Marijuana measures getting OK by voters

(Nov. 6, 2020) While the presidential election contest remained too close to call days after the election, legalizing marijuana for personal or medical uses in five states was a different story: initiatives passed or were leading in each state by relatively healthy margins.

Voters in Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota are giving or have given the green light to statewide ballot measures asking them to legalize marijuana for personal or medical use (or both in one case).

In Arizona, voters approved – by 59.8% (with 89% of votes reported as of Thursday) – a measure legalizing possession and use of marijuana for persons who are at least 21 years old, enacting a tax on marijuana sales, and requiring the state to develop rules to regulate marijuana businesses.

Montana voters agreed (with 57.8% in favor) to a state constitution amendment allowing for the legislature or a citizen initiative to establish a minimum legal age for the possession, use, and purchase of marijuana, similar to the regulation of alcohol under the state constitution.

In New Jersey, voters are giving the thumb’s (by 66.9%, and 63% of votes reported as of Thursday) to a measure legalizing the possession and use of marijuana for persons age 21 and older and legalizing the cultivation, processing, and sale of retail marijuana.

South Dakotans had two marijuana-related measures to consider: one legalizing the recreational use of marijuana and another requiring the state legislature to pass laws providing for the use of medical marijuana and the sale of hemp by April 1, 2022. The former was approved by 54.2% of voters, the latter by 69.9%.

Finally, Mississippi voters have given approval handily to medical use of marijuana, despite a relatively convoluted process. First, voters were asked to give the OK to either (or both) of measures advanced by state citizens (through an initiative process), or an alternative of that version advanced by the state legislature (as allowed under state law). In the first stage, voters could choose “either” or “neither.” Voters said OK to “either’ by 67.8%.

Second, those voters who chose “either” were asked to select which one of the “eithers” they supported. The citizens’ measure won overwhelmingly, with 73.9% of the vote. That version would amend the state constitution to create a medical marijuana program administered by the state health department for persons with qualified debilitating medical conditions.

NASCUS has been a leader in the credit union system to call for clarity in federal law regarding financial institutions’ ability to serve legal marijuana businesses. The federal government continues to classify marijuana, also known as cannabis, as an illegal controlled substance, which complicates the ability of credit unions to serve legal marijuana-related businesses within their states. To date, 44 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana use and possession for either recreation or medical use.