Voters in several states will decide in November whether to legalize recreational marijuana for adult use. If all the initiatives pass, nearly half of all states will allow their residents to legally use marijuana for recreational consumption.
Ballot initiatives that would set up legal markets for recreational marijuana sales have been approved, or are awaiting expected final approval, in Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota and Oklahoma.
South Dakota voters will face a ballot initiative that would legalize personal possession and home cultivation, but it wouldn’t create a regulated commercial market, similar to that of Washington, D.C.
Meanwhile, a medical marijuana initiative stands a good chance of getting on the ballot in Nebraska.
Ballot referendum efforts this year have focused on recreational marijuana, given that most states already have legalized medical cannabis.
Currently, 19 states plus the District have legalized marijuana for adult recreational use.
Based on increasing public support for legalization, the ballot initiatives all have a strong chance of passing. More than two-in-three Americans (68 percent) support legalizing marijuana, according to a November 2021 Gallup poll. That’s up from 48% a decade ago.
Still, it’s not a given that all the initiatives will quickly become law, as legal challenges could delay or derail their rollout.
Legalizing marijuana has become a bipartisan issue (and a new opportunity for investors to consider). While Democrats generally support legalization at a higher rate than Republican voters do, most of this year’s ballot initiatives are in states where Republicans control the state legislature and the governor’s mansion.
If you're wondering whether Congress will step in and just make pot legal nationwide, forget it. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has introduced such a bill in the Senate, but it has zero chance of passing. Plus, President Joe Biden has said he opposes legalization.
Sean Lengell covers Congress and government policy for The Kiplinger Letter. Before joining Kiplinger in January 2017 he served as a congressional reporter for eight years with the Washington Examiner and the Washington Times. He previously covered local news for the Tampa (Fla.) Tribune. A native of northern Illinois who spent much of his youth in St. Petersburg, Fla., he holds a bachelor's degree in English from Marquette University.
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