of Maryland and The Washington Post found more than 70% of voters in favor of cannabis legalization.

“The thing that stood out to me is the high level of support and the diversity of support. Whether you look across party, region, almost every characteristic, you see majorities supporting this,” said Michael Hanmer, the director of the University of Maryland’s Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement, as quoted by The Washington Post. “That’s been the trend across the country. People have really shifted their views across time on this issue, all pointing in the direction of being more supportive.”

The “Yes on 4” campaign has been optimistic about the new law’s potential economic benefits for the state, projecting that legalization could “provide the state with over $135 million in tax revenue.” 

“That figure does not include city and county revenue or the savings from the millions of dollars Maryland spends each year enforcing marijuana possession laws. Passing Maryland Question 4 would empower local law enforcement to focus its limited resources on combating violent crimes. Of the ten counties in the United States with the highest rates of marijuana possession arrests, Maryland is home to three of them,” the campaign said on its website.

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Breaking: Maryland and Missouri Vote to Legalize Cannabis

Voters in Maryland and Missouri voted to legalize recreational marijuana in Tuesday’s midterm elections, bringing the total number of states that have legalized cannabis for use by adults to 21. Ballot measures to legalize marijuana failed to win a majority of votes in Arkansas, North Dakota and South Dakota, however, with voters in those states instead opting to maintain nearly a century of cannabis prohibition. 

Maryland Approves Question 4

In Maryland, voters approved Question 4, a referendum that amends the state constitution to legalize marijuana and directs the state legislature to pass legislation to regulate commercial cannabis activity. With 82% of the votes counted on Wednesday afternoon, Question 4 was on its way to approval with nearly two-thirds (65.5%) of the vote, according to data from The New York Times. Troy Datcher, the CEO of California-based The Parent Company (TPCO), said that he is encouraged by the passage of Question 4 in Maryland, noting that the measure mandates expungement for eligible cannabis convictions and includes resentencing provisions for other offenses. He also noted the high level of support for legalization in the state. In July, TPCO, the home of Jay-Z’s luxury cannabis brand Monogram, announced that it would be entering Maryland’s medical marijuana market through a partnership with Curio Wellness. 

“The fact that Question 4 garnered more support than any adult-use cannabis ballot measure in the country’s history speaks to the shared support that Americans of all political stripes have for moving past the unjust cannabis laws that have criminalized Americans for nearly a century,” Datcher said in an email to Cannabis Now. “Tuesday’s vote also reflects the massive potential of adult-use legalization to stimulate Maryland’s economy, creating tens of thousands of new jobs for its residents and generating considerable tax revenue for the state.”

Missouri Voters Say Yes To Legalization

In Missouri, Amendment 3 was projected to be approved by voters, tallying more than 53% of the votes on Wednesday afternoon with 89% of ballots counted. The successful amendment to the state’s constitution legalizes the possession, use, sale and delivery of marijuana for personal use and sets a 6% tax on commercial cannabis sales. Additionally, the amendment includes provisions for the expungement of certain marijuana-related convictions. Jeffrey M. Zucker, vice chair of the Marijuana Policy Project board of directors and president of the consulting company Green Lion Partners, praised the work of activists who campaigned to make legal recreational marijuana part of the state’s constitution.

“It is an exciting time for the people of Missouri as their state legalizes adult-use cannabis,” Zucker said in an emailed statement. “I am in awe of the hard work that cannabis activists have done in Missouri, and I look forward to seeing how both established medical marijuana dispensaries and new players in Missouri’s regulated cannabis industry grow and begin to thrive over the coming months.”

With the approval of the cannabis legalization measures, Maryland and Missouri have become the 20th and 21st states to legalize recreational marijuana for adults. Mason Tvert, communications adviser for the cannabis and psychedelics law firm Vicente Sederberg LLC, noted that in addition to ending the criminalization of cannabis, the successful ballot measures in Maryland and Missouri will spur economic development and create new jobs.

“With legal cannabis in these two states comes new economic opportunity. Expansion of the regulated cannabis market will result in new businesses, more jobs, and significant tax revenue,” Tvert wrote in an email. “There is still plenty of work to be done when it comes to implementing the new law and ironing out all the rules. Marijuana-related policy discussions will become the new norm in state and local governments, much like we see with alcohol. Ending prohibition is just the beginning.”

Three States Decline To Legalize Weed

Despite the strong showing for cannabis policy reform in Maryland and Missouri, voters in Arkansas, North Dakota and South Dakota rejected ballot measures to legalize recreational marijuana. Arkansas voters said no to Issue 4, with more than 56% of the electorate voting against the measure. In South Dakota, cannabis legalization initiative Measure 27 only garnered 47% of votes, with 53% voting against it. And in North Dakota, where voters approved a 2020 ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana that was invalidated by the state Supreme Court, voters declined to repeat their previous approval of reform. Measure 2, which would have legalized the possession and use of cannabis for adults, received the approval of 45% of voters, with nearly 55% voting against the measure.

Other Races Bode Well For Continued Reform

Although marijuana legalization measures were only on the ballot in five states on Tuesday, other races in this week’s midterm elections are likely to foster progress on cannabis policy reform efforts. In Minnesota, control of the state Senate was won by Democrats, giving the party control of both houses of the legislature and the governor’s office. With the new majority in the Senate, lawmakers are likely to advance legislation to legalize adult-use cannabis, according to a report from Marijuana Moment.

“We are excited about the prospects for full legalization, but Minnesotans who want to see legalization will still have work to do,” said Maren Schroeder, coalition director for the MNisReady Coalition. “We’re optimistic that we’ll get it across the finish line in 2023.”

