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These States Could Have Marijuana Legalization On Their 2022 Ballots

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Five states legalized marijuana in some form on Election Day this year. When those newly approved laws take effect, about one-third of the nation’s population will live in a state where cannabis is legal for medical or recreational purposes. Now, advocates are already hard at work formulating plans and collecting signatures to extend that success to even more states during the 2022 midterms.

For background, every single marijuana measure placed on state ballots this year passed: Arizona (recreational), Mississippi (medical) Montana (recreational), New Jersey (recreational), South Dakota (recreational and medical). The victories represent a continuation of the state-level reform movement that has consistently expanded in election after election.

But while advocates see this momentum as building pressure for federal policy change, they aren’t giving up statewide pushes.

Nebraska and Idaho activists are already in the process of qualifying medical marijuana measures for midterm ballots in 2022, for example. And it’s unlikely that those will be the only states were voters will get to decide on cannabis reform in two years.

Matthew Schweich, the deputy director of the Marijuana Policy Project who was involved in several of the successful reform initiatives this year, told Marijuana Moment that the election results make him optimistic that “there’s a path to victory in multiple states [in 2022] and we just need to survey the landscape.”

“The biggest takeaway is that we can probably run competitive campaigns on either issue [medical or recreational] in any state,” he said. “It’s just a question of what are the strongest opportunities to make the greatest positive impact given the resources available.”

Here’s a rundown of the most likely states where marijuana legalization will make the ballot two years from now.

Recreational: 

Arkansas

Activists attempted to put a legalization measure on the 2020 ballot—and even secured a procedural victory when a court mandated that the state accept signatures that were not collected in-person or notarized due to the coronavirus pandemic. But they were nonetheless unable to garner enough petitions to qualify to put the issue before voters this year.

Although Arkansas voters already approved medical cannabis in 2016, the effort to put up another fight for broader legalization could be bolstered by voters in neighboring Mississippi, another traditionally conservative state, approving a medical marijuana initiative on Election Day this year, which signaled that reform has momentum regionally.

Florida

Florida activists announced back in January that, due to restrictive ballot qualification policies in the state, they will be pursuing a marijuana legalization initiative in 2022, rather than this year as initially planned.

The Make It Legal Florida campaign filed a lawsuit with the state’s Supreme Court at the beginning of the year, alleging that a new law that imposes restrictions on the signature gathering process is unconstitutional. They didn’t prevail in that case, however, and the legalization measure didn’t make the ballot.

Now, advocates will turn their attention to 2022, though it is worth noting that cannabis reform measures have traditionally had better success in presidential election years rather than during midterms—and Florida rules require an initiative to get 60 percent of the vote in order to pass rather than a simple majority. While a Florida medical cannabis measure fell just short of the supermajority needed for approval during the 2014 midterms, a follow-up attempt two years later was successful.

Missouri

There was a push to put recreational cannabis legalization on the state’s 2020 ballot, but activists announced in March that the coronavirus pandemic meant they would have to suspend their campaign. While they have not made any official decisions, a spokesperson said that “it is likely we will return to pursue this goal in 2022.”

Missouri voters approved a ballot measure to legalize medical marijuana in 2018, and dispensaries made the state’s first cannabis sales to patients in October.

North Dakota

A campaign to legalize cannabis in North Dakota worked hard to put the reform measure on this year’s ballot. They ceased campaign activities amid the COVID-19 outbreak in April, but considered starting back up in a limited capacity when businesses started reopening. Ultimately, however, advocates stopped pushing for the proposal and conceded that it would more likely appear on the 2022 ballot.

“Our whole thing is about ending people going to prison, our whole point is about ending the dangers of the war on drugs, so it would be irresponsible for us to endanger people while we try to do it,” a spokesperson said in May. “Two wrongs don’t make a right. We’re going to try, but [qualifying for November] likely still isn’t in the cards. That just means we have more time to get prepared to push for that 2022 date.”

Meanwhile, advocates are stepping up the push to get lawmakers to enact marijuana reform bills following a formal review of the issue conducted by the legislature’s Judiciary Committee.

Ohio

Ohio was another example of a state where activists attempted and failed to qualify an initiative to legalize marijuana for adult use, due in large part to restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak.

A proposed legal cannabis measure was filed in March, just before social distancing measures that made signature collection all but impossible were enacted. Now, advocates are looking ahead to 2022, when it may be possible to mount a successful ballot qualification bid.

