Voters in Missouri and Maryland voted in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana, further relaxing state laws surrounding the psychotropic substance. Despite the fact that the drug remains illegal at the federal level, it is listed, along with heroin, in "Schedule 1" under the Controlled Substances Act. With the approval of these two states, the consumption of cannabis for recreational purposes will be legal in 21 of the country's 50 states.
The five states that voted on this issue, Maryland, Missouri, Arkansas, North Dakota and South Dakota, already had previously approved legal programs for the use of the drug for medicinal purposes. Arkansas, in 2016, became the first state in the "Bible Belt" to approve cannabis for these purposes.
Maryland approved the legalization of recreational marijuana with 65% of voters in favor after two-thirds of the state's votes were counted. On the ballot, voters were asked, "Do you favor the legalization of the use of cannabis by an individual who is at least 21 years of age on or after July 1, 2023, in the State of Maryland?"
Luis Merchan, president and CEO of cannabis cultivator Flora Growth, stated:
It is historic to see that Maryland, right on the doorstep of our nation's capital in DC, has legalized adult recreational use of cannabis... With this much momentum, we strongly urge the federal government to start to raise action to allow safe banking access and lift other restrictions to a thriving industry which is poised to help U.S. consumers and bring in tax revenue as well.
Maryland will make changes to the criminal law and will expunge marijuana possession convictions in some cases.
In Missouri the vote was closer. With 99.9% of the votes counted early Wednesday morning, the amendment passed with 53% support. The measure will remove bans on the "purchase, possession, consumption, use, delivery, manufacture and sale of marijuana for personal use for adults over the age of twenty-one."
In addition, this measure will allow individuals with certain marijuana-related offenses to be released from prison and have their records expunged.
Opponents said they would work to limit the implementation of legalization in the state. Kevin Sabet, president of SAM Action, an anti-legalization group, noted:
The devil is in the details, and we will remain actively involved in Missouri implementation because we don't need another Big Tobacco industry harming kids in Missouri.
Arkansas, North Dakota and South Dakota
Voters in Arkansas voted against marijuana legalization on Election Day. North Dakota also failed to pass the measure to legalize marijuana, the second time in four years that the state's voters have rejected it. A similar measure failed in 2018.
South Dakota voters also rejected legalization for recreational uses of the substance Wednesday morning. With 99% of the votes counted, 53% were against the measure and 47% were in favor.