In Pennsylvania, voters elevated Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, an outspoken advocate of cannabis policy reform, to the US Senate, where he will be a new voice for progress on the issue at the federal level. Voters also selected fellow Democrat Josh Shapiro as governor over Republican Douglas Mastriano, who characterized recreational marijuana legalization as a “stupid idea,” according to a report from Marijuana Moment. Tracey Kauffman, founder and chairperson of cannabis consulting firm Cannaspire, says that the results in her home state of Pennsylvania indicate a willingness among voters to support candidates who are in favor of cannabis policy reform.

“Yesterday was a huge victory for cannabis in Pennsylvania. Both John Fetterman and Josh Shapiro support legalizing adult-use cannabis and expungement, so hopefully we will see swift changes in our state,” Kauffman wrote in an email. “I would like to see a cannabis task force organized so we can analyze key learnings from how our neighbors in New York and New Jersey have approached legalization and translate them into what will be successful in Pennsylvania.”

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) lauded the approval of cannabis legalization measures in Tuesday’s election, noting in a statement on Wednesday that in addition to the successes in Maryland and Missouri, marijuana decriminalization measures were passed by voters in several cities located in states that maintain prohibitions on adult-use cannabis, including Texas and Ohio.

“While this year’s mid-term elections may not have been a ‘clean sweep’ for reform advocates, our momentum continues unabated,” NORML deputy director Paul Armentano said in a statement from the advocacy group. “Are we in a stronger place today than we were yesterday? Of course we are. Two more states, Maryland and Missouri, have wisely elected to legalize and regulate cannabis — policies that will expand the freedoms and civil liberties of over 7 million Americans. In addition, voters in cities across this country — including over 400,000 Texans — acted to end the senseless and counterproductive policy of arresting and prosecuting those who possess and use cannabis.”

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Legalization Initiative Passes in Maryland with Question 4

Voters approved Question 4, also called the Marijuana Legalization Amendment, in Maryland on Nov. 8. The passage of this initiative amends the Maryland Constitution with Article XX which allows cannabis possession and consumption for adults 21 and older, starting on or after July 1, 2023. The amendment also instructs the Maryland General Assembly to “provide for the use, distribution, possession, regulation, and taxation of cannabis within the state.”

Companion legislation known as House Bill 837 has also become law, now that voters passed Question 4, possession of cannabis up to 1.5 ounces of flower and 10 grams of concentrate, is immediately decriminalized after Jan. 1, 2023, and will become legal after June 30, 2023. The bill permits residents to grow two cannabis plants at home, and immediately expunges anyone with cannabis convictions on their record, if their crimes are made legal by the passing of Question 4 and HB-837. It also permits the creation of the Cannabis Business Assistance Fund (to assist minority- and women-owned cannabis businesses) and Cannabis Public Health Fund (a collection of legislators and other important industry members who will enact change based on studies of youth impact, reporting data, public health campaigns, and more).

The “Yes on 4” campaign led the charge with this initiative, which is chaired by former NFL athlete Eugene Monroe. The initiative’s success can also be attributed to donors such as SunMed Growers, Trulieve Medical Cannabis Dispensary, Curio Wellness, Marijuana Policy Project, and Green Thumb Industries.

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Legislative Report Projects $72 Billion Cannabis Industry By 2030

A new legislative report delivered to Maryland lawmakers this week projects that the nationwide market for legal cannabis could climb to $72 billion per year by 2030, more than double the current market estimation of $32 billion annually. But the report also shows that some states that have legalized cannabis have failed to set clear social equity goals and that the regulated marijuana market nationwide lacks a proportionate representation of Black-owned businesses.

Lawmakers in Maryland are exploring how legalized adult-use cannabis would impact the state, where voters will decide on recreational marijuana legalization in this month’s general election. On Tuesday, the Maryland House of Delegates’ Cannabis Referendum and Legalization work group met virtually to assess a report on the nationwide cannabis regulation climate.

A $75 Billion Industry

The report, which was prepared and presented to the work group by Mathew Swinburne, associate director of Network for Public Health Law-Eastern Region of Baltimore, includes information from New Frontier Data that projects steady growth of the nationwide market as current markets mature and new states are added to the roster of legal cannabis states. Growing from $32 billion in 2022, the projection estimates a total market nationwide of $72 billion by 2030. 

“We know that the cannabis industry is a profitable industry,” said Swinburne. “This is a new industry that is filled with economic opportunity and that opportunity is only growing,” he added. “Although this industry presents some significant economic opportunities, communities of color are missing out on this cannabis boom.”

Swinburne told the work group that jobs in the cannabis industry rose from about 321,000 in 2020 to approximately 428,000 a year later. However, the report also notes that 81% of cannabis businesses are owned by white people and 58% of businesses have no employees who are members of minority groups. 

Efforts to address the lack of diversity in the cannabis industry have been inconsistent, the report notes. Of the 19 states that have legalized recreational marijuana, Alaska, Maine, Montana, and Oregon do not have social equity measures in place to help improve equitable representation in the cannabis industry.

Swinburne highlighted some states’ approach to social equity, noting that Connecticut provides financial incentives for medical cannabis business owners to partner with new small or minority-owned businesses to provide assistance over a specified timeframe. Massachusetts provides accessible opportunities to enter the market by allowing courier and delivery operators to provide cannabis products directly to consumers. And in New York, regulators have created a $200 million fund to support social equity businesses and have prioritized those with past convictions for marijuana offenses for the state’s first 100 recreational cannabis dispensary licenses.