Meanwhile, a group called the Sensible Movement Coalition has been pursing local marijuana decriminalization initiatives through municipal ballots. They tried to go through the courts to get the state to allow digital signature gathering amid the pandemic—and at first they got a victory when a federal judge ruled in their favor—but an appeals court shut that lawsuit down in June. That said, they did succeed in getting four more Ohio cities to adopt local measures to decriminalize cannabis during the November election.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma activists filed a proposed ballot measure to legalize cannabis for adult use in December. But they ultimately withdrew that petition in August—again, because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We have been put in a position of choosing between attempting to give Oklahomans an opportunity to adopt critical marijuana and criminal justice law reforms or protecting the health of ourselves and our fellow Oklahomans,” a campaign spokesperson said. “As necessary as these reforms are for Oklahoma, we cannot in good conscience embark on a campaign that would require hundreds of thousands of interactions in the midst of a global pandemic.”

The campaign said they soonest they would take up the reform proposal would be in 2022. Voters in the state approved a medical marijuana ballot measure during a 2018 primary election. This year, a bill to significantly expand the state’s medical cannabis program advanced through the legislature, but the governor vetoed it and lawmakers declined to pursue an override before adjourning for the session in May.

Medical: 

Idaho

In Idaho, advocates behind a measure to legalize medical marijuana tried to make the 2020 ballot, but they gave up that effort due to COVID-related signature gathering complications and the state’s refusal to provide petitioning accommodations.

Activists have already filed a petition to put the issue before voters in 2022, however.

“We’re really excited about the 2022 campaign because what we’ve proven in 2020 is that the people of Idaho are very much ready for medical marijuana to be passed,” campaign spokesperson and longtime reform advocate Russ Belville told Marijuana Moment last month. “We know the signatures are out there, we know that people are ready for this.”

Nebraska

Nebraska activists have already started petitioning to get a medical cannabis measure on the state’s 2022 ballot.

While the campaign collected enough signatures to qualify a reform initiative for this year, the state Supreme Court shut it down following a legal challenge. The justices determined that the measure violated the state’s single-subject rule, much to the disappointment of advocates.

To avoid getting blocked under the single-subject rule, the language of the new proposal concisely states: “Persons in the State of Nebraska shall have the right to cannabis in all its forms for medical purposes.” It has no regulations.

“Though we profoundly disagree with the Nebraska Supreme Court’s decision in September to remove our previous initiative from the ballot, we took good notes,” the campaign said in October. “They argued the previous language violated the single subject rule, so now we’ve drafted one, simple sentence to legalize medical cannabis.”

State Sen. Adam Morfeld (D), a chief petitioner for the initiative, told Marijuana Moment that the campaign “carefully crafted our new language to be in compliance with the new precedent set forth by the Supreme Court in September so we are confident it complies with the single subject rule.”

“Medical marijuana is incredibly popular across partisan and ideological lines in Nebraska and we are confident once we have the signatures and it is on the ballot that it will pass by a wide margin,” he said.

There’s also some speculation that a proposal to legalize for adult use could be in the cards—but that’s less likely.

Beyond The Ballot

Aside from voter-initiated ballot measures, there are multiple states where top lawmakers have said they’re serious about pursing cannabis legalization bills in 2021, including New Mexico, New York and Rhode Island. In Connecticut, the incoming House speaker said that if there aren’t enough votes in the legislature to pass a legalization bill next year, lawmakers will put it on the ballot for voters to decide as a referendum.

Federal Marijuana Legalization Bill Will Get A Congressional Vote Next Week, Leader Announces

Photo courtesy of Democracy Chronicles.

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Top Pennsylvania Official Restores Marijuana Flag After GOP Lawmakers Allegedly Got It Removed

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Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s (D) marijuana and LGBTQ flags are waving again at his Capitol office after state officials removed them Monday night, allegedly at the behest of certain GOP lawmakers who feel strongly about the activist decor.

The day after their removal, the lieutenant governor proudly announced on Twitter that he’d restored the flags—one rainbow-themed and the other displaying cannabis leaves.

“I really can’t emphasize this enough, my issue isn’t with the individuals that came to take them down. They’re kind of caught in the middle of it so it’s not them,” Fetterman told Marijuana Moment. “But the Pennsylvania GOP exerted enough pressure and made enough drama so they felt that they needed to do something and they took them down. When I realized that, I just put them back up.”

The flags have been an unusual source of controversy for some members of the legislature. In November, Republican lawmakers passed budget legislation that included a provision targeting his cannabis-themed office decor, making it so only the American flag, the Pennsylvania flag and those honoring missing soldiers could be displayed at the Capitol building.

“There’s one great way to get them down for good and we can end this,” the lieutenant governor said. And that’s by enacting legislative reform.

