Voters offer divided opinion on legal weed in midterms
Voters offered mixed opinions on recreational marijuana use in five states on Tuesday, with Maryland and Missouri becoming the latest jurisdictions to relax prohibitions on the substance.
Recreational adult marijuana use will be legal in nearly half the country following the midterm elections, with at least 21 states now poised to make the substance legal for adults aged 21 and older. But voters in three other states rejected proposals.
In Missouri, about 53 percent of voters as of early Wednesday morning supported a constitutional amendment to legalize the possession and use of recreational marijuana, with roughly 90 percent of the estimated vote having been counted. The New York Times projected the amendment will pass.
“This is truly a historic occasion,” said Dan Viets, a co-author of the amendment and state coordinator for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).
“This means that the great majority of the 20,000 people who have been arrested year after year in Missouri will no longer be subject to criminal prosecution for victimless marijuana law violations,” Viets said in a statement.
In Maryland, about two-thirds of voters approved a referendum favoring the legalization of marijuana, which will go into effect on July 1, 2023.
Adults 21 and older in the state will at that point be able to possess up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana, and people caught with larger amounts could face civil fines.
“Maryland voters have overwhelmingly rejected the failed policy of prohibition and voted for the common sense policy of legalization,” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said in a statement.
“For far too many decades, Maryland’s prohibition has been an utter failure and which has had devastating consequences on already marginalized communities in the state,” he continued. “By voting for legalization, Marylanders have rejected the failed ideas of the past and have chosen to reform their laws to protect civil liberties and promote racial justice.”
But other states voiced opposition to legalizing the drug recreationally.
A measure in North Dakota that would make the possession and use of marijuana legal was projected to fail, with roughly 55 percent of voters rejecting the ballot measure and 45 percent supporting it.
The rejection marks the second time recreational marijuana has been voted down in the state.
A similar measure in Arkansas that would have legalized the possession and use of marijuana while also authorizing sales of the drug also failed. Medicinal use is already legal in the state.
Fifty-six percent of voters had rejected the move as of early Wednesday morning, with about 90 percent of the estimated vote counted.
Finally, South Dakota also rejected a ballot measure that would have legalized the possession and use of marijuana for people 21 and older.