Delegate C.T. Wilson of Charles County, chair of the House Economic Matters Committee, asked Swinburne how taxation in other states with legal cannabis has impacted the illicit market and illegal marijuana sales.

“That’s a definite challenge states are confronted with,” Swinburne replied. “If your goal is to decrease the share of the unlicensed market, you have to keep your licensed market competitive. It’s important to highlight with the tax revenue you get, there’s a moral obligation to use some of that for addressing the harms that were caused [in low-income communities].”

Senator Melony Griffith of Prince George’s County asked if any states that have legalized recreational marijuana had implemented policies, such as a disparity study, that was required “to produce evidence of their race concise remedies,” but Swinburne said the report did not assess that issue in its analysis.

Maryland Voters To Decide On Legalizing Weed

In next week’s midterm election, voters in Maryland will decide on Question 4, a referendum that would amend the state constitution to legalize marijuana for adults 21 years of age or older beginning in July 2023. The measure also directs the state legislature to pass laws for the use, distribution, regulation, and taxation of marijuana. 

Currently, marijuana is legal for medicinal use in Maryland under a 2013 law, while possession of 10 grams or less of cannabis was decriminalized in 2014. Question 4 is overwhelmingly supported by Maryland voters, with a recent poll from The Washington Post and the University of Maryland showing 73% in favor of the proposal.

Voter Tamara McKinney of Prince George’s County told Maryland Matters that she plans to vote in favor of Question 4, but said she hopes the launch of the state’s recreational marijuana program will provide resources for Black and brown communities and those who have been incarcerated for cannabis-related offenses.

“De-criminalizing it helps keep our men out of the [criminal justice] system,” she said. “But if it helps to keep them out the system, what are we doing to keep them out [of jail]? I want them to have more resources than just the ability to get high.”

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Five States To Vote on Recreational Cannabis This Election Season

Currently, adult-use cannabis is legal in 19 states, two territories and Washington, D.C., with medical cannabis legal in 37 states, three territories and D.C. If all five states approved adult-use cannabis, nearly half the U.S. population would reside in a jurisdiction where the possession and use of cannabis is legal for adults.

And, while many of these states have a reputation for leaning more conservative, this year also shows the progress behind cannabis reform, with political parties slowly becoming less and less relevant.

As Americans collectively look ahead to midterms, let’s take a closer look at the cannabis policy these states will consider this year:

Arkansas – Issue 4

Back in 2016, Arkansas voters legalized medical cannabis, by a vote of 53.11% to 46.89%, winning in 38 of the state’s 75 counties. This November, Arkansans will vote on Arkansas Issue 4, or the Arkansas Adult Use Cannabis Amendment.

What it does: The amendment would authorize the possession, personal use and consumption of cannabis by adults who are at least 21 years of age. Residents would be allowed possession and use of up to one ounce of cannabis. The amendment would also come with a 10% tax on cannabis states, requiring the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Division to develop rules to regulate cannabis businesses. 

The amendment that legalized medical cannabis in the state allowed for a maximum of 40 dispensaries and eight cultivators; this year’s recreational amendment would increase the maximum number of cultivation facilities to 20 and the maximum number of dispensaries to 120.

What the polls say: The last poll of Arkansas voters on this initiative was back in September, finding that voters backed the initiative by a 2-to-1 margin. The Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College survey of 835 likely Arkansas voters was conducted September 12 and found that 58.5% were for the initiative, 29% were against it and 12.5% were unsure.

The same organization ran a similar poll back in February, surveying 961 likely Arkansas voters, and still found that a majority of voters supported adult-use cannabis: 53.5% said they supported adult-use cannabis, 32% said they supported medical cannabis only, 10.5% said cannabis should be illegal and 4% said they were unsure.

Maryland – Question 4

Maryland legalized medical cannabis in 2014, facilitating sales since 2017, and the momentum for reform has grown in the state since. Medical usage is booming: As of November 2021, the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission reported nearly 150,000 state-registered patients and about $600 million in sales, according to state regulators—a huge leap from 2020’s $423 million and 2019’s $255 million in revenue.

Now, voters decide whether or not to keep the cannabis train moving, with Maryland Question 4, or the Marijuana Legalization Amendment.

What it does: The amendment legalizes cannabis for adults 21 and older beginning July 2023, directing the Maryland State Legislature to pass laws for the use, distribution and taxation of cannabis.

The General Assembly also passed companion legislation that would become effective upon 4’s passing and provide additional clarity around the implementation of the amendment. House Bill 837 clarifies that, should Question 4 pass, the possession of up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis or 10 grams of cannabis concentrate would immediately be decriminalized, only subject to small administrative fines. After June 30, 2021, possessing these amounts of cannabis would be completely legal.

HB 837 also notes that residents would be allowed to cultivate up to two cannabis plants per household. All prior cannabis possession convictions that would be legal under the new provisions will also automatically be expunged, with those currently serving time allowed to apply for resentencing of possession convictions. 

What the polls say: Polling has shown consistent support for cannabis over the years among Maryland residents. The two most recent polls from Goucher College and Washington Post/The University of Maryland both took place in September. 

The Goucher poll ultimately found that 59% indicated they would vote to approve the question, with 34% against and 7% undecided. The Post poll shows even more support, with 73% in favor of legalizing adult-use cannabis, with 23% against and 4% stating “no opinion.” 

Support has been consistent, with a 2019 Post-UMD poll finding that 66% of Maryland residents supported legalizing cannabis and using its tax revenue for educational programming and another Goucher poll from March 2022 finding 62% of Maryland residents supported legalizing recreational cannabis. Ultimately, many experts expect voters will likely pass the bill.

