The 2020 election showed yet again that marijuana legalization has widespread, bipartisan appeal. And the mainstream nature of the issue is demonstrated clearly when comparing the support that cannabis reform got at the ballot box this month to that brought in by major candidates for president, Senate and other offices.
In a year that saw the highest level of voter turnout in American history—in no small part due to the heated presidential race where the incumbent was ousted—cannabis legalization ballot measures were approved in red and blue states, proving to be more popular than many candidates seeking to represent those jurisdictions.
In most cases, candidates who were outperformed by marijuana at the polls declined to endorse the reform ahead of the election—perhaps something that politicians in states where cannabis is on the ballot in 2022 will take note of.
Here’s a breakdown of what the election showed about the popularity of drug policy reform in 2020:
In Arizona, an adult-use marijuana legalization proposal passed by a sizable margin, with 1,951,877 total votes—just four years after a similar measure failed in the state 2016.
This time, cannabis beat out both President Trump (1,657,250) and President-elect Joe Biden (1,668,684). Biden has so far refused to join the supermajority of Democrats who back marijuana legalization and instead supports more modest reforms such as decriminalizing possession and expunging records. Trump, for his part, has said that states should be able to set their own cannabis laws without federal interference but has not strongly backed any specific reforms.
The Arizona marijuana vote total also exceeded that of Democratic Senator-elect Mark Kelly (1,712,777) and incumbent GOP Sen. Martha McSally (1,637,651). Kelly said when pressed ahead of the election that he was inclined to support legalization, though he did not actively campaign on it. McSally pivoted away from questions about the issue by saying it was up to voters to decide.
The measure also won more voters than a separate initiative to increase income taxes to fund education (1,672,212).
More voters in conservative Mississippi voted to enact a medical cannabis program (774,386) than elected to put Trump (747,398) or Biden (520,937) in the Oval Office.
Legalizing medical marijuana was also more popular than Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (700,501) and her Democratic challenger Mike Espy (559,508).
That’s according to an Associated Press tally, which shows the current estimated total at 99 percent of expected votes processed.
A voter-approved measure to legalize marijuana in Montana received more votes (341,031) than Biden (244,783).
It also outperformed Republican Governor-elect Greg Gianforte (328,543) and his Democratic opponent Mike Cooney (250,855).
GOP Sen. Steve Daines also got fewer votes than legal cannabis (333,163), as did his challenger, outgoing Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock (272,457).
Republican Representative-elect Matt Rosendale (339,165) and Democratic House candidate Pat Williams (262,336) also pulled in less support than the marijuana reform did in their race for the state’s only congressional district.
None of those candidates endorsed the cannabis legalization measure that ended up getting more votes than they did.
The legal marijuana initiative also passed more handily than a separate ballot measure to remove localities’ ability to regulate concealed carry of permitted firearms (298,347).
Trump got slightly more votes than cannabis legalization did, at 343,597.
In New Jersey, a referendum to legalize cannabis for adult use was overwhelmingly approved with 2,637,630 votes.
That exceeds the votes for Biden (2,509,428 ) and Trump (1,817,925).
Democratic Sen. Cory Booker (2,433,494), who campaigned for the reform measure, and his Republican challenger Rikin Mehta (1,756,206) also got fewer votes than legal marijuana did.
Those tallies are based on a projection from the Associated Press, which is reporting 95.9 percent of the expected vote as of Wednesday.
South Dakota voters passed measures to legalize marijuana for both medical (291,754) and recreational (225,260) purposes.
Both initiatives received more votes than Biden (150,471), Democratic Senate candidate Daniel Ahlers (143,987) and Libertarian House candidate Randy Luallin (75,748).
Additionally, the medical cannabis proposal got more votes than Trump (261,043), GOP Sen. Mike Rounds (276,232) and a proposal to legalize sports betting (239,620).
Marijuana wasn’t the only drug policy issue on the ballot on Election Day.
Oregon voters made history by approving separate measures to decriminalize possession of all currently illicit drugs (1,322,078) and legalize psilocybin mushrooms for therapeutic purposes (1,259,243).
The drug decriminalization initiative landed more votes than incumbent Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley did (1,310,753).
Both drug reform measures received more votes than Democratic Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum (939,161) and her Republican opponent Michael Cross (926,339).
They also both beat out Trump’s tally (949,572) and that of Republican Senate candidate Jo Rae Perkins (904,689).
Only Biden gained more votes than either of the drug policy reform proposals, though fairly narrowly, at 1,329,549.
A proposal to decriminalize a wide range of psychedelics like psilocybin and ayahuasca was approved in D.C., for example. And that one got 195,773 votes, which is far more than Trump did (16,306) in the heavily Democratic city.
Biden and Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) beat out the vote count for the psychedelics reform measure, however, with 285,728 and 255,060 votes, respectively.
All told, the results in each jurisdiction show that marijuana and drug policy reform is very popular with voters, in many cases much more so than individual politicians are.