Well-Being Prevention & Cures

Voters in these states may soon decide whether to legalize marijuana

Six states could have ballot measures up for vote in the November midterm elections, and should they pass, will join 19 others in legalizing recreational marijuana.

Story at a glance

  • Although it remains illegal at the federal level, recent years have seen a growing number of states seeking to legalize marijuana.

  • Several of the provisions up for vote in November could expunge the records of those convicted of marijuana possession.

  • Should all measures pass, more than half of the country will have legalized recreational marijuana use. 

Come November, six states hope to join 19 others plus Washington, D.C., and Guam in legalizing recreational use of marijuana. 

South Dakota, Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota and Oklahoma could all have ballot initiatives up for vote in the midterm elections. Should they all pass, half the country will have legalized adult recreational marijuana use at the state level. 

The substance remains illegal at the federal level and is currently classified as a Schedule I drug, meaning “it has a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision,” according to the Drug Enforcement Administration

New research has revealed a growing number of young Americans report using marijuana and hallucinogenic drugs, while state marijuana legalization has been linked with a 20 percent increase in use frequency. 

The substance is the most commonly used drug in the United States that is illegal at the federal level. Among states that have legalized the substance, data show the move is associated with fewer synthetic cannabinoid poisonings

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South Dakota 

Similar to Washington, D.C., the South Dakota initiative would not create a regulated commercial market, but would legalize both personal possession and home cultivation. However, dispensaries within the D.C. area have worked around regulations, and the substance is technically allowed to be distributed for free as a gift.

A previous amendment was introduced in South Dakota in 2020 to legalize the substance but was struck down by the state’s supreme court. The new proposal, Initiative Measure 27, would not establish a tax or regulatory structure for commercial sales, which would likely protect it from being derailed by lawsuits.


Although the state’s Board of Election Commissioners rejected a recreational marijuana initiative this month, an advocacy group plans to repeal the decision to the Arkansas Supreme Court. The state voted in 2016 to legalize medical marijuana, and a petition to put recreational use on the November ballot garnered more than 192,000 signatures. 

Some commissioners in the state expressed concern about Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the chemical responsible for the psychological effects of marijuana — levels in edible products. Recent research has shown that increased potency of marijuana products is associated with rising rates of addiction and psychosis. 


Maryland’s Marijuana Legalization Amendment is up for vote in November. Should it pass, the initiative would permit those 21 and older to legally use and possess marijuana beginning in July 2023. The state’s legislature would also subsequently pass laws for use, distribution, regulation and taxation of the substance.

As the measure is a constitutional amendment, it would not need approval from the state’s governor to go into effect, while past convictions for any conduct made legal would be expunged.


Following an announcement this month by Republican Secretary of State Josh Ashcroft, voters in Missouri will decide whether they want to amend the state’s constitution that currently bans possessing, consuming, delivering, manufacturing and selling marijuana. 

Should it go into effect, home growers can receive a registration card, and, similar to Maryland’s proposal, those with nonviolent marijuana offenses on their record can petition to have them removed. Under the initiative, a 6 percent tax would be placed on sales.

North Dakota

North Dakota residents will also vote in November whether to legalize recreational marijuana use. A total of 23,368 valid signatures were amassed, clearing the 15,582 threshold needed to introduce a ballot measure. Under the measure, individuals age 21 and older could legally possess up to 1 ounce of cannabis. A regulatory system for marijuana businesses would also be established.

However, under the new initiative public consumption of marijuana would be prohibited and a maximum of seven manufacturing facilities in the state would be allowed. The state legalized medical marijuana in 2016.


This week, petitioners in Oklahoma gathered enough signatures to move State Question 820 forward, meaning it will likely end up on voters’ November ballots. However, the state’s supreme court has yet to approve the signatures. Once approved, opponents have 10 days to challenge the petition’s validity. 

If passed, the measure will legalize and regulate marijuana in the state. A 15 percent excise tax would be placed on recreational sales, while money will go toward Oklahoma schools, health care and local governments. 

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