Missouri – Amendment 3

Four years following a successful public initiative to legalize medical cannabis in Missouri, and just two years after sales officially launched across the state, Missouri voters are revisiting cannabis at the ballot box with Missouri Amendment 3.

What it does: A yes vote for Amendment 3 amends the Missouri Constitution to legalize the purchase, possession, consumption, use, delivery, manufacture and sale of cannabis for personal use for adults over 21 years of age. The amendment would also allow people with certain cannabis-related offenses to petition for release from prison, or parole and probation, and have their records expunged. Additionally, it would enact a 6% tax on the retail price of recreational cannabis.

The petition also outlines a system that would grant 144 additional licenses for “microbusiness facilities,” comprised of six dispensaries and 12 wholesale facilities in each of Missouri’s congressional districts. The licenses will be selected through a lottery process, and licensees would be allowed to manufacture and cultivate cannabis products.

What the polls say: A number of new polls shed light on the potential outcome of the vote, though they might leave folks with more questions than definitive answers.

One mid-September poll by Remington Research Group, commissioned by Missouri Scout, found that just 43% of respondents supported Amendment 3, with 47% against and 10% unsure. Results from another poll, from Emerson College Polling and The Hill, were shared at the end of September, finding that 48% of respondents back the legalization proposal, while 35% were opposed and 17% were unsure.

Another poll, conducted in mid-September by SurveyUSA, complicates things further: It found that 62% of voters are “certain to vote yes” on Amendment 3, with 22% opposed and 16% unsure. With the available data and time ticking away until Voting Day, many have indicated that this specific vote is a toss-up.

North Dakota – Statutory Measure 2

North Dakota voters passed Measure 5, the North Dakota Compassionate Care Act, back in 2016, authorizing the sale of medical cannabis. It took two years for the North Dakota Legislative Assembly to create regulations, and in 2019, Governor Doug Burgum reduced cannabis possession penalties and expanded the list of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis patients.

This year, voters will decide whether or not the state will go a step further, with Statutory Measure 2.

What it does: The measure would create a new chapter of the North Dakota Century Code, legalizing the production, processing and sale of cannabis and the use of “various forms of cannabis” for adults 21 years old and up. Specifically, it would legalize possession of up to one ounce of cannabis, four grams of concentrate and 500mg of THC in an infused product. Adults in the state who are of age would also be allowed to grow up to three cannabis plants, and the measure requires the Department of Health and Human Services to establish rules regulating the market by October 1, 2023. 

Under the measure, the department could also license seven cultivation facilities and 18 cannabis retailers.

What the polls say: North Dakota is a fairly conservative state, where voters rejected a similar ballot measure in 2018 to legalize cannabis 59.45% to 40.55%.

One July poll from The Dickinson Press looked specifically at southwest North Dakota readers, finding that 39% supported the measure, 43% were opposed and 18% didn’t have a preference. The paper also suggested that opinions may have shifted in the area over time, as a similar 2018 poll found southwestern North Dakotans supported that year’s legislation 60% to 40%, despite the outcome.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any other publicized and recent polls on the issue. However, one key difference this year, versus 2018’s effort, that could push the conversation in another direction is money, U.S. News and Associated Press reports. Four years ago, cannabis advocates had little money for their efforts, but this year, the North Dakota legalization group has received more than $520,000.

Additionally, the North Dakota Petroleum Council, which helped fund opposition to the measure in 2018, will not contribute to the fight against cannabis legalization this time around, according to the group’s president Ron Ness. 

There are several factors that could spell success for the effort, but unfortunately without more concrete polling data, it’s tough to anticipate where the vote could go.

South Dakota – Initiative Measure 27

After passing the state’s medical cannabis legalization initiative in 2020, with the state’s first licensed dispensary opening its doors July 2022, South Dakota voters will once again vote on cannabis with Initiative Measure 27. The state has a storied history with cannabis, leaving the vote this year a bit different than some of the other states posing similar questions.

What it does: A yes vote for Initiative Measure 27 supports the legalization of possession, distribution and use of cannabis for people 21 years old or older. The measure does not address licensing, taxation, local government regulations of cannabis or hemp regulations.

In 2020, along with medical cannabis, voters approved Amendment A. The amendment would have legalized recreational cannabis; authorized the State Department of Revenue to issue cannabis-related licenses for cultivation, testing, manufacturing, wholesale and retail; imposed a 15% tax on cannabis sales; authorized local governments to enact regulations for licensees in their jurisdictions; and required the state legislature to pass laws providing a program for medical cannabis and hemp.

Voters approved the measure 54% to 46% in the November 3, 2020 general election, but the Supreme Court overturned the measure February 8, 2022, with Judge Christina Klinger ruling it was unconstitutional for violating South Dakota’s single-subject rule (state law says constitutional amendments can only cover a single issue) and because it was a revision of the constitution rather than an amendment.

This time around, advocates aren’t risking invalidation, instead moving forward to strictly enforce legalization. Cannabis sales could come at a future date, if separate laws are passed by lawmakers or voters.

What the polls say: While voters just approved a similar initiative two years ago, with even more directly attached to it, recent polls show that South Dakotans are split on the issue.

South Dakota State University released results of their survey of South Dakota voters earlier this month, finding that 45% supported the measure, 47% were against and 8% were not sure. Another poll from Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy of Florida, conducted in July, found that 43.8% of respondents supporting legalization of recreational cannabis, while 54.4% opposed it. 

