These 4 States Could Approve Adult-Use in November 2020
The 2020 election in the United States will be a turning point for Americans in many walks of life, and the cannabis industry is no different. Four states have the opportunity to legalize adult-use cannabis thanks to ballot initiatives passed earlier this year.
Consumers in these states will no doubt desire high-end cannabis products like ice water hash and solventless concentrates, should voters decide to approve these measures. Each of these four states reached this point in their unique ways, but one thing holds – the people have spoken, and they believe it’s time to decide on recreational laws in their state.
Arizona – Passed Adult Use
After an adult-use measure failed to pass in Arizona in 2016, it’s back on the general election ballot in 2020. This year’s initiative, Prop 207: The Smart and Safe Arizona act, was led by the group Smart and Safe Arizona. State officials qualified Prop 207 for this year’s ballot on August 10.
If passed, adults aged 21 and older would be legally able to possess up to one ounce of cannabis with up to 5 grams of concentrates. Possession of over an ounce but under 2.5 ounces would be considered a petty offense. The offense would likely result in a fine for the offender. Possessing more than 2.5 ounces is an arrestable offense, although at this time, it is unclear if the crime would be for simple possession or for possession with intent to deliver.
Residents who live alone could legally grow up to 6 plants, while homes with two or more adults grow up to 12 plants. An excise tax of 16% would be placed on the sale of cannabis products when dispensaries open on April 5, 2021, at the latest.
Cannabis consumption is permitted only in residents’ privacy – not in public places such as sidewalks and parks. Consuming in public would also be considered a petty offense. Operating any motor vehicle (even a boat or a plane) while high would be a punishable offense under the state’s zero-tolerance policy. Edibles would be capped at 10mg, with packages of edibles limited to a total of 100mg.
Connoisseurs in the Grand Canyon state already have a love for solventless extractions and similar products like ice water hash. However, interest from multiple state operators (MSOs) to establish dispensaries isn’t as high as other states because it is hard to get a license in Arizona.
The quick turnaround in states like Arizona, making a speedy transition from medical to possible recreational, reflects a fundamental shift in attitudes towards cannabis that Americans now have. According to the Pew Research Center, this rapid shift in state cannabis markets is thanks to a change in public perception, as 67 percent of Americans now favor legal cannabis.
If Prop 207 passes in Arizona, it is likely to infuriate one prohibitionist in particular – former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Arpaio lost to his former deputy in his run for reelection as sheriff. Although Arpaio claimed to support medical cannabis “kind of,” NORML gave the former sheriff an F grade on cannabis policy because the former Sheriff “has one of the worst records on cannabis justice in the history of American politics.”
New Jersey – Passed Adult Use
Although most cannabis legalization policy initiatives are qualified via signatures, New Jersey is unique. Voters will decide this year on Public Question 1. If passed, an amendment will be made to the state constitution legalizing cannabis for adults 21 and over. If approved, the Garden State will become the third in the northeast U.S. to legalize adult use. The state commission overseeing the sale of medical cannabis would also oversee the adult-use market.
Massachusetts was first in the Northeast to legalize adult-use, with sales becoming fully operational as of November 2018. Voters in Vermont decided they wanted legal cannabis in July of 2018, becoming the second in the Northeast to do so, but recreational sales have not yet gone into effect. If passed, sales in New Jersey could become operational faster than most states because policymakers laid out legal weed sales last year – with the Assembly falling short of passing the law by only five votes.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Nicholas Scutari (D) introduced the previous legalization bill that narrowly failed to pass. Still, he believes New Jersey can be “a leader” in the Northeast for recreational sales, according to Marijuana Moment.
“Public Question No. 1 would also create a legalized cannabis marketplace overseen by the State’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission,” the Senator added.
New Jersey’s people overwhelmingly support legal cannabis, with seven out of ten voters polled indicating as such earlier this summer. Another more recent poll showed voters supporting the measure by a ratio of 2 to 1. One of the more notable of those with roots in the garden state showing public support for the effort is filmmaker Kevin Smith, well-known for his films Clerks, Dogma, and the Jay and Silent Bob movies.
Despite this overwhelming support, 70 municipalities already said no to legal sales in their area. NJ.com reports that police in the state are still making 100 simple possession arrests a day, of which a disproportionate number are people of color.
Montana – Passed Adult Use
In June, Montana activists collected a total of more than 130,000 signatures from supporting voters, qualifying two state ballot initiatives. Statutory Initiative 190 would legalize, regulate, and tax cannabis in the state, as well as the possession and consumption of limited amounts. The MT Department of Revenue would oversee the licensing and regulation of sales, cultivation, and transport of cannabis products.
Activists with the organization New Approach Montana spearheaded the legalization campaign and the two ballot initiatives, saying that taxes and fees could generate about $48 million a year by 2025. If passed, a 20% tax would be placed on non-medical cannabis sales in Montana, with particular revenue accounts for conservation programs, substance abuse treatment, and veterans’ services.
However, there is a bit of a snag in the legalization efforts of the people of Montana. The state constitution defines people over 18 and older as adults, “except that the legislature or the people by initiative may establish the legal age of purchasing, consuming, or possessing alcoholic beverages,” according to New Approach MT.
For the legalization of adult-use to happen in Montana, Constitutional Initiative 118 would have to pass, which would allow the state legislature to establish the legal age of purchasing and consuming cannabis. The second initiative stipulates that only persons 21 or older in Montana can consume cannabis.
Opponents of the two ballot questions, Wrong for Montana, attempted a last-minute lawsuit, arguing to the state Supreme Court that the initiatives violated state law by appropriating money to particular programs. The Supreme Court rejected the suiters’ petition, stating that they failed to demonstrate reasons to move the case to the high court urgently. Such claims must first be heard by the state trial and appeals courts.
As such, Montana citizens will vote on the two initiatives as planned.
South Dakota – Passed Both Medical and Adult Use
South Dakota could create history if it passes two cannabis-related ballot questions.
Led by policy reform activists from the groups South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws and New Approach South Dakota, voters will decide on whether to enact into law both medical and recreational cannabis simultaneously. Measure 26 would establish a medical cannabis program for patients with qualifying conditions with doctors’ recommendations. Constitutional Amendment A would establish regulation and licensing for the sale of cannabis to adults 21 and older for recreational purposes, as well as protect medical patients’ access to plant medicine.
If enough voters say yes to amendment A and Measure 26, South Dakota could become the first state to pass recreational and medical at the same time. The unprecedented occurrence would come during an unparalleled year and create an uncharted path in American cannabis laws. If both ballot measures pass, South Dakota officials would have to establish regulations and policies for two emerging markets simultaneously.
South Dakota’s medical cannabis program appears to have garnered much voter support, including an ad from a retired state police officer. However, there isn’t as much support for the recreational market, which could fail and possibly be voted on again in 2022 and 2024. The most prominent legalization opponent is South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem (R), who appeared in an ad from the No Way On Amendment A committee. The governor says she’s heard from law enforcement and addiction counselors who favor the continued prohibition of cannabis.
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