Clear Election Winners: State Marijuana Reforms

Nov. 4, 2020 -- Ballot measures to legalize recreational marijuana in Arizona and New Jersey, and both recreational and medical use in South Dakota, are on their way to voter approval, CNN projected Wednesday.

Results are still pending for Montana's ballot measure on recreational marijuana and Mississippi's medical marijuana measure.

The initiatives are only the first step in the process, John Hudak, deputy director at the Brookings Institution, where he specializes in state and federal marijuana policy, told CNN.

After voters approve the measures, the state legislatures usually will need to set up regulations in each state. Right now, 11 states have fully legalized marijuana, CNN noted.

In New Jersey, medical use already is legal. The effort to defeat the latest measure was stalled because of the pandemic, according to Gregg Edwards, executive director of Don't Let NJ Go to Pot, CNN reported.

"Now cannabis is going to appear in the New Jersey Constitution alongside the freedom to associate," he told CNN. "And once it's in the Constitution, the likelihood of it coming out is slim or next to none."

In South Dakota, two measures were on the ballot -- one for medical marijuana and the other for recreational use -- according to CNN.

Arizona's law will allow adults aged 21 and older to possess, consume or transfer up to 1 ounce of cannabis and create a regulatory system for the drug's cultivation and sale. A similar provision failed in 2016, CNN reported.

In Montana, supporters of that measure had to wait until the pandemic lockdown ended before they could drum up support, CNN said.

In Mississippi, voters had to pick between two proposals to legalize medical marijuana. One would let doctors prescribe marijuana for 22 different conditions, the other would do so only for terminally ill patients, CNN reported.

Despite these victories, advocates of legal marijuana say the battle isn't over.

Matthew Schweich, of the Marijuana Policy Project, hopes these wins will be a tipping point.

"The reason there's a conversation in Congress is because of all of the victories that have already occurred at the state level," Schweich told CNN. "If we can win in New Jersey, Mississippi, South Dakota, Montana and Arizona, it's going to send a really loud message to Congress that it's time to fix this at the federal level in 2021."