___

We can theorize all we want, but of course we’ll have to collectively hang tight to witness the final outcomes in these states. While we might not see all five states enacting cannabis reform this year, we’re likely to escape election season with a little more state support for recreational cannabis.

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Five States to Vote on Cannabis Legalization Measures

Voters in five states will see recreational marijuana legalization proposals on their ballots for the November midterm elections, giving the cannabis community a chance to gain new ground in the movement to free the plant.

Activists in Arkansas, Missouri, North Dakota and South Dakota have successfully led campaigns to put an adult-use cannabis legalization initiative on the ballot in their states, while lawmakers in Maryland have turned to the voters for guidance with a referendum to legalize recreational marijuana. As the November election nears, the campaigns for reform are busy rallying the voters for support. And with the number of states that have legalized recreational marijuana approaching half the country, each new jurisdiction brings the country one step closer to comprehensive reform.

Brooke Butler, vice president of partnership at cannabis compliance tech company Simplifya, told Cannabis Now that in addition to giving voters a chance to weigh in on cannabis reform in their own states, the ballot measures in this year’s election can help inform policy and spur progress in other jurisdictions and at the national level.

“As we head into midterms, we’re going to see a number of cannabis ballot initiatives take center stage,” Butler said. “Ballot initiatives are one of the truest forms of democracy in action and a great barometer of where America stands on key issues. When it comes to cannabis, historically, Americans have said yes in overwhelming numbers.”

Arkansas

PHOTO Christopher Boswell

In Arkansas, voters will see Issue 4, a proposed initiative to amend the state’s constitution, on their ballots. If passed, the measure from Responsible Growth Arkansas would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of cannabis and permit licensed dispensaries to sell recreational marijuana. Taxes raised on sales on adult-use cannabis would be used to fund hospitals and healthcare research, law enforcement and drug courts, which focus on reducing repeat offenses and substance abuse among nonviolent offenders with substance misuse disorders.

Polling by Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College released last month showed that Arkansas’ legalization proposal was supported by 59% of likely voters, with just 29% opposed and 13% undecided. Brian Vicente, founding partner of the cannabis and psychedelics law firm Vicente Sederberg, said that the legalization of recreational marijuana in Arkansas would be a significant victory for the cannabis reform community. But provisions of the measure that favor the state’s existing medical marijuana industry have left segments of the movement unsatisfied with the legislation.

“A win for legalization in Arkansas would be seen as a major win for legalization advocates due to the fact that the current Governor Asa Hutchinson is a rabid prohibitionist who served as a chief architect of the nation’s Drug War when he was the head of the DEA,” Vicente noted. “However, this measure is the most controversial of the five ballot initiatives, since it provides a major benefit to the relatively small number of current medical marijuana business owners and only allows a very narrow path for new business entrants.”

Maryland

Maryland marijuana ballot measures
PHOTO Christopher Boswell

Voters in Maryland will decide on Question 4, a referendum that would amend the state constitution to legalize marijuana for adults 21 years of age or older beginning in July 2023. The measure also directs the state legislature to pass laws for the use, distribution, regulation and taxation of marijuana. Currently, marijuana is legal for medicinal use in Maryland under a 2013 law, while possession of 10 grams or less of cannabis was decriminalized in 2014. Question 4 is overwhelmingly supported by Maryland voters, with a poll from The Washington Post and the University of Maryland showing 73% in favor of the proposal.

In July, California firm The Parent Company, home of Jay-Z’s Monogram brand, announced that it would be entering Maryland’s medical marijuana market through a partnership with Curio Wellness. TPCO CEO Troy Datcher said that if Question 4 succeeds, the company will be well-positioned to grow with the state’s newly legal market for adult-use cannabis. As might be expected, Datcher told Cannabis Now in an email that “TPCO is in favor of passage of Question 4.”

“Cannabis criminalization in Maryland has been a major public policy failure and has resulted in the disproportionate incarceration of communities of color,” said Datcher. “It is critical that the state take a new direction, particularly as many of its neighboring states begin adopting adult-use programs. In addition, legalizing cannabis in Maryland would stimulate the state’s economy and create tens of thousands of new jobs for locals.”

Missouri

MIssouri marijuana ballot measures
PHOTO Sean Pavone

Midterm election ballots in Missouri will include Amendment 3, which would change the state constitution to legalize the possession, use, sale and delivery of marijuana for personal use and sets a 6% tax on commercial cannabis sales. The proposal, advanced by Legal Missouri 2022, also includes provisions for the expungement of certain marijuana-related convictions. Polling on Amendment 3 is mixed, with a survey commissioned by the Missouri Scout in early September finding only 43% of respondents in support of Amendment 3, compared to 47% against and 10% undecided. However, a SurveyUSA poll conducted only days later found that 62% of voters were “certain to vote yes” on Amendment 3.  

Mark Toigo, CEO of Organic Remedies Missouri (ORMO), said that his company supports the ballot measure, noting that polling has shown that a significant majority of the state’s residents support legalizing adult-use cannabis. But the state legislature has failed to act in accordance with the will of the people. Noting that the initiative campaign collected more than 400,000 signatures from supporters, Toigo believes the whole state will benefit if the measure is approved.

“If the ballot question receives a majority vote it will transform the Missouri cannabis industry into one of the strongest in the country. With existing infrastructure, a well-trained workforce, and some of the best brands in cannabis already established in the Missouri Medical Marijuana program, Missouri will be positioned to no longer lose its tax revenue to states like Illinois and Oklahoma,” Toigo explained in an email. “Legal Mo 22 ensures sustained job creation, economic development and revenue flow to Missouri, while also righting the wrongs of cannabis’ past prohibition and providing ample opportunities for those most harmed by the failed war on drugs.”

