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Marijuana reform has advanced in numerous state legislatures in the first half of 2021, with lawmakers enacting four new legalization laws so far this year. Now, activists in roughly a dozen states are moving to put cannabis legalization proposals directly before voters in 2022.
Across the country, advocates are in the early stages of drafting proposals, collecting signatures and engaging in public outreach to build support for medical and recreational cannabis legalization measures that they hope to see voted on next year. In at least one state, activists are working to qualify a measure to legalize psychedelic mushrooms for next November’s ballot. And in others, lawmakers may take it upon themselves to put cannabis referendums up for the general election without the need for citizen petitions.
“Cannabis reform advocates have been winning ballot initiative campaigns in every single election cycle since 2012, and next year will be no different,” Matthew Schweich, deputy director for the Marijuana Policy Project, told Marijuana Moment. “Across the country, in red and blue states alike, Americans are sick and tired of criminalizing cannabis, a policy that has utterly failed by any reasonable metric. We don’t yet know exactly which states will have cannabis reform initiatives on the ballot next year, but they will emerge and I am confident that they will prevail on Election Day.”
Here’s a breakdown of where cannabis legalization and other drug policy reforms could be decided by voters in 2022, as well as a look at a handful of local efforts to enact marijuana policy changes via municipal ballot initiatives this year.
Arkansas activists are collecting signatures to place adult-use marijuana legalization on the state’s 2022 ballot.
The group, Arkansas True Grass, is proposing a system of regulated sales for adults 21 and older, allowing them to purchase up to four ounces of cannabis and grow up to 12 plants for personal use. There would be no limit on possession if it’s out of the public’s view.
True Grass and a separate groups of activists attempted to place marijuana legalization initiatives on the 2020 ballot, but both campaigns were derailed by the coronavirus pandemic and failed to collect enough signatures by the deadline.
California psychedelics activists recently filed a petition for the 2022 ballot to make the state the first in the nation to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for any use.
The measure—titled the California Psilocybin Initiative—would legalize the “personal, medical, therapeutic, religious, spiritual, and dietary use of Psilocybin Mushrooms” for adults 21 and older.
Further, the initiative would allow for the cultivation, retail sale, social sharing and on-site consumption of the psychedelic.
Decriminalize California attempted to get a similar measure on the November 2020 ballot, but they faced signature gathering complications due to the coronavirus pandemic and ultimately abandoned that effort.
Advocates in Idaho are working to advance separate measures to legalize possession of recreational marijuana and to create a system of legal medical cannabis sales.
State officials recently cleared activists to begin collecting signatures for a revised initiative to legalize possession of marijuana that they hope to place before voters on the 2022 ballot.
The legalization initiative would be fairly limited in scope compared to those that have passed in other states. It would make it so possession of up to three ounces of marijuana would be lawful on private property for adults 21 and older.
Home cultivation would be prohibited, however, and there would be no legal and licensed system of cannabis retailers. The idea is for consumers to be able to buy cannabis in neighboring states that have legal retail operations and then bring the product back to Idaho to be consumed privately at home.
Meanwhile, a separate campaign to legalize medical cannabis in the state is also underway, with advocates actively collecting signatures to qualify that measure for next year’s ballot.
Under the proposal, qualifying patients would be able to purchase and possess up to four ounces of marijuana. Those with a “hardship designation” could also cultivate up to six plants.
The initiative lists twelve conditions that would make a patient eligible for medical cannabis, but it also extends to any terminal disease or severe chronic illness. The state health department would be able to add additional conditions as it sees fit.
A 2020 effort to put medical marijuana legalization before Idaho voters was impeded by the coronavirus pandemic.
Maryland’s House speaker recently pledged that lawmakers will pass legislation to put the question of marijuana legalization before voters as a referendum on the 2022 ballot. She’s formed a cannabis working group to assess the best way to structure the reform.
“The House will pass legislation early next year to put this question before the voters but we need to start looking at changes needed to State law now,” Speaker Adrienne Jones (D) said in a press release.
Legalization legislation did begin to move through the legislature this session, but no votes were ultimately held.
The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing in March on a legalization bill sponsored by top lawmakers, including the body’s president, majority leader and key committee chairs. That followed a House Judiciary Committee hearing on a separate cannabis proposal in February.
