Post date: 10/21/2019

While the federal government continues its hard line against cannabis legalization, the outlook is brightening for cannabis legalization on the state level.

Eleven states and DC have legalized adult recreational uses of cannabis, while 33 other states have legalized medicinal uses of cannabis. Now a new batch of ballot initiatives slated for 2020, if approved, would boost by 6 the number of states where adult recreational cannabis use is legal.

States with pending medical cannabis or adult-use cannabis initiatives are:

  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Florida
  • Idaho
  • Mississippi
  • Nebraska
  • New Jersey
  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota

An attempt to legalize recreational cannabis use by ballot initiative in Arizona failed by a slim margin in 2016, but is being revived for the 2020 election. The Arizona Justice League announced the Arizona Marijuana Legalization Initiative (2020) in January 2019, and has until July 2, 2020 to secure signatures from 238,000 registered voters in the state for the initiative to make it onto the 2020 ballot. The initiative would legalize the possession, consumption, cultivation and sale of cannabis for those aged 18 and older. Arizona voters approved the legalization of medical cannabis uses in a 2010 ballot initiative.

Arkansas, like Arizona, already has legalized medical cannabis. The Arkansas Adult Use Cannabis Amendment would amend the state constitution to expressly permit cannabis use by any resident who is 21 years of age or older. A ballot initiative request, filed earlier this year, needs to secure just over 89,000 valid voter signatures by July 3, 2020, in order to make it on the November 2020 ballot.

In Florida, proponents are racing against the clock to secure 766,200 signatures from registered voters in the state by February 1, 2020 in order to put a marijuana legalization Initiative on the ballot for the November 2020 general election. The proposed title pretty much sums up the purpose: Regulate Marijuana in a Manner Similar to Alcohol to Establish Age, Licensing and Other Restrictions. Usage would be restricted to adults age 21 and above, and would establish a pathway for state regulation of growers, distributors, testing facilities and retail sellers. Proponents say the initiative has a good chance of approval, noting that a recent poll found 67% of likely Florida voters would vote to approve if the initiative were on the ballot today.

Idaho could join the ranks of states legalizing medical uses of cannabis if proponents can get enough voter signatures to put a proposal on the 2020 ballot. They need get just over 55,000 signatures by April 30, 2020 for that to happen.

Mississippi, like Idaho, currently doesn’t allow any uses of cannabis, although it did remove CBD oils from the state’s list of controlled substances back in 2014. Now a proposed constitutional amendment is planned for the 2020 election that would legalize cannabis as a treatment option for patients with “debilitating medical conditions.”

Lawmakers in Nebraska have repeatedly rejected legislative proposals to approve medical uses of cannabis, so voters are trying to take matters into their own hands. A petition is being circulated to put up a constitutional amendment to allow “any person in the State of Nebraska” to use cannabis. The deadline to submit signatures is July 2, 2020. The petition needs to include signatures from 5% of registered voters in two-fifths of Nebraska’s 93 counties.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy tried, but failed, to enact a full cannabis legalization plan this year. So now he wants to put the question to voters. Getting a constitutional amendment on the 2020 ballot legalizing recreational uses of marijuana will require approval by a 60% vote in both chambers of the state legislature prior to the 2020 election.

North Dakota has legalized the sale and use of medical cannabis. A constitutional amendment allowing adult recreational uses of cannabis could be put to a vote in 2020. Getting the initiative on the 2020 ballot will require signatures of 27,000 registered voters on a petition now being circulated in the state.

South Dakota hasn’t legalized any uses of cannabis, but that could change next year. A full legalization push is now underway, with proponents seeking to collect signatures from about 17,000 registered voters by November 3, 2019 to change the state’s law.

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