North Dakota

North Dakota marijuana ballot measures
PHOTO Eldon

Statutory Measure 2 in North Dakota would legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older and permit the home cultivation of up to three cannabis plants. Retail sales of marijuana would be permitted by the measure, although the initiative includes a cap of 18 dispensaries and seven production facilities. The measure also requires the state Department of Health and Human Services to enact regulations governing commercial cannabis cultivation, manufacturing and sales by October 1, 2023. Although statewide polling data is not available, a poll of southwestern North Dakota residents in July found that only 39% supported the marijuana legalization initiative from New Approach North Dakota, while 43% were opposed and 18% were indifferent. A similar effort in 2018 failed at the polls, with 59% voting against the measure and 41% in favor. But the campaign manager for both efforts, David Owen, believes this year might be different.

“We’re a viable campaign that has a good chance of success,” he told the Associated Press.

South Dakota

South Dakota marijuana ballot measures
PHOTO Eldon

Voters in neighboring South Dakota will also have the opportunity to legalize recreational marijuana in November. If they vote in favor of the measure, it wouldn’t be the first time. A 2020 ballot measure to legalize adult-use cannabis passed with 54% of the vote, but a legal challenge supported by Gov. Kristi Noem led to the state Supreme Court invalidating the measure on procedural grounds. The vote on this year’s proposal, Initiated Measure 27, could be closer than two years ago, with the results uncertain as election day approaches. A South Dakota State University poll released on October 14 showed that 45% were in favor of the legalization bid and 47% against, with 8% undecided.

If Measure 27 prevails on election day, possession and use of cannabis and marijuana paraphernalia will be legalized. Adults 21 and older would be permitted to possess or distribute up to one ounce of marijuana. Those living in a jurisdiction without a licensed marijuana retailer would be allowed to grow up to three cannabis plants in a secure location. Attorney Vicente says legalization in the Dakotas could put additional pressure on lawmakers in Congress to finally achieve national marijuana reform.

“Despite their small populations (both Dakotas have more cows than people), legalization votes in these states could move the needle in a profound way at the federal level,” Vicente wrote in an email. “Upon their states’ voting to legalize, the four U.S. Senators representing the Dakotas would be faced with an important decision—do they continue to vote to uphold federal prohibition and criminalize their own constituents, or do they join the growing number of voices in the Senate who are looking to legalize.”

How Will Legalization Efforts Fare in 2022?

federal cannabis legalization

With just weeks to go before the midterm elections on November 8, pollsters and pundits are closely watching the marijuana legalization proposals in Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota and South Dakota. Beyond their intended effect on each state’s respective cannabis policy, the ballot measures could also affect other races on those ballots. Ellen Mellody, vice president at cannabis public relations firm Mattio Communications and a former spokesperson for the Obama-Biden campaigns, said that the marijuana legalization measures on the ballot this year are likely to spur turnout among prospective voters who support cannabis legalization efforts. Additionally, she noted that President Joseph Biden’s recent announcement that he would pardon federal convictions for marijuana possession, which she termed a “brilliant move” that is “likely to pay out dividends,” could also boost turnout and encourage voters to support Democratic candidates and bolster efforts to legalize cannabis at the federal level.

“These ballot initiatives will absolutely swing results in certain states and districts, and the pollsters are finally catching on. At the federal level, it’s unlikely the timing of Biden’s announcement last week was an accident,” Mellody wrote in an email to Cannabis Now. “Even in red states Arkansas, Missouri and South Dakota, you’re seeing numbers come in at over 50 percent. It’s no wonder why more electeds at the federal level are hopping on the legalization bus. At a minimum, the results of these initiatives should solidify that the dam is breaking.”

With polling showing that at least three of the cannabis policy reform measures on the ballot are likely to succeed, it’s becoming clear that this year’s election will make new strides in the efforts to end the prohibition of marijuana in the United States. A clean sweep similar to 2020, when voters in all five states deciding on cannabis legalization measures approved the efforts, would be a significant victory for the movement. Datcher of TPCO said that if cannabis policy reform measures post a strong showing next month, it would reenergize efforts to pass comprehensive national marijuana legalization.

“If all five measures pass, the number of states that have legalized adult-use cannabis will increase from 19 to 24, nearly half of the states in the country,” he said. “We are thus getting increasingly close to a ‘tipping point’ where we will hopefully see meaningful movement at the federal level.”

But even if all five states are added to the recreational marijuana fold, activists warn the progress won’t necessarily be the end of story in those states. In addition to South Dakota’s invalidation of the successful 2020 measure, the Mississippi Supreme Court also struck down a medical marijuana legalization initiative that passed the same year. And Paul Armentano, the deputy director National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, noted that several of this year’s ballot measures faced opposition and efforts to keep them off the ballot. The tactic worked in Oklahoma, where voters will have to wait until 2024 to decide on State Question 820. In September, the state Supreme Court ruled that the recreational marijuana legalization measure would not appear on the November ballot, despite the campaign’s adherence to the state’s regulatory guidance and deadlines.

“With public support for marijuana policy reform reaching super-majority status in recent years, prohibitionists and other political opponents have largely abandoned efforts to try and influence public opinion,” Armentano said in a statement from the agency. “Rather, they are now relying on anti-democratic gamesmanship to prevent voters from weighing in on the issue.”

