Maryland and Missouri Pass Cannabis Reform, Others Fail

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Photo: J. Helgason / Shutterstock

LOS ANGELES – More than 5 million Americans weighed in on recreational cannabis on Tuesday. The results were disappointing for ballot measures in three of five states, passing in only Maryland and Missouri and failing in Arkansas and both Dakotas.

“Voters in every part of the country are standing up and casting their ballots in support of legalizing and regulating cannabis for adult use. It is not only happening in the Northeast and in the West, but also in the Midwest,” said Mason Tvert, partner at VS Strategies. “As we saw in Arkansas and the Dakotas, there is still work to be done. After decades of anti-cannabis laws and propaganda, it comes as little surprise that many voters have concerns. History has shown that the more people learn about the issue, the more likely they are to support legalization. It’s not really a question of whether these states will end cannabis prohibition, but a question of when.”


Arkansas Issue 4 – Failed

The initiative failed to pass with a vote of 56.2 percent against and 43.8 percent for, based on 92 percent reporting.

Arkansas Issue 4, the marijuana legalization initiative, proposed a constitutional amendment that would have legalized possession and use of up to one ounce of cannabis for adults age 21 years and older. The measure would have authorized the commercial sale of cannabis with a 10-percent tax rate in addition to any state and local sales tax.

Businesses operating within the state’s existing medical program would have been permitted to sell adult-use cannabis at their existing locations and could have establish one additional location for commercial sales. The measure also would have also paved the way for 40 additional retail licenses to be awarded through a lottery system.

“The rejection of Issue 4 by Arkansas voters represents a lost opportunity by the state to reduce the workload of police while raising needed tax revenue for state services and to support law enforcement,” said Nancy Whiteman, CEO of Wana Brands. “We are hopeful that leaders in the state will continue to push for expansion of access to cannabis for adults in the coming months and years, and we will continue to support our Arkansas partner, River Valley Relief, to meet the needs of Arkansas’ medical cannabis patients.”

The ballot measure was sponsored by Responsible Growth Arkansas, which raised $4.86 million and spent $3.91 million according to campaign finance reports through August 31, 2022. The organization Safe and Secure Communities registered to oppose the initiative, raising $2 million and spending $691,648, claiming “the pot industry is directly targeting kids.”

The additional 10-percent tax levied on retail sales would have been used as follows:

  • 15 percent to fund full-time law enforcement officers.
  • 10 percent to fund the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
  • 5 percent to fund drug court programs.
  • “Sufficient funding” for the operating expenses of the Alcohol Beverage Control Board, the Department of Health, and the Medical Marijuana Commission for regulating adult-use cannabis.
  • All remaining revenues would have been appropriated to the general fund.

Maryland Question 4 – Passed

The amendment passed with a vote of 65.5 percent for and 34.5 percent against, based on 82 percent reporting.

“Maryland voters were loud and clear in their support for legalizing the responsible adult-use of cannabis,” said Maryland NORML Executive Director Losia Nyankale. “Question 4 activates long overdue changes to Maryland’s judicial, social, and economic climates. This is an important first step in the right direction.”

Maryland Question 4 is a constitutional amendment that legalizes cannabis for adults age 21 years and older beginning July 2023. The amendment directs the Maryland General Assembly to pass laws for the use, distribution, regulation, and taxation of adult-use cannabis.

Question 4 originally was introduced as House Bill 1 (HB 1) by Delegate Luke Clippinger (D) in January. HB1 was approved by the House with a vote of 96-34 in February with all but one Republican voting in opposition. The Senate passed the bill in April with a vote of 29-17, where two democrats, Sens. Joanne Benson (D) and Jill Carter (D), voted with the Republican minority in opposition to the bill.

This is only the second time a state’s legislature has referred a constitutional amendment on cannabis legalization to voters, with New Jersey referring a similar amendment to voters in 2020. The New Jersey measure passed with 67.08 percent of the vote.

Support for Question 4 came from Yes on 4 to “end the war on weed and bring new money for small businesses, education, and public services.” Ballotpedia identified two committees — MD Can ’22 Inc. and Legalize Maryland 2022 — that raised a total of $211,370 including cash and in-kind contributions from SunMed Growers, Trulieve Medical Cannabis Dispensary, Curio Wellness, Marijuana Policy Project, and Green Thumb Industries. The official opposition from Protect Maryland Kids did not raise any funds, with opposing Sen. J. B. Jennings (R) saying, “I just don’t think it should be in the constitution.”

According to two separate polls conducted in September by the Washington Post-University of Maryland and Goucher College Poll, a majority of voters were expected to support the adult-use amendment.

“State lawmakers have had many years to prepare for this moment,” said NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano. “Statewide polling had consistently shown that a supermajority of Marylanders support legalizing cannabis, and the outcome of this referendum was never in doubt. Now it is incumbent upon lawmakers to move swiftly to adopt rules to oversee a regulated cannabis marketplace in accordance with voters’ demands.”

Missouri Amendment 3 – Passed

The amendment passed with a vote of 51.3 percent for and 46.9 percent against, based on 89 percent reporting.

