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Five States to Vote on Marijuana Legalization

by Sarah Cawthon September 03, 2020

Update: This blog originally included Nebraska, as the state was previously expecting to see a medical marijuana legalization initiative on the November ballot. However, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that the initiative can no longer appear on the ballot, siding with a challenge that argued the proposal violates the state’s single-subject rule for ballot initiatives.

The general election will take place on Tuesday, November 3, and cannabis legalization will be on the ballot for a total of five states. Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota will cast their vote on adult-use cannabis legalization, and Mississippi and South Dakota will be voting on medical cannabis legalization.

The Smart and Safe Arizona ballot initiative that would legalize marijuana for adults 21 years and older amassed over 400,000 signatures, far surpassing the 237,645 signatures needed to place the initiative on the ballot. The signatures were certified by the secretary of state in August. If passed, adults will be able to possess up to two ounces of flower, up to five grams in the form of marijuana concentrate and each adult could grow up to six marijuana plants at their home. The initiative would also place an excise tax of 16 percent on marijuana purchases, and would distribute the earnings to state agencies, community colleges and police departments.

Existing medical marijuana dispensary owners would have first choice to expand into the recreational market. The Department would start accepting applications beginning January 19, 2021, through March 9, 2021. The Department will issue licenses to winning applicants within 60 days of receiving applications. The measure initially caps the number of dispensaries at 150 statewide.

The new initiative would also set policies in motion for retroactive marijuana decriminalization. Anyone convicted of certain marijuana-related crimes can petition for the expungement of their criminal record starting on July 12, 2021.

Additionally, once the Department adopts final rules to implement a social equity ownership program, they will issue 26 additional marijuana establishment licenses to social equity applicants who have been disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition.

Begin preparing for marijuana business opportunities here.

The Mississippi Medical Marijuana Amendment was put forth by Mississippians for Compassionate Care with the intention of ensuring the availability of and safe access to medical marijuana for qualified persons suffering from debilitating medical conditions. The measure lists 22 qualifying conditions, including cancer, chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder. Each patient would be allowed to possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis per 14-day period.

The group collected more than 214,000 signatures, which far exceeded the needed 86,185 signatures, when the initiative was submitted to the secretary of state’s office in September 2019.

If the measure is approved, Mississippi would implement a vertically integrated license, known as a medical marijuana treatment center license, that would allow for the cultivation, processing and dispensing of medical marijuana products. State regulators would be required to license centers by August 15, 2021. Additionally, there would be no limits to the number of medical marijuana treatment centers and local zoning would be no more restrictive than it is for licensed pharmacies. The Department of Health would regulate the program, including the treatment centers that would sell medical marijuana. More details regarding licenses will be released once the measure has passed.

Alternative 65A was also placed on the ballot alongside Initiative 65, as an alternative measure by the state legislature. Alternative 65A does not specify qualifying conditions, possession limits or a tax rate, and theses as well as many other details would need to be set by the state legislature. Alternative 65A would restrict the ability to smoke marijuana to terminally ill patients. 

A recent poll shows that 81 percent of respondents claimed to be in favor of legalizing medical marijuana for patients, and 52 percent in favor of Mississippians for Compassionate Care’s Initiative 65 with only 23 percent approving of the legislature’s measure.  

Begin preparing for marijuana business opportunities here.

Activists gathered over 26,100 signatures from registered voters for I-190, which would legalize the use and possession of cannabis in Montana. The group gathered over another 51,000 signatures for the Constitutional Initiative 118, which would define the legal marijuana consumption age of 21.

Under the ballot initiative, the sale of smokable flower is permitted and products would be required to be tested for potency and contaminants. The state Department of Revenue would also be in charge of regulating and issuing licenses to cannabis business, with applications available by October 1, 2021.

The bill provides for the licensure and regulation of commercial cultivation, manufacture, production, distribution, testing and sale of marijuana and marijuana-infused products. The department will issue a license or endorsement within five days of approving an application or renewal. Licenses and endorsements issued to adult-use providers and adult-use marijuana-infused products providers must be renewed annually.

Additionally, a 20 percent retail tax would be assessed on adult-use products, and medical marijuana products would see a reduction in sales tax from two percent to one percent. The campaign is hopeful that the state legislature would consider eliminating the medical sales tax altogether if legalization is passed.

The tax revenue would be allocated to conservation, veterans’ services, substance abuse treatment, long-term care, local governments where recreational marijuana is sold and the state’s general fund.

Begin preparing for marijuana business opportunities here.

New Jersey:
New Jersey lawmakers approved a resolution to place a referendum regarding marijuana legalization before voters on the November ballot. A supermajority of lawmakers voted in support of the measure with a vote of 24-16 in the Senate and 49-24 in the Assembly.  

The constitutional amendment, that would take effect on January 21, 2021, would legalize marijuana for adults 21 years and older and states that marijuana will be subject to the standard state sales tax as well as an additional 2% local tax issued at the discretion of local municipalities. The Cannabis Regulatory Commission will be responsible for regulating the cultivation, processing and sale of marijuana in the state.

Begin preparing for marijuana business opportunities here.

South Dakota:
Voters in South Dakota will make history this November by being the first to vote on both medical and recreational marijuana legalization measures on the same ballot.

Initiated Measure 26 would legalize medical marijuana for use by patients with chronic and debilitating medical conditions. Patients would be required to obtain a registration card from the state’s Department of Health and would be allowed to possess up to three ounces of marijuana. They would also be permitted to grow a minimum of three plants with the maximum number of plants to be later determined by the state.

The bill lists the types of licenses that will be available, which will include a cannabis testing facility license, cultivation facility license, medical cannabis dispensary license and a medical cannabis product manufacturing license. According to the bill, the application and license fees will be determined for all license types if the initiative is passed into law with application fees not exceeding $5,000.

Constitutional Amendment A would legalize and regulate marijuana for adults 21 and older. Individuals would be allowed to possess or distribute up to one ounce of marijuana and cultivate up to three cannabis plants.

Under the amendment, marijuana sales would be taxed at 15% with 50% of the revenue appropriated to fund state public schools and 50% would be deposited in the state’s general fund.  

The following business license types would be established under Constitutional Amendment A:

  • Licenses permitting commercial cultivators and manufacturers of marijuana to cultivate, process, manufacture, transport, and sell marijuana to marijuana wholesalers;
  • Licenses permitting independent marijuana testing facilities to analyze and certify the safety and potency of marijuana;
  • Licenses permitting marijuana wholesalers to package, process, and prepare marijuana for transport and sale to retail sales outlets; and
  • Licenses permitting retail sales outlets to sell and deliver marijuana to consumers.

Earlier this year, the Oglala Sioux became the first Native American tribe to pass into law and establish a cannabis market in a state where marijuana is currently illegal. The tribal council is now working to enact laws regarding the legalization and regulation of marijuana.

Begin preparing for marijuana business opportunities here.