On November 9, the day after this year’s midterm elections, the cannabis community is sure to have new wins to celebrate. But the parties should be tempered with a realization that the job is not yet done. More than half the states in the nation will still have bans on adult-use cannabis, and prohibitionists will regroup to stand their ground, dwindling as it is. To maintain progress once the ballots are counted, the cannabis community must celebrate the victories, assess the failures and stay vigilant for the fight ahead.

The post Five States to Vote on Cannabis Legalization Measures appeared first on Cannabis Now.

Majority in Maryland Backs Legalization Weeks Before Vote

Weeks before Maryland voters will head to the polls and decide whether to legalize recreational cannabis, a new survey suggests that the measure is poised to pass.

The Washington Post-University of Maryland poll found that 73% of voters in the state favor the legalization of cannabis for adults aged 21 and older, while only 23% said they were opposed. Four percent of voters said they had no opinion.

The findings bode well for supporters of Question 4, which would legalize adult-use marijuana in Maryland beginning July 1, 2023, and establish a regulated cannabis market in the state.

Maryland is one of several states where voters will decide on recreational pot measures this November. (Arkansas, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota are the others.)

The Washington Post-University of Maryland poll, released on Wednesday, suggests Maryland is highly likely to join the 19 other states that have legalized recreational pot use for adults.

“The thing that stood out to me is the high level of support and the diversity of support. Whether you look across party, region, almost every characteristic, you see majorities supporting this,” said Michael Hanmer, the director of the University of Maryland’s Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement, as quoted by The Washington Post. “That’s been the trend across the country. People have really shifted their views across time on this issue, all pointing in the direction of being more supportive.”

The Washington Post noted that the poll showed the measure to be “especially popular among young voters, with 87 percent of voters under 40 favoring legalization.”

“By far those most enthusiastic about legalization are young voters. Almost 9 in 10 voters under age 40 said they support legalizing cannabis, compared with roughly 7 in 10 of those ages 40 to 64 and just over half of those 65 and older,” the Post reported.

Moreover, the survey found that “77 percent of Black voters and 70 percent of White voters favor the proposal,” which also boasts “strong support from wide majorities of independents (81 percent) and registered Democrats (78 percent), along with a narrow majority of registered Republicans (53 percent).”

Lawmakers in Maryland passed legislation earlier this year to set a ballot referendum for marijuana legalization.

Question 4 is heavily backed by the cannabis giant Trulieve, which has several medical marijuana dispensaries in Maryland.

The chairman of the “Yes on 4” campaign is Eugene Monroe, a former offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens and a marijuana advocate.

“Legalizing cannabis would stimulate Maryland’s economy and create tens of thousands of good-paying jobs, while allowing Maryland residents to benefit from vital investments in education, public health, and public safety funded by cannabis taxes,” Monroe said last month, as the Question 4 campaign officially kicked off.

The “Yes on 4” campaign is bullish on what recreational marijuana could mean for Maryland’s economy.

“Marijuana legalization is projected to provide the state with over $135 million in tax revenue. That figure does not include city and county revenue or the savings from the millions of dollars Maryland spends each year enforcing marijuana possession laws. Passing Maryland Question 4 would empower local law enforcement to focus its limited resources on combating violent crimes. Of the ten counties in the United States with the highest rates of marijuana possession arrests, Maryland is home to three of them,” the campaign says on its website.

This week’s Washington Post-University of Maryland is not the first survey to suggest that Maryland voters are ready to end prohibition on pot.

A Goucher College poll released in March found that 62% of Maryland voters support legalizing cannabis for recreational use, compared with only 34% who said they were opposed.

That poll also found bipartisan support, with 65% of Democrats and independents, and 54% of Republicans, all saying they backed legalization.

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House Bill 837 Aims to Legalize Pot Possession, Home Grow in Maryland

Activists behind a ballot referendum to legalize cannabis in Maryland launched a new ad campaign last week, urging voters to support the proposal when they go to the polls on November 8. If passed, the ballot measure would make Maryland the 20th state in the union to legalize recreational marijuana for adults.

In April, the Maryland General Assembly passed two bills designed to legalize recreational marijuana. Under the proposals, Maryland voters will decide in this fall’s general election if cannabis should be legalized for adults, leaving lawmakers to pass additional legislation to regulate the commercial cannabis industry.

“We’re at the beginning of an important process where we begin to look again at how we have treated the substance—cannabis,” Delegate Luke Clippinger, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee and the sponsor of the legislation, told his colleagues in the House of Delegates when they passed the bills earlier this year.

The legislation approved by lawmakers includes House Bill 837, a measure that would legalize possession of up to 1 1/2 ounces of marijuana for adults and create an equitable path to cannabis legalization, according to Clippinger. The bill would also allow adults to cultivate up to two cannabis plants at home.

Maryland Voters to Decide on Question 4 in November

House Bill 837 will go into effect if voters approve House Bill 1, a cannabis legalization constitutional amendment measure that will appear as Question 4 on the ballot for the November general election. The referendum is supported largely by Trulieve, a cannabis producer and retailer with operations in eight states, including three medical marijuana dispensaries in Maryland.

On Thursday, the campaign to pass Question 4 launched a new ad campaign featuring a website and video encouraging voters to support cannabis legalization in Maryland. Eugene Monroe, a former offensive lineman for the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens and the chairman of the committee sponsoring the referendum campaign, said the ballot measure would create economic opportunities for both entrepreneurs and workers.

“Legalizing cannabis would stimulate Maryland’s economy and create tens of thousands of good-paying jobs, while allowing Maryland residents to benefit from vital investments in education, public health, and public safety funded by cannabis taxes,” Monroe said in a statement quoted by the Washington Post.

