Four States Vote to Legalize Recreational Marijuana

Author: David B. Weisenfeld, XpertHR Legal Editor

November 5, 2020

Voters in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota have decisively backed ballot initiatives to legalize recreational marijuana.

They will join 11 others states plus the District of Columbia as jurisdictions that have legalized recreational marijuana use despite the continued federal ban on the drug. In addition, Mississippi voted to legalize medical marijuana. None of these measures will prevent employers from banning marijuana use at work.

Arizona Recreational Marijuana

About 60% of Arizona voters approved Proposition 207, also known as the "Smart and Safe Arizona Act," to allow adults 21 and older to legally possess up to an ounce of marijuana. The measure also amends criminal penalties for marijuana possession and provides a process for individuals to seek expungement of marijuana-related offenses.

Once Arizona makes the election results official on November 30, adults 21 and older will be able to grow and possess as many as six marijuana plants at home. In addition, sales could begin as early as March 2021.

Montana Recreational Marijuana

Montana voters approved a pair of marijuana ballot initiatives. The first amended the state constitution to permit the legislature, or the voters by initiative, to set the legal age for buying, consuming or possessing marijuana at 21.

The second, I-190, legalizes the use and possession of limited amounts of marijuana for adults. Both measures needed to pass in order for recreational marijuana to become legal in the state.

Effective January 1, 2021, possession and use will be legal with recreational sales reportedly scheduled to begin in January 2022.

New Jersey Recreational Marijuana

After the New Jersey legislature failed to enact a recreational marijuana law, voters did it for them with about two-thirds approving of the Garden State's Marijuana Legalization Amendment for adults 21 or older.

Gov. Philip Murphy called passage of the measure, "A huge step forward for racial and social justice and our economy." It remains unclear when New Jersey will allow marijuana sales to begin.

South Dakota Marijuana Legalization

South Dakota marked Election Day by becoming the first state to legalize both recreational and medical marijuana at the same time. Typically, states have legalized medical marijuana well before doing so for recreational use.

Under Initiated Measure 26, voters approved legalization of the use, delivery, manufacture and cultivation of marijuana and marijuana-based products to treat or alleviate debilitating medical conditions as certified by a physician. Under the measure, patients may possess up to three ounces of marijuana.

Meanwhile, voters also approved a separate constitutional amendment to legalize recreational marijuana and permit South Dakota residents 21 or older to possess or distribute one ounce or less of marijuana.

Mississippi Medical Marijuana

Finally, Mississippi voters overwhelmingly approved the legalization of medical marijuana in the Magnolia State. They approved Initiative 65 to amend the state constitution to allow qualified patients with debilitating medical conditions, as approved by a physician, to use medical marijuana provided it is obtained from a licensed treatment center.

The Mississippi State Department of Health will regulate and enforce the provisions of this amendment.