Lawmakers had worked to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate proposals in the hopes of getting something to the desk of Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who has not endorsed legalization but has signaled he may be open to considering the idea.
No initiatives have been filed for the 2022 ballot so far, but advocates say it’s possible a campaign could launch if the legislature fails to enact medical cannabis legalization during a special session this year or ends up passing a bill that has less robust patient protections than they want.
A medical marijuana measure was overwhelmingly approved by voters during the 2020 election, but the state Supreme Court shot it down following a legal challenge to the entire ballot system.
A group of Missouri marijuana activists recently a number of separate initiatives to put marijuana reform on the state’s 2022 ballot, a move that comes as other advocacy groups are preparing separate efforts to collect signatures for cannabis ballot petitions of their own. Meanwhile, still other activists are focusing on getting the legislature to pass a resolution to place the question of legalization before voters next year.
One group, Fair Access Missouri, is exploring multiple citizen initiatives with the hopes of getting at least one on the ballot next year. Several proposals they’ve filed would create a system of legalized cannabis sales for adults 21 and older, while another would simply amend the state’s existing medical marijuana program.
The purpose of the measures is to “permit the safe and legal use of cannabis by adults over the age of 21 and to responsibly regulate the cultivation, processing, manufacturing, and distribution of cannabis,” the text states. “The people of Missouri have a right to enjoy the benefits of their labor free from unreasonable regulation.”
This group isn’t alone in working to put legalization on the 2022 ballot. New Approach Missouri, which successfully got a medical cannabis initiative passed by voters in 2018, is also planning to file a broader reform initiative soon through its campaign committee Legal Missouri 2022. Details of the proposal have yet to be released, however.
Nebraska marijuana activists are gearing up for a “mass scale” campaign to put medical cannabis legalization on the state’s 2022 ballot after the legislature failed to pass a bill to enact the reform this session.
And since the state Supreme Court invalidated a measure that qualified for the 2020 ballot based on a statutory challenge, voters can expect to see two complementary initiatives that are currently being vetted by lawyers to ensure that opponents can’t leverage the legal system to block the policy change again.
To avoid a single subject challenge, the plan is to put separate statutory initiatives before voters that would direct the legislature to pass a bill establishing legal protections for patients and doctors around cannabis and also to require lawmakers to pass legislation allowing private companies to produce and sell medical marijuana products.
Sens. Anna Wishart (D) and Adam Morfeld (D) have been involved in the medical cannabis campaign, and the pair announced in December that they would also work to put the question of legalizing marijuana for adult use before voters in 2022—though it’s not clear if they still intend to pursue the broader reform.
Nebraska’s attorney general argued in an opinion in 2019 that efforts to legalize medical marijuana in the state would be preempted by federal law and “would be, therefore, unconstitutional.”
After a House-passed bill to legalize marijuana in North Dakota was rejected by the Senate in March, some senators hatched a plan to advance the issue by referring it to voters on the 2022 ballot. While their resolution advanced through a key committee, the full Senate blocked it.
However, activists with the group North Dakota Cannabis Caucus are collecting signatures to qualify a constitutional amendment to legalize cannabis for the 2022 ballot.
A separate group, Legalize ND, is also planning to push for a legalization ballot measure, though details of that initiative are yet to be seen. Legalize ND placed a legalization measure on the 2018 ballot that was defeated by voters. They tried to qualify another initiative last year but signature gathering complications caused by the coronavirus pandemic got in the way.
Ohio marijuana activists recently unveiled a new plan to legalize cannabis in the state via the ballot as lawmakers pursue separate reform legislation.
Voters rejected a 2015 legalization initiative, and advocates suspended a campaign to place another measure on the 2020 ballot due to the coronavirus pandemic. But more recently, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CTRMLA) launched a new effort to implore legislators to enact the policy change.
The proposed law that CTRMLA is pushing would legalize possession of up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis for adults 21 and older, and they could also have up to 15 grams of marijuana concentrates. Individuals could grow up to six plants for personal use, with a maximum 12 plants per household.
Oklahoma advocates are pushing two separate initiatives to legalize marijuana for adult use and overhaul the state’s existing medical cannabis program.
