Five Recent Changes to U.S. Cannabis Laws
To put it lightly, 2020’s had some unexpected challenges and surprises we didn’t see coming. With the COVID-19 pandemic still rampant across the globe, we’ve done our best to adapt to unprecedented circumstances. Americans have opted for an increasingly housebound routine – including surging rates of work-from-home employment, online schooling, and online shopping for all non-essential items. We’ve made the best of these uncertain times and collectively worked to protect our most vulnerable citizens, despite unforeseen challenges and lasting uncertainty affecting many aspects of our daily lives.
The 2020 election was yet another source of significant uncertainty we’ve faced – and of major changes to society as we’ve known it. Thankfully, as with the COVID-19 pandemic, our collective actions went a long way toward creating the changes we’d like to see. Five U.S. states had legislative measures on the ballot concerning cannabis and its legal status at state and local levels – and residents of all five states voted in favor of reduced restrictions this term. While Colorado was the first to recreational cannabis use in 2012 (along with Washington State), many other states haven’t been as quick to reduce legal restrictions surrounding the plant. Prior to the recent election, thirty-three American states (and Washington D.C.) allowed for citizens to treat approved, documented health issues with cannabis. Eleven of those also permit recreational cannabis use for citizens aged twenty-one or older.
How did the recent election affect the status of legal cannabis throughout the nation? Let’s take a closer look at five American states which approved cannabis legalization measures this month, and the changes taking shape in each.
Montana state residents recently voted in favor of Initiative 190 (or I-190) and CI-118. Initiative I-190 passed with a 56.9% majority vote. This measure allows adult residents to have up to four seedlings and four cannabis plants per individual household. Under I-190, recreational cannabis sales will be subject to a state tax rate of twenty percent.
I-190’s original form proposed the legalization of cannabis (within its defined terms) for all residents aged eighteen and up. However, CI-118 amended the legalization terms of I-190 to only include Montana state residents aged twenty-one and up – with all other elements of I-190 remaining the same. Had CI-118 failed and I-190 passed, the original terms of I-190 would take effect. While CI-118 limits the scope of I-190’s impact, this is still a significant milestone for Montana.
I-190 also granted provisions to Montana state residents with cannabis-related criminal charges. Non-violent offenders may now request that their sentences be reevaluated with the new state laws in mind – with many cannabis-related charges likely to be reduced and even eliminated from criminal records altogether.
In 2010, New Jersey legalized medical cannabis, making them the fifteenth U.S. state to do so. This month, residents were offered the option to legalize recreational cannabis use with New Jersey Public Question 1. A state Cannabis Regulatory Commission was founded in 2019 to govern potential revisions to the state’s cannabis laws. That’ll come in handy with the official passage of Public Question 1. New Jersey residents aged 21 and older will be allowed to use cannabis recreationally, and the commission will determine the legal limits on cannabis possession.
South Dakota has notoriously held some of the strictest cannabis laws in the United States until the recent past. However, state residents surprised the nation this month with their passage of Measure 26. This measure gives Doctors the right to prescribe cannabis for a range of approved medical issues. Medical cannabis sales are slated to begin on July 1st of next year. Starting on that day, state residents will also be allowed to grow up to three cannabis plants per household. South Dakota legislators will have until April 1st to enact rules and regulations for cannabis possession and sales within the state.
Prior to this month’s election, Mississippi forbade residents from using or possessing cannabis, even for medical purposes. Initiative 65 gave residents the chance to change that, legalizing prescription cannabis to alleviate the symptoms of approved illnesses. A secondary proposition let any reticent voters limit the scope of Initiative 65, only allowing cannabis prescriptions for patients who are terminally ill. Mississippi voters chose to legalize medical cannabis without provisions – a particularly exciting development for proponents of cannabis legalization everywhere.
”The Safe and Smart Arizona Act,” otherwise known as Proposition 207, gave Arizona voters the opportunity to legalize recreational cannabis throughout the state. Voters had a similar opportunity in 2016, but recreational cannabis legalization was voted down by a narrow three percent margin. This year’s recreational cannabis measure reigned victorious. Once its provisions take effect sometime in the coming months, Arizona residents aged 21 and over will be allowed to possess up to five grams of THC concentrate or one ounce of cannabis flower. State residents will also be allowed to grow up to six cannabis plants per household.
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