Elizabeth Hamill 9-15-22

With elections coming up across the country, many states are set to vote on cannabis-related ballot initiatives, constitutional amendments, and referenda. In 2022, all voters in Arkansas, North Dakota, South Dakota, Maryland, Nebraska, Missouri, and Oklahoma will have the opportunity to make their voices heard on cannabis issues. (Local initiatives are also on the ballot in cities and communities across the country.) 

Most of the statewide ballot initiatives in 2022 regard adult recreational use, with the exception of Nebraska, where the vote will focus on legalizing the sale and use of medical cannabis.  Of the states voting on marijuana legislation this year, Nebraska is also the only one where cannabis is currently fully illegal. Adult use legalization measures in Missouri, Maryland, and Oklahoma will all be paired with legislation aimed at expunging criminal records related to marijuana possession.

While many historically Democratic-leaning states have long established legal medical and/or recreational cannabis industries, many of the states still debating the issue in 2022 are solidly Republican. Even so, lawmakers often lag behind their own voters, with one 2021 Quinnepac poll showing 62% of Republican voters in favor of cannabis legalization. Despite the popularity of legalization and decriminalization of adult recreational use, a few “purple states” are pausing their progress at legalizing only medical marijuana. 

While most Americans of both parties support legalizing adult marijuana use, constituents in states that don’t allow for direct ballot measures are in the hands of state legislatures when it comes to moving forward on adult use. Here in Pennsylvania, several attempts to push for legalizing adult use have stalled out or died in the state legislature. Without ballot initiatives, voters and activist groups looking to push for full legalization here must focus their voting power on electing like-minded officials in the State Senate and House of Representatives, as well as the Office of the Governor. 

The simple solution to this patchwork of state and local laws and varying levels of legalization would be a change in federal cannabis policy, but that could be an uphill battle. The House passed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment Expungement (MORE) Act in a historic vote in April, but the Senate failed to take up a vote for the bill before the end of their session. The House Judiciary committee voted to approve the bill again this month, and a vote will be taken up in the House again this session. What happens next depends largely on the upcoming midterm elections. For his part, it seems President Biden has no plans to make any moves on the issue until after November’s results are in. Once again, the election of cannabis-friendly politicians up and down the ballot in November seems like the most likely way forward for legalization. 

Sources: Normal 8-19-22


Biden Doesn’t Plan Any Marijuana Moves Ahead Of Midterms, White House Suggests