While the goal is to place both measures on the 2022 ballot, the proponents say that the intent is to have them work in parallel, complimenting and even overlapping with each other.
The medical marijuana initiative would create a new state agency to regulate all types of legal cannabis, including hemp and high-THC marijuana, and it would establish funding for programs including research, environmental remediation and mental health services.
The adult-use proposal, meanwhile, would allow any adult 21 and older to purchase marijuana products from existing dispensaries. Individuals could also grow up to 12 cannabis plants at home and keep or give away the marijuana it produces.
Oklahoma activists had previously attempted to qualify a legalization measure for the 2020 ballot. They filed a petition to legalize cannabis for adult use in December 2019, but signature gathering fell short due in part to procedural delays and the coronavirus pandemic.
South Dakota activists recently filed four separate legalization measures with the state Legislative Research Council—the first step toward putting the issue before voters next year if the state Supreme Court upholds a lower court ruling that overturned the legal cannabis measure that voters approved last November.
The four initiatives share some basic provisions, but they each take a unique approach to the policy change. There’s also a fifth measure that the group is backing which would eliminate a single-subject rule for the ballot process—a policy that led to a state judge deeming a 2020 recreational measure unconstitutional.
Activists are seeking to put separate measures to legalize medical cannabis and decriminalize adult-use marijuana before voters next year—and the secretary of state’s office recently approved the latest version of their proposed ballot language, freeing up advocates to gather a requisite 100 signatures per initiative in order to proceed to the next step.
The Libertarian Party and state Rep. Marshall Burt (L) partnered with advocates to unveil the initial drafts of the proposals in June. The campaign, which is also being supported by Wyoming NORML, came after state lawmakers advanced but failed to pass a bill to legalize marijuana this session.
The final text of the medical cannabis proposal states that patients could purchase and possess up to four ounces of flower and 20 grams of “medical marijuana-derived products” in a 30-day period.
People with any of more than a dozen qualifying conditions—including cancer, glaucoma, HIV, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and dementia—would also be able to cultivate up to eight mature plants for personal use.
Meanwhile, activists’ separate decriminalization measure would impose small fines on people possessing up to four ounces of marijuana, without the threat of jail time. A first and second offense would be considered a misdemeanor punishable by a $50 fine, while a third and any subsequent offense would penalized by a $75 fine. Cultivating marijuana would be punishable by a maximum $200 fine.
In Ohio, 22 jurisdictions have adopted local statues that reduce the penalty for low-level cannabis possession from a misdemeanor punishable by jail time and a fine to the “lowest penalty allowed by state law.” And activists are pursuing similar policy changes in dozens of cities this year.
Don Keeney, executive director of NORML Appalachia, recently told Marijuana Moment that local officials have so far certified decriminalization initiatives in five cities they were targeting this year: Laurelville, McArthur, Murray City, New Lexington and New Straitsville—and more could be on the way.
The Ohio-based Sensible Movement Coalition (SMC) that’s actively working to put decriminalization measures before voters in that state is also branching out to bring reform to South Carolina.
Activists are targeting Charleston, Folly Beach, Myrtle Beach and St. James Island to enact the policy change.
A newly established Texas progressive group recently unveiled a campaign to put an initiative to decriminalize marijuana possession and ban no-knock warrants on this November’s ballot in Austin.
Ground Game Texas, a nonprofit led by former Democratic congressional candidates, isn’t exclusively focused on cannabis reform—but it’s made the issue a priority and is addressing it in the first of what’s expected to be many local ballot measures across the state.
The “Austin Freedom Act” seeks to end arrests and citations for misdemeanor marijuana possession within the city. Also, it says police cannot issue citations for residue or paraphernalia in lieu of a possession charge.
The measure would further prohibit the use of city funds to request or test cannabis to determine whether it meets the state’s definition of a lawful product. Hemp is legal in the state, creating complications for law enforcement, as they are now tasked with determining if seized cannabis products are in compliance with state statute.
The group is also considering pursuing cannabis measures in other cities across the state.
The Ohio-based SMC is also working to get decriminalization put on local ballots in several West Virginia cities: Clarksburg, McMechen, Salem and Wheeling.
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Photo courtesy of Democracy Chronicles.