Voters in five states will decide whether to approve recreational marijuana use on US midterm election day, a move that could signal a major shift toward legalization in even the most conservative parts of the country.
The proposals are on the ballots in Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota and South Dakota. It follows actions taken by President Joe Biden to decriminalize marijuana. Last month, Biden announced that he would pardon thousands of Americans convicted of ordinary marijuana possession under federal law.
Proponents of the Marijuana Initiative have said Biden’s announcement could boost their efforts.
Recreational marijuana is legal in 19 states, and polls have shown opposition to relaxing its legalization. Every state that proposed legalizing marijuana for recreational use on its ballot, except Maryland, voted for Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election.
All five states currently have medical marijuana programs. Arkansas became the first state in the Bible Belt region to approve medical marijuana in 2016. The state’s dispensaries opened in 2019, and more than 91,000 patients have been certified to legally purchase marijuana for medical conditions.
Legalization campaigns in five states have raised some $23 million, with the majority in Arkansas and Missouri. According to an Associated Press analysis of the most recent campaign finance reports, more than 85% of contributions to those two entities are from donors associated with companies that have medical marijuana licenses.
In Arkansas, supporters of legalization are airing optimistic ads saying they will create thousands of jobs if the proposal passes. Opponents have broadcast ads warning voters to “protect Arkansas from marijuana companies.”