What’s cannabis legalization in the US Midterms look like this year? We’ve got five states with legalization measures on the ballot. If all five go through, cannabis will be legal in nearly half of the United States.

The five states that could legalize cannabis on November 8th are Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Voters are asked to weigh in on recreational legalization. All states have medical cannabis programs except South Dakota.

Cannabis Legalization in the Midterms – 10 Years Later

Cannabis Legalization in the Midterms (November 2022)

For ten years, cannabis legalization has been a midterm election topic, depending on your state. In 2012, Colorado and Washington were the first states to legalize recreational cannabis for consenting adults.

On November 6th, 2012, voters approved Colorado Amendment 64 and Washington Initiative 502.

For the 2014 midterms, Alaska, Oregon, and Washington D.C. approved legal recreational cannabis. Alaska and Oregon legalized like Colorado, with only D.C. taking a non-commercial approach.

While cannabis remains illegal federally, in 2014, the Justice Department announced a policy to allow Indian tribes to buy, sell, and consume cannabis on Indian Reservations.

In 2015, the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe (of South Dakota) voted to legalize recreational cannabis.

In the 2016 midterms, California, Nevada, Massachusetts, and Maine joined the roster of legal states.

Up until 2018, every cannabis legalization came from ballot initiatives. Vermont became the first state to legalize through the legislature. Vermont’s initial bill did not allow for commercial sales.

Also, in 2018, Donald Trump signed the Farm Bill, which effectively legalized cannabis so long as delta-9-THC levels remain low. However, there’s a loophole which allows for the cultivation of cannabis plants high in delta-8 THC, which is also psychoactive.

In the 2020 midterms, four more states legalized cannabis:

  1. Arizona
  2. Montana
  3. New Jersey
  4. South Dakota

However, the courts overruled the decisions of voters in South Dakota. This made South Dakota the first state to have its legalization referendum overturned, as well as legalizing recreational cannabis without a medical program first.

Midterm Elections: What You Need to Know

Cannabis Legalization in the Midterms (November 2022)

As you can see, cannabis legalization is becoming an American tradition in the midterms. At this rate, all 50 states will likely legalize before the federal government gets anything passed.

But will cannabis legalization pass in Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota or South Dakota?

Polling in Arkansas shows about 50% support, with 43% opposed and 6.5% undecided.

Maryland will likely legalize tomorrow, with 73% of its residents’ favour legalization.

Polling is equally impressive in Missouri, where only 35% oppose legalization.

North Dakota already voted against cannabis legalization in the 2018 midterms. The current race is neck and neck. However, advocates say they’ve learned from their mistakes in ’18 and are now better funded and organized.

Voters in South Dakota already voted yes to cannabis legalization in the 2020 midterms. But their Supreme Court dismissed the outcome.

So far, polling in South Dakota indicates that 40% favour legalizing and 51% oppose, with the rest uncertain. 

Why Did the South Dakota Supreme Court Overturn Cannabis Legalization?

Cannabis Legalization in the Midterms (November 2022)

According to the South Dakota state constitution, amendments must only deal with one subject at a time. Judge Christina Klinger argued that South Dakota’s 2020 midterm cannabis legalization violated this law.

Ergo, she struck it down as unconstitutional. South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem is also vocally anti-cannabis. She appointed Judge Klinger in 2019.

Klinger wrote in her ruling: “Amendment A is a revision as it has far-reaching effects on the basic nature of South Dakota’s governmental system.”

Klinger wrote that cannabis legalization would have involved too many administrative changes, including business licensing, taxation, and cultivation rules. Accordingly, “it overstepped the authority of the executive and legislative branches of government.”

Never mind that other states have legalized cannabis in the midterms using ballot initiatives. All without any kind of major trouble.

It’s frustrating but not surprising, considering the efforts the “No” side put into their campaign. For example, police literally sued to block cannabis legalization by appealing to the state’s constitution.

All this despite 54 percent of voters voting yes for cannabis legalization.

This attitude has become all too common in recent history (Russiagate, Stop the Steal, Brexit). If you don’t get the desired results, ignore them or blame the Russians.

After all, it is Joesph Stalin who said it’s not the votes that count but who counts the votes.

That was certainly true for South Dakota in 2020. Let’s hope history doesn’t repeat itself.