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Election 2020: Cannabis Legalization Results

Now that the dust has settled from this chaotic election cycle, we have an update on last month’s Election Watch blog. The night was an immense success for the industry, expanding legalization and opportunity across the country. The results indicate clearly that voters overwhelmingly approve of cannabis legalization.

“They passed overwhelmingly; they were not close races,” said John Hudak, a cannabis policy expert and deputy director at the Brookings Institution. “This is a resounding win for cannabis.”

In total, 15 states have now either enacted or have voted to enact adult-use legalization laws, while 36 states have either enacted or have voted to enact medical marijuana access laws.

Arizona Adult-Use Measure Approved

Proposition 207, the citizens’ initiated ballot measure legalizing the adult-use marijuana market, passed with just over 60% of Arizona voters in favor. It will take effect on November 30th, following the certification of the 2020 election results by the Secretary of State.

Provisions legalizing marijuana possession (up to one ounce of cannabis and up to five grams of concentrates), use, and personal cultivation (up to six plants for non-commercial purposes in a private residence) will be effective immediately following the November 30 certification. Separate provisions licensing adult-use marijuana businesses and facilitating the expungement of past criminal convictions take effect in 2021.

Following the passage of the measure on Election Day, most county prosecutors immediately began dismissing marijuana possession cases. Under prior law, minor marijuana possession offenses in the state could be prosecuted as felonies and were among the strictest in the nation.

Montana Adult-Use Measure Approved

Montana I-190, the Marijuana Legalization Initiative, passed with 57% of voters’ approval, making the state the 14th to legalize recreational marijuana.

Possession, use, and growing cannabis will become legal January 1. However, it will be a while until recreational shops will open. The Montana Department of Revenue won’t begin accepting applications from existing medical dispensaries to open recreational dispensaries until October 1, 2021. Those existing dispensaries will have 12 months to apply for licensing before it opens up to the general public.

New Jersey Adult-Use Measure Approved

Public Question 1, the Marijuana Legalization Amendment, was approved by over 67% of voters. This adds an amendment to the state constitution legalizing the recreational use of marijuana for persons age 21 and older. It also legalizes the cultivation, processing, and sale of retail marijuana.

The new amendment will take effect January 1. It will also apply a 6.625% sales tax to recreational marijuana but prohibit additional state sales taxes. The state Legislature was authorized to allow local governments to enact an additional 2% sales tax on recreational marijuana.

Mississippi Medical-Use Initiative Approved

Mississippi was a state with dueling initiatives on the ballot, both for medicinal use. The question of initiative was preceded by Measure 1, a question of legalization of cannabis for medicinal use. This measure passed by nearly 69%.

The second question was for those who voted YES on Measure 1. It was a decision between Initiative 65 and Alternative 65A. The difference between these measures was in the far more restrictive nature of 65A, limiting the use to those who are terminally ill, for instance. The end result was nearly 74% of voters approving of Initiative 65.

Initiative 65 specifies that no patient could possess more than 2.5 ounces of medical marijuana at one time and that no more than 2.5 ounces could be provided to a patient in a 14-day period. The weight limit does not include ingredients combined with medical marijuana to prepare edible products, topical products, ointments, oils, tinctures, or other products.

But things won’t change anytime soon, as the Mississippi Department of Health has until July 1, 2021 to develop regulations for the program. Patients in need of medicinal cannabis can expect to wait until August 15, 2021 for their cannabis cards.

South Dakota Adult-Use vs Medical-Use Initiatives Approved

Measure 26, the Medical Marijuana Initiative, was approved by nearly 70% of voters. The measure requires the Department of Health to enact rules related to implementing South Dakota’s medical marijuana program no later than 120 days after the measure’s effective date of July 1, 2021. Voters can expect to see the program active by October 29, 2021. The Department of Health is also required to issue registry identification cards to qualified patients no later than 140 days after the effective date of the measure.

South Dakota Constitutional Amendment A, Marijuana Legalization Initiative, was also approved by just over 54% of voters. This legalizes recreational use of marijuana for individuals 21 and older. Under the measure, individuals are allowed to possess, use, and distribute up to one ounce of marijuana. Also, no more than eight grams can be in a concentrated form.

The amendment also includes homegrown provisions for individuals who live in an area with no licensed retail stores, to grow up to three marijuana plants. The plants need to be kept in a private residence in a locked space that is not visible from a public place. Not more than six marijuana plants can be kept in one residence at a time, regardless of how many individuals may grow marijuana plants. This amendment also includes civil penalties for the following:

  • $250 if a person grows marijuana plants that are visible from a public place
  • $250 if cultivated marijuana plants are not kept in a locked space
  • $250 if a person grows marijuana in a local government jurisdiction that has marijuana retail stores (unless the jurisdiction has authorized home-grow for individuals)
  • $100 for smoking marijuana in a public place unless the place is licensed for such activity
  • $100 or attending up to four hours of a drug education/counseling program for smoking marijuana if a person is under the age of 21

Under the amendment, marijuana sales are to be taxed at 15%. The South Dakota State Legislature can again adjust the tax rate after November 3, 2024.

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