Legalized recreational marijuana was on the ballot in four states last night, and it won in all four. Arizona, New Jersey, Montana, and South Dakota now bring the total number of U.S. states that have legalized recreational marijuana to 15, along with the District of Columbia. Notably, these changes were primarily the result of ballot initiatives, which is typical of the “grassroots” (pun intended) way in which marijuana has been legalized in most states, suggesting a rare point of democratic consensus in otherwise divided times. A fifth state, Mississippi, legalized medical marijuana, as well.
In Arizona, nearly 60 percent of voters approved Proposition 207. The measure will legalize possession and use of marijuana for adults age 21 years or older in Arizona, which the state will tax and regulate. Arizona voters rejected a similar measure in 2016, reflecting how quickly public opinion is shifting toward legalized recreational marijuana.
In New Jersey, over 66 percent of voters approved a constitutional amendment legalizing recreational marijuana. New Jersey’s governor, Phil Murphy, had previously attempted to shepherd legislation for this purpose, but it died in the state’s Senate earlier this year. Voters took the matter into their own hands.
South Dakota makes a dramatic leap into the world of legalized pot: before last night, marijuana was not legal in the state for any purpose. Voters approved constitutional amendments legalizing medical (by a large margin) and recreational (by a narrower margin) marijuana.
And in Montana, voters approved a ballot measure legalizing recreational marijuana for adults over age 21. The state will tax marijuana sales at 20 percent, develop regulations for marijuana businesses, and permit resentencing or expungement of marijuana-related crimes.
Finally, over two-thirds of voters in Mississippi approved a ballot measure legalizing medical marijuana. Mississippi is another state that has long held out from legalizing any form or marijuana (and before that, hemp), making this a significant step toward full legalization.