The 2020 election was pivotal for the future of marijuana policy reform. Voters approved the legalization of medical cannabis access in two states, Mississippi and South Dakota. In Mississippi, voters chose between two dueling initiatives — favoring a measure placed on the ballot by patient advocates, and rejected a more restrictive alternative measure placed on the ballot by state lawmakers.
Voters legalized the possession of marijuana by adults in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and in South Dakota. The measures in Arizona, Montana, and South Dakota each permit adults to possess and cultivate marijuana for personal use and establish a regulated retail market. In New Jersey, voters decided on a public ballot question. Lawmakers must now enact enabling legislation in order to amend state laws to comport it with the voters’ decision.
The specific results of each of these ballot initiatives can be found below.
Marijuana Ballot Initiatives – Adult Use
Arizona: Prop 207
- In the interest of the efficient use of law enforcement resources, enhancing revenue for public purposes and individual freedom, the responsible use of marijuana should be legal for persons twenty-one years age or older, subject to state regulation, taxation, and local ordinance… (Full Text)
- The statutory measure permits those age 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of cannabis and directs revenue from retail cannabis sales to fund various public education and safety programs. Adults are also permitted to cultivate up to six plants for personal use in a private residence. Those with marijuana convictions are permitted to petition the courts to have their records expunged. The measure goes into effect immediately.
- 59.9% Yes, 40.2% No (Source)
Montana: I-190 and CI-118
Official Language I-190
- I-190 legalizes the possession and use of limited amounts of marijuana for adults over the age of 21. I-190 requires the Department of Revenue to license and regulate the cultivation, transportation, and sale of marijuana and marijuana-infused products and to inspect premises where marijuana is cultivated and sold. It requires licensed laboratories to test marijuana and marijuana-infused products for potency and contaminants. I-190 establishes a 20% tax on non-medical marijuana. 10.5% of the tax revenue goes to the state general fund, with the rest dedicated to accounts for conservation programs, substance abuse treatment, veterans’ services, healthcare costs, and localities where marijuana is sold. I-190 allows a person currently serving a sentence for an act permitted by I-190 to apply for resentencing or an expungement of the conviction. I-190 prohibits advertising of marijuana and related products. (Full Text)
- The statutory initiative allows adults to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and to cultivate up to four mature plants for personal use. The state will impose a twenty percent tax on retail sales, and revenue from those sales will be directed towards substance abuse treatment, veterans services, health care, and other programs. The measure goes into effect on January 1, 2021.
- 57% Yes, 43% No (Source)
Official Language I-118
- CI-118 amends the Montana Constitution to allow the legislature or the people by initiative to establish the legal age for purchasing, consuming, or possessing marijuana. (Full Text)
- The statutory initiative establishes the legal age requirement of 21 years old for those wishing to legally possess, grow, or purchase cannabis.
- 58% Yes, 42% No (Source)
New Jersey: Public Question 1
- Do you approve amending the Constitution to legalize a controlled form of marijuana called “cannabis”?
- Only adults at least 21 years of age could use cannabis. The State commission created to oversee the State’s medical cannabis program would also oversee the new, personal use cannabis market. Cannabis products would be subject to the State sales tax. If authorized by the Legislature, a municipality may pass a local ordinance to charge a local tax on cannabis products.” (Full text)
- Super-majorities of the New Jersey Assembly and Senate decided in December 2019 to place a marijuana legalization ballot question before voters in 2020. It’s now on lawmakers to quickly pass enabling legislation to establish rules and regulations for possession, use, and retail sales.
- 67% Yes, 33% No
South Dakota: Constitutional Amendment A
- Title – An amendment to the South Dakota Constitution to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana; and to require the Legislature to pass laws regarding hemp as well as laws ensuring access to marijuana for medical use. (Full Text)
- The constitutional amendment allows adults to purchase and possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow up to three plants for personal use. The initiative was backed by a former federal prosecutor as well as the Marijuana Policy Project, a national advocacy organization.
- 53% Yes, 47% No (Source)
Marijuana Ballot Initiatives – Medical Use
Mississippi: Initiative 65 and Alternative 65A
Official Language – Initiative 65 (citizen initiated)
- Should Mississippi allow qualified patients with debilitating medical conditions, as certified by Mississippi licensed physicians, to use medical marijuana? (Full Text)
- The constitutional amendment establishes a state-licensed system of dispensaries to provide medical cannabis products to qualifying patients. The measure places no limit on the number of dispensaries and mandates that local municipalities “shall not impair the availability of and reasonable access to medical marijuana.” The proposal further mandates that state officials begin providing licenses for retailers no later than August 15, 2021.