“It shouldn’t have to be this way. These are not controversial things. These are very fundamentally American things. It’s freedom-related. It’s individuality-related. It’s jobs. It’s revenue,” he said. “These are not controversial, but these flags are. For the party that thinks it’s A-OK to talk about how an election that was secure was rigged, they sure have a real thin skin when it comes to free speech.”

A spokesperson for the state Department of General Services confirmed to Marijuana Moment that it was tasked with removing the flags and did so “in order to comply with section 1724-E of the fiscal code.” Asked whether lawmakers from the legislature’s Republican majority influenced the recent action, the representative repeated: “All I can say is the Department of General Services removed the flag in order to comply with section 1724-E of the fiscal code.”

Marijuana Moment reached out to the offices of the Senate majority leader and House speaker for comment, but representatives did not respond by the time of publication.

Defying the flag order is par for the course for Fetterman, a longtime marijuana reform advocate who is weighing a run for the U.S. Senate. His enthusiastic embrace of the issue has often put him in the spotlight, and he said he’d take that advocacy to Congress if he ultimately decides to enter the race and is elected.

“I’m the only person that’s actually called out my own party for its failure to embrace it when it is appropriate,” he said, referring to his repeated criticism of the Democratic National Committee’s rejection of a pro-legalization platform. “There has never been—or would ever be—a more committed advocate to ending this awful superstition over a plant for the United States.”

On his campaign website, the lieutenant governor touts his role in leading a listening tour across the state to solicit public input on the policy change. He noted that, following his efforts, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) “announced his support for legalization for the first time.”

It remains to be seen when legalization will happen in Pennsylvania, however. Despite Fetterman and Wolf’s support for legalization and the pressure they’re applying on lawmakers, convincing Republican legislative leaders to go along with the plan remains a challenge.

Fetterman previously told Marijuana Moment that pursuing reform through the governor’s budget request is a possibility. But in the meantime the administration is exploring the constitutionality of issuing “wholesale pardons for certain marijuana convictions and charges.”

Since adopting a pro-legalization position in 2019, Wolf has repeatedly called on the legislature to enact the policy change. He’s stressed that stressed that marijuana reform could generate tax revenue to support the state’s economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and that ending criminalization is necessary for social justice.

In September, he took a dig at the Republican-controlled legislature for failing to act on reform in the previous session. And in August, he suggested that the state itself could potentially control marijuana sales rather than just license private retailers as other legalized jurisdictions have done.

Fetterman previously said that farmers in his state can grow better marijuana than people in New Jersey—where voters approved a legalization referendum in November—and that’s one reason why Pennsylvania should expeditiously reform its cannabis laws.

He also hosted a virtual forum where he got advice on how to effectively implement a cannabis system from the lieutenant governors of Illinois and Michigan, which have enacted legalization.

Shortly after the governor announced that he was embracing the policy change, a lawmaker filed a bill to legalize marijuana through a state-run model.

A majority of Senate Democrats sent Wolf a letter in July arguing that legislators should pursue the policy change in order to generate revenue to make up for losses resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Top New York Official Responds To Marijuana Advocates’ Criticism Of Governor’s Legalization Plan

Photo courtesy of Twitter/John Fetterman.

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Hawaii Could Legalize Psychedelic Mushroom Therapy Under New Senate Bill

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Hawaii could legalize the use of psychedelic mushrooms for therapy under a newly filed bill in the state legislature.

The measure, if approved, would direct the state Department of Health to “establish designated treatment centers for the therapeutic administration of psilocybin and psilocyn,” two psychoactive substances produced by certain fungi.

It would also remove the two compounds from the state’s list of Schedule I controlled substances and create a seven-person psilocybin review panel to assess the impacts of the policy change.

Few other specifics are provided in the bill, SB 738, introduced in the state Senate on Friday. It doesn’t specify who would qualify for the therapy, for example, or how precisely the drugs—which remain federally illegal—would be administered. The legislation simply says the Department of Health “shall adopt rules” in accordance with state law.

The new legislation comes less than a year after Hawaii lawmakers introduced bills to begin studying the therapeutic use of psychedelic mushrooms with the goal of eventually legalizing them, though those measures did not advance.

Entheogens—including other substances like ayahuasca and ibogaine—have emerged as a promising treatment for severe depression, anxiety and other conditions, although research remains ongoing.

In November, voters in Oregon approved a ballot measure to legalize psilocybin therapy that the state is now in the process of implementing.