Supporters of cannabis policy reform in the Maryland General Assembly have said that legalizing marijuana will help the state address the harms caused by prohibition and the War on Drugs. A study from the American Civil Liberties Union showed that between 2010 and 2018, Black people in Maryland were more than twice as likely to be arrested for a marijuana-related offense than white people, despite evidence that the two groups use cannabis at nearly equal rates.

“Passing Question 4 will put an end to the failed criminalization of cannabis, create a well-regulated legal marijuana market centered around equity, and open up new doors for local entrepreneurs and small business owners,” Monroe said in the statement.

Delegate Jazz Lewis of Prince George’s County, who gave his reluctant approval to the legislation passed earlier this year, said that the legal cannabis industry should be open to all.

“We need to make sure that we build a brand new industry where people can get in where it is most appropriate for them, and that they have a support system around them so that they can thrive,” said Lewis.

Maryland legalized medical marijuana in 2014, leading to the launch of the medicinal cannabis industry three years later. But not one of the businesses approved to operate in the industry was Black-owned. Delegate Gabriel Acevero, who represents part of Montgomery County, said that the recreational cannabis industry must not follow the same path.

“The Maryland General Assembly unfortunately got it wrong on medical cannabis,” said Acevero. “It did not prioritize equity, it did not ensure that – in an industry that now generates millions – that communities most impacted would be able to participate in that.”

“We’re not prioritizing mitigating the impacts of the racist drug war – we’re just moving on this issue because we recognize that it’s very popular with Marylanders and for some people, it’s politically expedient,” Acevero added. “But we have to get this right.”

Delegate David Moon, who represents a different section of Montgomery County, is the chair of the criminal justice impacts subcommittee of the cannabis legalization workgroup. He said that the group will wait until the referendum is passed and equity studies are completed early next year before drafting a regulatory system, noting that it could be years before recreational marijuana businesses open their doors to customers.

“That’s exactly why we’re on this sort of two step process,” Moon said. “This whole conversation about licensing requires a few more conversations and analysis, I think because of exactly the history [of the medical marijuana inequities.] The workgroup meetings that have happened have been about getting the basic conversations going on licensing and health effects, so I think it’s really a preview for what’s going to happen in next year’s legislative session.”

With 50 days before the election, Question 4 is receiving strong support from the public. In a poll of 748 likely voters released on Monday morning, 59% said they would vote in favor of the referendum.

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Legalization Campaign Kicks Off in Maryland Ahead of November Vote

A campaign to bring legal cannabis to Maryland officially kicked off in earnest on Thursday, as supporters look to build support ahead of this November’s vote on the initiative.

Appearing on the ballot as “Question 4,” the measure would legalize possession of cannabis for Maryland adults aged 21 and older, and also establish a regulated marijuana industry in the state.

The measure requires a simple majority to pass and, should it be approved by voters, will take effect on July 1, 2023.

“Question 4” is backed by a power player in the cannabis industry. According to The Washington Post, the campaign “relies on funding from Trulieve…an industry giant with dispensaries in eight states, including three medical locations in Maryland.” The newspaper reports that Trulieve has given $50,000 to the Question 4 campaign, which has only one other donor, Blended Public Affairs, which contributed $100 to the effort.

The chairman of the campaign is Eugene Monroe, a former offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens who has become a champion of cannabis reform since retiring from the NFL.

“Legalizing cannabis would stimulate Maryland’s economy and create tens of thousands of good-paying jobs, while allowing Maryland residents to benefit from vital investments in education, public health, and public safety funded by cannabis taxes,” Monroe said in a statement, as quoted by The Washington Post.

In a statement on the “Yes on 4” campaign’s official website, Monroe says that passing “Question 4 will put an end to the failed criminalization of cannabis, create a well-regulated legal marijuana market centered around equity, and open up new doors for local entrepreneurs and small business owners.”

“I hope every Marylander will vote yes on Question 4 this November,” he says.

The campaign says that the proposal will lead to the “creation of a well-regulated legal market for cannabis sales would generate tens of thousands of new jobs in Maryland, and may provide new opportunities for hundreds of local small business owners and entrepreneurs,” while also “creating new small businesses and career pathways within the cannabis industry, legalization would provide an economic boost to related industries that already provide good-paying jobs for many Marylanders, including construction, real estate, and transportation.”

The “Yes on 4” campaign also asserts that legalization is “estimated to provide the state with over $135 million in tax revenue annually,” a figure it says “doesn’t include city and county revenue or the savings from the millions of dollars Maryland spends each year enforcing marijuana possession laws.”

Lawmakers in Maryland passed a bill earlier this year that set the stage for the ballot referendum. Under the legislation that passed, as The Washington Post reported on Thursday, “if the referendum passes the state will conduct a study of the impact of marijuana on public health and a disparities study looking at the business market and what might be needed to help women- and minority-owned businesses enter the industry.”

The campaign says that the new law would create a Cannabis Business Assistance Fund “to help minority- and women-owned businesses seeking to enter the legal cannabis market” in order to “help level the playing field and ensure those in Maryland who are most often left behind get a fair shot at the economic opportunities created by marijuana legalization.”

The state’s Republican governor, Larry Hogan, did not sign the bill that passed earlier this year, which means that it would not require his signature to take effect.

Polling suggests that cannabis advocates could be in line for a big victory in Maryland come November.

A survey in March found that 62% of Marylanders support the legalization of cannabis for recreational use, while only 34% said they were opposed.

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