Official Language – Alternative 65A (legislature approved)
- NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, That the following amendment to the Mississippi Constitution of 1890 is proposed to the qualified electors of the state at the November 2020 election, as an alternative to the amendment proposed by Initiative Measure No. 65:
- Article 16, Section 290, Mississippi Constitution of 1890, is created to read as follows: “Section 290. There is established a program in the State of Mississippi to allow the medical use of marijuana products by qualified persons. The program shall be structured to include, at a minimum, the following conditions and requirements … (Full Text)
- Members of the Mississippi state legislature approved an alternative ballot measure in March that will appear alongside Initiative 65 on the November ballot. Activists view this less clear, more restrictive initiative as an effort by lawmakers to undermine the will of the people and confuse voters at the polls. Under this proposal, patients would be prohibited from smoking whole-plant marijuana. (Compare Initiatives)
- 66.8% for either 65 or 65A; 33.2% against both 65 and 65A
- 73.4% for 65; 26.6% for 65A
South Dakota: Measure 26
- Title – An initiated measure on legalizing marijuana for medical use. (Full Text)
- Initiated Measure 26 establishes a medical marijuana program for patients diagnosed with serious health conditions. With a recommendation from their doctor, patients can register for the program and access medical marijuana. It also establishes a system of dispensaries overseen by the Department of Health and require laboratory testing to ensure product safety. The measure goes into effect on July 21, 2021
- 69.2% Yes, 30.8% No (Source)
Joe Biden (Democrat)
- Decriminalize the use of cannabis and automatically expunge all prior cannabis use convictions. Biden believes no one should be in jail because of cannabis use. As president, he will decriminalize cannabis use and automatically expunge prior convictions. And, he will support the legalization of cannabis for medical purposes, leave decisions regarding legalization for recreational use up to the states, and reschedule cannabis as a schedule II drug so researchers can study its positive and negative impacts. (Source)
- “Getting caught for smoking marijuana when you’re young surely shouldn’t deny you, the rest your life, being able to have a good paying job or a career or a loan or an ability to rent an apartment…. Right now, that criminal record is the weight that holds back too many people of color, and many whites as well.” 7/29/20 (Source)
- “…If you are in prison, if you are convicted of a crime, no one should be going to jail for drug crime. Nobody. Particularly marijuana which makes no sense for people to go to jail. They should be just wiped out completely and the reason is, if anything for those crimes that are actually continue to be crime, scheduled crimes as marijuana shouldn’t be anymore, what is happening is you shouldn’t go to prison. You should go to a mandatory rehabilitation. It costs less to put people in a drug rehabilitation program than it does in jail and you have a chance. We’ve got to give people a chance.” 5/20/20 (Source)
Howie Hawkins (Green Party USA)
- The war on marijuana has caused tremendous damage. When we end the marijuana war we need to do so not only to create a policy that will work for the future but one that corrects the mistakes of the past. Some of the essential elements of a sensible marijuana policy includes:
- • Repeal criminal laws for marijuana offenses.
- • Remove marijuana from the Schedules of the Controlled Substances Act so it can be used medically.
- • Allow people to grow their own marijuana without any taxation.
- • Tax marijuana like any other commodity without a special marijuana tax.
- • Do not allow the liquor, tobacco, pharmaceutical and Big Ag industries, and corporations like Monsanto, to engage in the marijuana market.
- • Prevent marijuana oligopolies with caps on limits of market share.
- When marijuana is legalized we need to also put in place policies that repair the damage done by the war on marijuana. All nonviolent marijuana offenders should be released from prison. The records of people arrested on marijuana charges need to be expunged so they are not handicapped in seeking employment, education, and housing.
- There has been tremendous damage done to individuals, families and communities by abusive marijuana enforcement that has been racially unfair. A truth and reconciliation commission should be created to gather information on the damage that has been done and report on the impact of mass arrests and incarceration for marijuana offenses. This commission should make recommendations on how to make reparations for this damage after hearing from people in communities that were targeted by law enforcement. As a first step toward repairing the damage, people who were arrested or convicted of marijuana offenses should be given preference to work in legal marijuana commerce.
