Election Day 2021 is still more than a month away, but all eyes are already on 2022 when it comes to cannabis policy.
Last week, activists in Wyoming held signature drives at seven locations around the state. They're hoping to get a measure on the 2022 ballot that would legalize medical marijuana and largely decriminalize recreational cannabis. It's the most recent development in a growing wave of voter-led legalization efforts around the nation.
In Arkansas, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and Ohio, potential ballot measures to legalize cannabis have been cleared to move into the signature-gathering portion of the pre-ballot process. In Idaho and Nebraska there are separate ballot measures that would only legalize medical marijuana going through the signature-gathering process as well.
Idaho's pair of potential initiatives need to gather 64,945 valid signatures by May 1 to make it onto next year's ballot. Last year, a ballot measure to legalize medical marijuana in Idaho stalled out when supporters called off in-person signature-gathering efforts due to the pandemic.
The swing back to ballot-based legalization efforts comes after a busy 2021 for state legislatures across the country. Bills that would have legalized cannabis outright, legalized medical marijuana or decriminalized possession without legalizing it were introduced in 27 states this year alone. That led to five state legislatures legalizing cannabis outright, one to legalize medical marijuana and another to decriminalize possession.
These bills have been introduced in red and blue states alike, but only one of the seven bills approved so far this year has passed in a state carried by Donald Trump. At the legislative level, cannabis continues to be more of a divisive, party-line issue than it does at the ballot box.
Four states had legalization on the ballot last fall, and those initiatives passed in all four states. Two of those states, New Jersey and Arizona, were won by Joe Biden. The other two, Montana and South Dakota, went for Trump. Notably, Trump won all seven of the states with active signature-gathering efforts for 2022.
As of now, 19 states have legalized recreational cannabis. If each of those seven measures makes it to the ballot, and if 2022 goes the way 2020 went and all seven are approved, cannabis will become legal in a majority of states in the union. ♦