The new Hawaii bill was introduced by Sens. Stanley Chang, Laura Clint Acasio, Les Ihara Jr. and Maile Shimabukuro, all Democrats. It has not yet been scheduled for a hearing, according to the state legislature’s website.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 400 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

The Hawaii proposal is one of a growing number of broader reform bills to have been introduced across the country this year as the debate on drug policy moves beyond marijuana. A measure introduced in New York earlier this month would remove criminal penalties for possessing small amounts of any controlled substance, instead imposing a $50 fine. Similar measures are expected to be introduced in California and Washington State this year.

A Florida lawmaker recently announced plans to introduce legislation to legalize psilocybin for therapeutic purposes in the state.

Lawmakers in New Jersey last month sent a bill to Gov. Phil Murphy (D) that would reduce criminal charges for the possession of psilocybin, but so far Murphy hasn’t signed the measure.

Voters, meanwhile, have been broadly supportive of drug reform measures in recent years. In addition to the psilocybin. measure, Oregon voters in November also approved an initiative to decriminalize possession of all drugs. Washington, D.C. voters overwhelmingly enacted a proposal to decriminalize the possession of psychedelics.

Despite the growing discussion of drug reform at statehouses across the country, some high-profile advocates are setting their sights on the 2022 election. Dr. Bronner’s CEO David Bronner, a key financial backer of successful reform efforts in Oregon, told Marijuana Moment last month that he’s expecting both Washington state and Colorado voters will see decriminalization or psilocybin therapy on their 2022 ballots.

Meanwhile, a new advocacy group is pushing Congress to allocate $100 million to support research into the therapeutic potential of psychedelics.

New Psychedelics Reform Group Sets Sights On Congress As Movement Builds

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia/Workman

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
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Minnesota Governor Urges Lawmakers To Pursue Marijuana Legalization Amid Budget Talks

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The governor of Minnesota on Tuesday implored the legislature to look into legalizing marijuana as a means to boost the economy and promote racial justice.

During a briefing focused on his budget proposal for the 2022-23 biennium, Gov. Tim Walz (D) was asked whether he is open to allowing sports betting in the state to generate tax revenue. He replied he wasn’t closing the door on that proposal, but said he is more interested in seeing lawmakers “take a look at recreational cannabis.”

Not only would tax revenue from adult-use marijuana “dwarf” those collected through sports betting, he said, but legalization would also help address “the equity issue and, quite honestly, the racial impact of our cannabis laws.”

Watch the governor discuss marijuana legalization below: 

“I will say this, I will certainly leave open that possibility. Our neighboring states have done both of those things,” Walz said of legalizing sports gambling and cannabis. “I obviously recognize that that’s not a 100 percent slam dunk for people, and they realize that there’s cost associated with both. But my message would be is, I don’t think this is the time for me to say I’m shutting the door on anything.”

Walz did not include a request to legalize through his budget, however, as governors in some other states have.

The Minnesota governor did say in 2019, however, that he was directing state agencies to prepare to implement reform in anticipation of legalization passing.

Earlier this month, the House majority leader said he would again introduce a bill to legalize marijuana in the new session. And if Senate Republicans don’t go along with the reform, he said he hopes they will at least let voters decide on cannabis as a 2022 ballot measure.

Heading into the 2020 election, Democrats believed they had a shot of taking control of the Senate, but that didn’t happen. The result appears to be partly due to the fact that candidates from marijuana-focused parties in the state earned a sizable share of votes that may have otherwise gone to Democrats, perhaps inadvertently hurting the chances of reform passing.

House Speaker Melissa Hortman (D) said this month that “Senate Republicans remain the biggest obstacle to progress on this issue.”

“Minnesota’s current cannabis laws are doing more harm than good,” she told The Center Square. “By creating a regulatory framework we can address the harms caused by cannabis and establish a more sensible set of laws to improve our health care and criminal justice systems and ensure better outcomes for communities,” she said.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R), for his part, said that while he would be “open to expanding medical use or hearing criminal justice reforms,” he doesn’t “believe fully legalized marijuana is right for the state.”

“Other states that have legalized marijuana are having issues with public safety,” he argued, “and we are concerned that we haven’t fully seen how this works with employment issues, education outcomes and mental health.”

Last month, the Minnesota House Select Committee On Racial Justice adopted a report that broadly details race-based disparities in criminal enforcement and recommends a series of policy changes, including marijuana decriminalization and expungements.

Another factor that might add pressure on lawmakers to enact the reform is the November vote in neighboring South Dakota to legalize adult-use cannabis.

Also next door, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) is pushing lawmakers to enact marijuana reform and recently said that he is considering putting legalization in his upcoming budget request.

New Mexico Governor Pushes For Marijuana Legalization In State Of The State Address

Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
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