Marijuana made big gains in this year’s midterm elections (and a few losses), as two new states legalized recreational marijuana use for adults and voters in other states and cities agreed to decriminalize marijuana possession.
To be blunt about it, Los Angeles marijuana lawyers would count the biggest victories as being the ballot measures in Missouri and Maryland. Legal marijuana for adult recreational use in those two locations brings the total number of states to 21 – ultimately expanding civil liberties and cannabis freedoms for some 7 million Americans.
In addition to this, voters in 10 Ohio and Texas cities (representing nearly half a million people in total) approved bills effectively eliminating penalties for adult marijuana possession.
These wins are most welcome, though not a huge surprise to legal weed advocates. According to a recent Pew Research Center Survey, the overwhelming majority of Americans (91 percent) favor decriminalization of marijuana AND legalization for adult recreational use. Prior to Nov. 8th, 2022, approximately 43 percent of U.S. adults lived in a jurisdiction with access to legal marijuana for those 21-and-over. Adult-use and medicinal marijuana sales soared to $25 billion last year. In the next 8 years, that figure could easily reach $100 billion.
Although Maryland was widely expected to pass the marijuana legalization measure (which it did 65.6% to 34.4%), Missouri was one of four other (more conservative) states with marijuana ballot measures where favorable outcomes were less likely. Legalization in Missouri with the passage of Amendment 3 (53.1 % to 46.9%) came as something of a surprise, but ballot measure failures in the three other states – Arkansas (56.3% to 43.7%), North Dakota (54.9% to 45.1%), South Dakota (52.9% to 47.1%) – were expected.
Details on the New Cannabis Legalization Laws
In Maryland, voters’ approval of Question 4 (legalization of adult use) also triggered the enactment of another piece of legislation that defines legal marijuana possession limits (up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis and/or 12 grams of cannabis concentrates, starting July 2023) and facilitates the automatic review and expungement of low-level cannabis criminal convictions. Adults are also now allowed to grow up to two marijuana plans in their home for personal use.
In Missouri, voters approved the legal possession, cultivation, and licensed retail sale of cannabis for adults, starting Dec. 8, 2022. Those over-21 will be allowed to possess up to 3 ounces of cannabis and grow up to 6 flowering plants, 6 immature plants, and 6 plants under 14 inches for personal use. That program also triggers an automatic review and expungement for non-violent, marijuana-related offenses.
(As an aside, Colorado voters passed Proposition 122, a measure that decriminalizes the possession and use of certain psychedelic plants and fungi for people 21-and-older, and creates regulation for the distribution and state oversight of these substances.)
An End to Federal Marijuana Prohibition on the Horizon?
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden reports he intended to initiate an overhaul of U.S. marijuana laws – starting with a pardon for everyone convicted of simple possession of the drug, at least at the federal level. Despite this, it’s not clear we’ll see total decriminalization or legalization of marijuana at the federal level any time soon. Marijuana retains its classification as a Schedule I narcotic under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act – which means its on part with LSD and heroin and characterized as being highly addictive and having no medicinal value. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration imposes stringent limits on the cultivation of marijuana for research – which has scientists and legal marijuana advocates frustrated, primarily because they are unable to freely explore the mountains of strong anecdotal evidence that cannabis does indeed have valuable medicinal properties.
Rescheduling marijuana and decriminalizing cannabis was one of Biden’s campaign promises. Although he has again underscored his intention, we have yet to see any real action taken at the federal level, and the White House is still screening staffers for marijuana use (at least as of last year). Some of those job candidates were dismissed for cannabis use, and the administration’s employee conduct guidelines clearly state anyone invested in cannabis companies should be denied positions requiring security clearance.
The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, ancillary companies, patients, doctors and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.
Marijuana and Drug Policy on the Ballot, Nov. 10, 2022, The New York Times
More Blog Entries:
U.S. Cannabis Law Future May Rest With in the Hands of the Courts, Oct. 23, 2022, Los Angeles Marijuana Lawyer