Nov 9, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Where voters legalized recreational marijuana in the midterm elections

Demonstrators gather in the street near the White House in Washington, DC, on October 24, 2022, to call on US President Joe Biden to take action on cannabis clemency ahead of the midterm election.

Demonstrators gather in the street near the White House. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

Voters in two states approved legalizing recreational cannabis through ballot initiatives on Tuesday's midterm elections, per the Associated Press.

Why it matters: Before Election Day 2022, at least 20 states and the District of Columbia had legalized cannabis for nonmedical use.

Maryland, Missouri vote to legalize

Maryland: Voters legalized the possession and sharing of 1.5 ounces of recreational pot for people 21 or older as soon as July 2023 through a measure, per AP.

  • The measure also allows people convicted of possession with the intent to distribute cannabis to file a petition to expunge the conviction three years after serving their sentence.

Missouri: State voters approved an amendment to “remove state prohibitions on purchasing, possessing, consuming, using, delivering, manufacturing, and selling” cannabis for adults who are 21 and older, according to the AP.

  • Voters previously legalized medical cannabis possession in 2018.
North Dakota, South Dakota, Arkansas reject legalization

North Dakota: Voters declined to pass a measure that would have allowed adults who are 21 and older to possess and purchase 1 ounce of recreational marijuana starting 30 days after the election, AP reports.

Arkansas: Voters in Arkansas voted against an amendment to allow people who are 21 and older to possess up to 1 ounce of recreational cannabis and buy marijuana from licensed dispensaries for any reason, per AP.

South Dakota: Voters rejected a measure to legalize the possession and use of a limited amount of recreational marijuana for people 21 and older, per AP.

  • In 2020, the state's voters approved an amendment that would have legalized recreational marijuana and required the state legislature to pass laws that would legalize the use of medical marijuana.
  • The amendment was challenged by Republican Gov. Kristi Noem and ultimately overturned by the state Supreme Court.

The big picture: President Biden announced last month he would pardon all prior federal offenses of simple marijuana possession and called on governors to pardon simple state possession offenses.

  • The U.S. House passed a bill this year that would decriminalize cannabis on the federal level and allow for the expungement of some marijuana convictions. The bill has not moved forward in the Senate.

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