Legalization and Drug Reform measures were on the ballot in a number of US states this year. Five states voted to legalize recreational and or medicinal cannabis, while even more controversial issues surrounding hard drugs and psychedelics made huge strides.
Here’s a round-up of all the Drug Reform related results from the 2020 election.
Oregon passed the sweeping Measure 110, which decriminalized small amounts of all street drugs. Oregon is the first state to pass anything like this. This measure reduces misdemeanour drug possession violations to the equivalent of traffic tickets.
Measure 110 also reduces legal penalties for what are currently felony possession cases, all while funnelling cannabis tax revenue into addiction recovery centres, treating drugs as a public health problem rather a criminal offence.
“This is the most significant reform in our nation’s failed drug policies in a generation,” Kassandra Frederique, the executive director of Drug Policy Alliance, which spent more than $4 million backing the measure, said. “It’s particularly significant because most people don’t realize that drug possession is the number one arrest in the US.”
Washington D.C. passed a Drug Reform ballot measure to decriminalize the use of psilocybin mushrooms and other psychedelics. While the initiative disappointingly doesn’t legalize the drugs, it makes stopping the cultivation, distribution, possession and use of certain plant-based psychedelics one of the police department’s lowest enforcement priorities.
The initiative, formerly known as the Entheogenic Plant and Fungus Policy Act of 2020, will now go to the D.C Council for review, before eventually being reviewed by Congress to officially make it the law of the land.
New Jersey, Arizona & Montana
Cannabis, already legal for medical use in 33 US states and recreational use in 11, was also legalized for recreational purposes in New Jersey, Arizona and Montana.
New Jersey estimates approx $126 million a year for the states economy through cannabis alone. Arizona has passed Prop 207 to become the lucky 13th state to legalize cannabis, allowing adults 21 and older to buy and possess up to 1 ounce with no more than 5 grams being concentrates, and also grants people to cultivate up to 6 cannabis plants per primary residence.
The Arizona Department of Health Services will issue licences following the application period from Jan 19 – Mar 9,2021. Many medical cannabis dispensaries will get a recreational licence which will allow them to sell medical and recreational cannabis from their dispensary locations. The measure also allows people with cannabis related charges to petition for expungement.
Montana has passed a pair of complimentary Drug Reform ballot initiatives which together legalize recreational cannabis use in Montana for adults. I-190 creates rules for cannabis use, including a 20% tax and the option for individual counties to prohibit dispensaries.
CI-118 amended the Montana Constitution to allow the state to set the minimum buying age to 21. Both measures were needed to pass for recreational use to become legal.
South Dakota & Mississippi
Voters in Mississippi voted for legal medical cannabis, while South Dakota voters approved Drug Reform for both medical and recreational cannabis.
Mississippi voters passed an activist- led initiative allowing for a broad medical cannabis program that includes 22 conditions such as PTSD & chronic pain and allows patients to obtain up to 2.5 ounces of weed per 14-day period.
South Dakota became the first state in the country to legalize both rec and medical cannabis on the same ballot. The medical program would allow patients with a ‘debilitating condition’ whereas the recreational program would allow adults 21 or older to possess up to an ounce of cannabis in public, and grow up to 3 plants at home if they live in a place with no weed store nearby.
Over the past 10+ years, criminal penalties for drug offences have been reduced in many US states. Democratic policy makers have been increasingly outspoken in favour of ending the failed war on drugs, particularly given its disproportionate effect on non white communities. More aggressive Drug Reform initiatives to end the war like cannabis legalization and broader drug decriminalization, are still controversial among politicians and policymakers and most have voted on the more cautious side.
Polls show a majority of Americans (⅔) and especially high numbers of Democrats (¾) back cannabis legalization. Yet, the President elect Joe Biden, is still opposed to full legalization, arguing for a milder measure at the federal level to remove prison time but not allow sales.
Thanks to Drug Reform efforts from activists in more conservative states, like Montana and South Dakota politicians are starting to push forward for cannabis and drug reform which is historic especially in predominantly red jurisdictions. These 2020 election results show that voters and even some politicians are eager to pull back on America’s failed war on drugs and create a promising financial future for a majority of states now entering what is known as the cannabis “green rush”.