By Aaron Rosengarten –  November 12, 2022

During the 2022 midterm elections, voters from Missouri, Maryland, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Arkansas were asked to decide whether adult use cannabis should be legalized in their states. In Maryland, voters overwhelmingly supported legalization as it passed with nearly a 2 to 1 majority. In Missouri, the margin was closer, but still nearly 53% of voters believed it was time to legalize adult use cannabis. Maryland and Missouri become the 20th and 21st states to legalize adult use cannabis.

Legalization in these two states mean more than just allowing production, sales, possession, and consumption of cannabis, it includes measures to undo the racial inequities cause by the war on drugs. Both Maryland’s and Missouri’s ballot measures include expungement and resentencing efforts.

Although cannabis was enacted through ballot measures in these two states, it failed in the other three. In North Dakota, South Dakota, and Arkansas, more than 43% percent of voters voted to legalize cannabis but efforts ultimately fell short of the 50% threshold required. Even though these states failed to pass adult cannabis use this time around, it is clear that legalizing cannabis continues to trend nationwide.

With Maryland and Missouri legalizing adult use, there are a total of 21 states and the District of Columbia that offer marijuana to their adult residents showing a growing amount of support for adult use of cannabis. Toi Hutchinson, the President and CEO of the Marijuana Policy Project, a nonprofit that helped campaign on adult use across the country, said “[v]oters recognize that cannabis policy reform is in the best interest of public health and safety, criminal justice reform, social equity, and personal freedom, and have made their voices heard at the ballot box. State-level legalization victories are what’s necessary to move the needle forward at the federal level.”

Beginning on July 1, 2023, adults 21 years of age or older in Maryland will be able to legally possess up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis and cultivate up to two plants. Previous marijuana convictions will be expunged and individuals who are currently serving time for such sentences will be allowed to file for resentencing.

Missouri’s ballot measure legalizes adult use and sets a 6% tax on marijuana sales. Additionally, the measure expunges arrest and conviction records of non-violent marijuana offenses, except for driving under the influence and sales to minors.

Although South Dakota voters voted against legalizing adult use, this was not the first time the measure was on the ballot. In 2020, voters in South Dakota actually voted in favor of the legalization of adult use. However, the South Dakota Supreme Court struck the measure down due to it violating the state’s requirement that constitutional amendments deal with just one subject. This promoted proponents to try again, however, it did not pass this time.  North Dakota tried to legalize adult use four years ago, but it was defeated.

While legalizing adult use failed in three states, there is growing support for its legalization. Approximately 6 in 10 voters support legalizing adult use of cannabis nationwide. This is according to VoteCast, an extensive survey of more than 90,000 voters nationwide conducted by the Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago.

Only time will tell if more states will jump on board and legalizing adult use.