- Revenues generated from marijuana taxes should be used to uplift communities that have been hit hardest by the war on drugs. These funds should not be used for law enforcement but for grants to entrepreneurs of color, and aiding businesses and communities hit hardest by the drug war. (Source)
- “New York, where I live, is the world’s capital for marijuana arrests. They’re filling the prison system, the law enforcement system, and the criminal justice system with cases that they shouldn’t even be bothering with. The problem is exacerbated by civil asset forfeiture, which incentivizes police departments to use marijuana crimes as a way to seize peoples’ property to sell to raise revenue.”
- “Jails are expanding because of the War on Drugs and mass incarceration. We have 25% of the world’s prison population but only 4% of the world’s population. So we want to reverse that.”
- “(Decriminalization) is a positive step forward,” he says. “But I think the politicians are behind the public on this. They’re afraid of the public. They’re afraid to stick their neck out. I mean, you know, the Democrats are usually seen as the socially liberal party, but if you follow issues like marijuana legalization or gay marriage, they don’t move until public opinion is really clear. So I think Biden kind of epitomizes this being super cautious rather than deciding what’s a real solution and fighting for it.” 5/20/20 (Source)
- “It’s time we reverse the devastating impact the War on Drugs has on our communities, as one of the basic sources of mass incarceration. We need to legalize marijuana, decriminalize personal use of other drugs, and expunge the records of those imprisoned.” 4/20/20 (Source)
Jo Jorgensen (Libertarian)
- “I am appalled that the United States ranks number one in the world for having the highest percentage of people imprisoned. I am also appalled that the federal government permits police to seize a person’s assets without first convicting them of a crime, and then keep most of the assets seized. This is literally highway robbery. As President, I will use my Constitutional authority to end federal civil asset forfeiture prior to conviction, and pardon persons convicted of non-violent victimless crimes. I will also work with Congress to end the failed War on Drugs and other victimless crime laws.” (Source)
- “Dr. Jorgensen favors the repeal of all victimless crime laws, including those restricting the sale and use of cannabis. She supports full legalization of cannabis. She would pardon all non-violent offenders on her first day in office.” -Spokesperson for Jo Jorgensen 6/23/20 (Source)
- “One of those ways we can reform police is by ending the drug laws. We have drug laws at the federal level. Now we got the federal government giving local police forces tanks and paramilitary equipment. Free training, and free money to buy other forms of equipment. The police forces wouldn’t have that money if they had to raise it in their own communities. So what if people use marijuana. Does it matter if someone has a joint in their home or a bottle of bourbon? Who cares? As long as you use it safely and peacefully.” 5/20/20 (Source)
Donald Trump (Republican)
- No published stance on campaign website.
- “I support Senator Gardner (re: STATES Act). I know exactly what he’s doing. We’re looking at it. But I probably will end up supporting that, yes.” 6/8/18 (Source)
- “In Colorado they have more accidents. (Marijuana) does cause an IQ problem.” 1/25/20 (Source)
- “I think what the president is looking at is looking at this from a standpoint of a parent of a young person to make sure that we keep our kids away from drugs. They need to be kept illegal. That is the federal policy…I think the president has been pretty clear on his views on marijuana at the federal level, I know many states have taken a different path.” – Marc Lotter, director of strategic communications (Source)
- Following the passage of Congressional amendments limiting the Justice Department from taking prosecutorial actions against those in legal marijuana states, President Trump has consistently issued signing statements indicating that he believes that he has the power to disregard these amendments because he believes that they are unconstitutional. (Source)
Local Elections Info
Ohio: The Sensible Marihuana Initiative
- The measure reduces penalties for misdemeanor marijuana offenses to the lowest allowed by law. The following localities have approved the measure: (More Info)
- • Adena
- • Glouster
- • Jacksonville
- • Trimble
Local NORML Election Guides
NORML Chapters’ Election Guides
- Arizona NORML: 2020 Candidate Guide
- California NORML: Cannabis Voter Guide to November 3, 2020 Election
- Texas NORML: Marijuana Policy Voter Guide
- Virginia NORML: Virginia NORML 2020 Voter Guide for Local Races
Smoke the Vote
- In recent years, members of Congress and thousands of state lawmakers have cast important votes for and against substantive marijuana policy reforms. This means that, wherever you reside, you most likely have elected officials that have personally weighed in on this issue. Do you know where they stand on the cannabis question? Are they representing your interests?
- It is crucial that our friends, family, and neighbors know which candidates have voted the ‘right way’ on cannabis issues so that those of us who care about marijuana policy reform may cast our votes accordingly.
- We’ve provided you with the voting records of all of the federal candidates, but we need your help with many others, especially those elected at the state level. (Smoke the Vote)