“In what was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Missouri voters made history in this election by approving recreational sales of cannabis in a way that helps to fund critical needs of Missouri while addressing some of the injustices of the failed war on drugs,” said Jason Nelson, CEO of BeLeaf Medical and Swade Medical Dispensaries. “We look forward to working with the state to get recreational sales underway, and we are excited by the opportunities to hire more Missourians and increase our engagement with community organizations across the state … Now the consequential work to maximize the collective benefits from Amendment 3 truly begins.”

Missouri Amendment 3 is a constitutional amendment that will legalize cannabis for adults age 21 years and older, grant individuals with some non-violent marijuana-related offenses the ability to petition for release from prison/parole/probation with expungement, and enact a six-percent tax on retail cannabis sales.

The measure also will establish rules for licensing, tracking, transportation, advertising, marketing, taxation, facilities, testing, law enforcement, homegrow (12 plants), nurse practitioners, local controls, and a lottery for comprehensive facility licenses, certificate holders, and marijuana microbusiness licenses.

Official support for the amendment came from Legal Missouri 2022, which registered as a political action committee (PAC) in support of the ballot initiative. The PAC raised a total of $6.97 million from donors including New Approach Advocacy Fund, BD Health Ventures LLC, Good Day Farm Missouri LLC, New Growth Horizon LLC, Green Four Ventures LLC, and Organic Remides MO Inc., and spent $7.81 million. According to Ballotpedia, opposition from Save Our State did not report any contributions or expenditures.

State Rep. Ashley Bland-Manlove (D), who opposed the amendment, said, “Eighty percent of the licenses will go to persons who already have a medical license. So that means nobody else new gets into this industry, which is heart-wrenching since so many people I know — people who actually put blood money, like their settlements from car accidents, to try and get into the medical industry.”

Based on polling data conducted in September and October by four separate organizations, support for Amendment 3 was below 50 percent; however, the opposition was lower in all but one poll conducted by Remington/MOScout.

North Dakota Statutory Measure 2 – Failed

The statutory measure failed to pass with a vote of 54.9 percent against and 45.1 percent for, based on 99 percent reporting.

North Dakota Statutory Measure 2 proposed a state statute that would have legalized the use and possession of up to one ounce of cannabis for adults age 21 years and older, allowed homegrow for up to three plants, and directed the North Dakota Department of Health and Human Services to establish adult-use regulations by October 1, 2023. Under the measure, the state could have licensed seven cultivation and 18 retail facilities.

Voters in North Dakota rejected a similar marijuana legalization effort in 2018 with a vote of 59.45 percent against and 40.55 percent in favor. Under that failed measure, the state would have created an automatic expungement process and could not have prosecuted individuals over the age of 21 for any non-violent cannabis-related activity, except distribution to someone younger than 21. David Owen, the primary sponsor and campaign chairman for the 2018 and 2022 legalization efforts, has said, “The biggest difference between now and Measure 3 of 2018, and that’s the one I want to talk about because that’s the one people are familiar with, is this is restricted, regulated, controlled, legal marijuana. This is a marijuana program that is very, very similar to the one that passed the North Dakota State House.”

Official support for Mesure 2 came from New Approach North Dakota Ballot Measure Committee which raised $549,321 from donors including New Approach Advocacy Fund, GR Holdings OH-ND LLC, Pure Dakota LLC, and Marijuana Policy Project, spending a total of $313,411. According to Ballotpedia, no PACs registered to oppose the measure.

South Dakota Initiated Measure 27 – Failed

The statutory measure failed to pass with a vote of 52.9 percent against and 47.1 percent for, based on 97 percent reporting.

South Dakota Initiated Measure 27 would have legalized possession, distribution, and use of up to one ounce of cannabis for individuals age 21 years and older, and permitted up to three plants for homegrow with no more than six plants at one property. However, unlike the other four state-level cannabis initiatives on the 2022 ballot, Measure 27 did not seek to establish a regulated recreational marketplace.

Measure 27 would have allowed adults the right to use and possess any part of the cannabis plant, resin, concentrates, and seeds. For concentrates, a limit of eight grams would have been established. The measure also would have allowed the possession and sale of marijuana paraphernalia and accessories including bongs, pipes, grinders, and other equipment designed to ingest, grow, or prepare cannabis for personal consumption. Penalties for keeping plants visible in a public space, public smoking, and distribution to a person under 21 years old ranged from four hours of drug education to a $250 fine.

In 2020, 54 percent of South Dakotan voters approved adult-use legalization on the ballot, but the effort ultimately was rejected by the courts after a legal challenge from Gov. Kristi Noem (R) on the basis the ballot measure violated the prescribed way constitutional amendments may be written. On a vote of 4-1, the State Supreme Court ruled the measure would have violated the state’s requirement for a constitutional amendment to deal with a single subject.

“South Dakota is a place where the rule of law and our constitution matter, and that’s what today’s [2020] decision is about,” Noem said at the time. “We do things right — and how we do things matters just as much as what we are doing.”