Cannabis Wins Big on Election Night as Five States Pass Legalization Measures

Cannabis Wins Big on Election Night as Five States Pass Legalization Measures

New Jersey, Arizona and Montana voters legalized adult-use cannabis, Mississippi approved a medical measure, and South Dakota made history by passing both at the same time.

November 4, 2020

In a historic night for cannabis, all five states with cannabis measures on the ballot in the November 2020 election have voted for either medical or adult-use legalization.  

New Jersey, Arizona and Montana have passed adult-use cannabis legalization, Mississippi has passed medicinal cannabis legalization; and for the first time, one state—South Dakota—passed both medical and adult-use cannabis legalization at the same time.

As it stands today, 35 states have legalized medicinal cannabis, and 15 states have legalized cannabis for adult-use. That means 1 in 3 Americans have access to legal cannabis, according to POLITICO.

RELATED: Cannabis Business Times’ Interactive Legalization Map

“If there was any remaining stigma around cannabis as a form of medicine, it is gone forever,” said Greg Kaufman, partner and co-leader of Eversheds Sutherland’s Cannabis Industry Team, in an emailed statement. “With more states approving adult-use and medical cannabis programs in this election and the expectation that more states will do so through legislation (e.g., New York), the pressure will continue to build on Congress to take some action on one or more of the cannabis-related bills currently pending.”

RELATED: Additional Reading on the SAFE Act and MORE Act

Here is a breakdown of Tuesday’s election results, state by state.

New Jersey

New Jerseyans have voted to approve Public Question No. 1, which amends the state constitution to legalize cannabis for adults aged 21 and over, as well as the cultivation, processing and sale of recreational cannabis products, by a 67-33 margin, according to reporting from the New York Times at 9:10 a.m. ET on Nov. 4.

The amendment to legalize adult-use cannabis will take place on Jan. 1, 2021. Lawmakers are now tasked with determining how the program is run, including restrictions and regulations, and a licensing process. Officials must also establish and appoint members to the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission, according to 

Experts anticipate it will be at least a year before adult-use cannabis will be ready for sale, according to

Cannabis industry research firm Brightfield Group projects that an adult-use cannabis market in New Jersey could see more than $352.6 million in sales in 2021, and nearly $649 million in sales the following year.

Industry members anticipate that New Jersey’s legalization may also influence legalization in neighboring states, such as Pennsylvania, New York and Connecticut, and throughout the country.  – Cassie Neiden, editor  

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Despite legal battles and opposition from the state’s governor, Arizona voters approved adult-use cannabis legalization on Election Day by a 60-40 margin, according to unofficial election results reported by the New York Times at 11:19 p.m. ET on Nov. 3.

The statutory measure, Prop. 207, allows adults 21 and older to purchase and possess up to one ounce of cannabis, as well as grow up to six plants at home for personal use.

The Arizona Department of Health, which already regulates the state’s medical cannabis program, is now responsible for overseeing the adult-use industry, which must launch by June 1, 2021, under the initiative.

Cannabis industry research firm Brightfield Group projects that an adult-use cannabis market in Arizona could see more than $288.6 million in sales in 2021, and nearly $857 million in sales the following year, not including medical sales projections. – Melissa Schiller, senior digital editor 

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Preliminary results from Mississippi show that medical cannabis legalization passed with approximately 67% of the vote, according to the New York Times. Initiative 65, the measure from Mississippians for Compassionate Care’s Medical Marijuana 2020 campaign, received about 48% more votes than a competing measure put on the ballot by the state legislature, Alternative 65A. Roughly 33% of voters were against both measures.

Residents must have one of 22 serious qualifying conditions, such as cancer, chronic pain, or epilepsy, to qualify as a medical cannabis patient—which will be regulated “strictly” by the Mississippi Department of Health, according to Jamie Gratham, Medical Marijuana 2020’s campaign coordinator.

fiscal analysis by Mississippi’s Legislative Budget Office estimates the first year of the medical program will cost the state roughly $11.1 million, according to the Medical Marijuana 2020 site. In the following years, the program will bring in around $10.7 million in overall annual revenue, which will need to go back into the program. – Patrick Williams, senior editor 

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According to unofficial election results, 59% of Montana voters approved of I-190, the adult-use legalization initiative. Separately, 61% of the Montana electorate voted in favor of the legislature establishing the legal age of adult-use cannabis consumption, a formality. The two ballot initiatives are commonly treated as a package deal.

“This has been a close race in a difficult year, but ultimately good sense prevailed, and Montana will reap the social and economic benefits of legal cannabis while hopefully adding its federal lawmakers to the chorus in Congress calling for an end to federal prohibition,” Morgan Fox, NCIA Media Relations Director, said. – Eric Sandy, digital editor 

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South Dakota

Voters in South Dakota made history on Nov. 3, helping the state become the first in the union to pass a constitutional amendment legalizing adult-use cannabis sales without first having an established medical program.

Amendment A, the constitutional amendment that voters passed on election night with 53.4% of the vote with 95% of precincts reporting, per the Associated Press, legalizes the recreational use of cannabis for adults aged 21 and over and allows the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis per adult. Additionally, the law requires that the state legislature pass laws for a medical cannabis program and for hemp sales no later than April 1, 2022.

Under the constitutional amendment, municipalities can ban cultivation businesses from operating on its territory, as well as testing facilities, wholesalers, and retail operations. However, if an individual lives in a jurisdiction with no licensed retailers, that person can cultivate up to three plants in a locked space in a private residence. – Brian MacIver, senior editor 

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