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2022 Midterms: Where is Cannabis on the Ballot?

This year’s midterm elections are critical to the future and growth of the legal cannabis industry.

Cannabis-related ballot initiatives provide voters an opportunity to legalize cannabis if their state legislature failed to do so . . . or hasn’t even tried. And when cannabis is on the ballot, it usually wins. As a matter of fact, during the cycle, every statewide cannabis-related measure that was on the ballot passed by wide margins.

But that was 2020, a presidential year, when voter engagement and turnout is highest. This November is a “midterm election” where important local issues are often decided, and where voter turnout is historically disappointedly low. Cannabis legalization has record high public support—the challenge is to turn that energy and enthusiasm into actual voting.  Here are the states where that will need to happen:

 

Arkansas 

What’s on the Ballot: Legalization of Adult-Use Cannabis
Status: Confirmed

Arkansas voters will have the opportunity to weigh-in on a proposed constitutional amendment that would legalize adult-use cannabis in the state. A group called Responsible Growth Arkansas secured enough signatures on a petition to get the issue on the November ballot. 

After an exhaustive review, the Arkansas Secretary of State confirmed the measure was eligible for the ballot. However, state election officials voted not to certify on the grounds that the measure’s title was misleading. In response, activists filed a lawsuit with the state Supreme Court to challenge the decision. The Arkansas Supreme Court ordered the Secretary of State to certify the ballot initiative while the lawsuit moved forward, and as of September 22, the Court has ruled in favor of Responsible Growth Arkansas. In all, Arkansas voters will be weighing-in on the cannabis question this November.

If the measure passe, the state would allow licensed adult-use cannabis retailers to begin sales on March 8, 2023. Priority for licensing would be given to existing medical retailers, after which the state will issue 40 adult-use licenses via lottery. The amendment would cap retail licenses at 120 and cultivation licenses at 20. Adults 21 and older would be allowed to purchase and possess up to 1 ounce of cannabis.

Ballot language can be found here.

Missouri

What’s on the Ballot: Legalization of Adult-Use Cannabis
Status: Confirmed

Election officials confirmed that Missouri activists collected enough signatures to place an adult-use legalization initiative on the state’s ballot. The ballot measure, formally known as Initiative 2022-05, was spearheaded by the group Legal Missouri 2022. The initiative will allow adults 21 or older to purchase up to 3 ounces of cannabis, and grow cannabis plants at home in-line with state restrictions. Notably, the initiative would also allow people convicted of certain cannabis crimes to petition for record expungement.

Under the initiative’s guidelines, a 6% tax will be placed on adult-use cannabis sales. The Department of Health and Senior Services will oversee the state’s cannabis regulatory and licensing framework. At least 144 microbusiness licenses will be issued, with those most impacted by the War on Drugs and/or low-income applicants being given priority.

Ballot language can be found here.

Maryland

What’s on the Ballot: Legalization of Adult-Use Cannabis
Status: Confirmed

Maryland residents will have the opportunity to vote on adult-use legalization this November after the state Legislature voted in April to place a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot. The measure would legalize cannabis for adults 21 and older, allowing individuals to purchase up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis. Additionally, adults would be allowed to cultivate up to 2 cannabis plants for personal consumption.

The proposed legislation would also decriminalize possession of up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis. Additionally, previous cannabis convictions for actions no longer illegal under the proposed law would be automatically expunged, and those serving active sentences for applicable offenses would be made eligible for resentencing. Although the measure is likely to succeed in November, the new law is scheduled to come into effect in stages, and not immediately. Possession for small quantities of cannabis would be reduced to a civil offense beginning January 1, 2023, and legalization for up to 1.5 ounces would take effect 6 months later.

Ballot language can be found here.

North Dakota

What’s on the Ballot: Legalization of Adult-Use Cannabis
Status: Confirmed

In North Dakota, an adult-use legalization measure was approved to be on the ballot in November. The organization New Approach North Dakota submitted close to 26,000 signatures, far surpassing the 15,582 that were required. The measure would legalize the possession of 1 ounce of cannabis, 500 milligrams of THC for edibles, and 4 grams of cannabis concentrates for adults aged 21 and over. Additionally, adults would be permitted to cultivate up to 3 plants for personal use. The adult-use legalization measure does not include an expungement effort for non-violent cannabis offenses.

Ballot language can be found here.

South Dakota

What’s on the Ballot: Legalization of Adult-Use Cannabis; No Sales Permitted.
Status: Confirmed

South Dakotan activist groups have worked to get an adult-use ballot initiative on the 2022 ballot. The initiative, known as Measure 17, does not create a regulatory system or tax structure for the retail sale or cultivation of cannabis operations. The initiative would permit the possession of 1 ounce of cannabis along with the cultivation of up to 3 plants for personal use.

In 2020, South Dakota voters approved a legalization initiative to be on the November ballot, but Republican Governor Kristi Noem’s administration worked to fight the initiative. Enough South Dakotans supported the measure for it to pass, only for the Supreme Court to strike down the measure after the election.

Ballot language can be found here.

Last updated: 10/11/22

The Truth About Fentanyl-Laced Cannabis

There’s been a lot of recent news media reports and statements from high-ranking elected officials about the dangers of fentanyl-laced cannabis. They claim that there’s been a rise in dealers cutting cannabis with fentanyl and selling it to unsuspecting consumers


This makes for great headlines. But there is little truth behind it. In fact, there is no evidence that cannabis is being intentionally laced with fentanyl–in the U.S. or anywhere else.

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid used to treat post-surgical pain or chronic pain for those with a tolerance to other opioids. It is a controlled substance that can be administered safely under the strict supervision of a medical professional. But recently, fentanyl has become the face of the opioid epidemic due to its widespread use as a cheap, potent additive in other drugs sold illegally.

Fentanyl overdose is now the number one cause of death among Americans ages 18 to 45. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 56,516 overdose deaths in 2020 involving synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl. That’s more than 150 deaths per day.

The ubiquity of illicitly-manufactured fentanyl is one of the gravest public health concerns of modern times— and unfortunately, the subject of much misinformation. Some common falsehoods include: fentanyl is Naloxone-resistant (Naloxone is an opioid antagonist used to reverse an opioid overdose), that simply touching fentanyl can cause an overdose, and that cannabis products are being laced with fentanyl and sold to consumers.

But in fact, “there are no scientifically verified reports of fentanyl contamination of cannabis products,” according to a guide published in the Journal of Emergency Medical Services. A separate report from the Ontario Harm Reduction Network found zero cases of fentanyl present in cannabis in Canada. And most recently, the American Addiction Centers’ Chief Medical Officer told WebMD that “there is no scientific data that would validate the assumption [that fentanyl-laced cannabis is causing widespread fatalities] thus far.”

Just because a person tests positive for both fentanyl and THC does not mean they consumed contaminated cannabis. THC is detectable in the body up to 30 days after consumption–so cannabis could have been consumed weeks prior to testing positive for fentanyl.

Yet there is an abundance of “reports” from law enforcement and others sounding the alarm of an alleged proliferation of overdoses resulting from fentanyl-laced cannabis. To far less fanfare, these claims are quietly retracted as new information emerges, and no evidence of adulterated cannabis is actually found. Police in Vermont, for example, reported an overdose resulting from fentanyl-laced cannabis. But months later, they admitted the test was inaccurate.

A situation in Connecticut is also worth noting. Last February, health officials reported 39 cases of overdoses linked to fentanyl-laced cannabis. Public panic ensued, fueled by sensational media reports. But it turned out that only one case tested positive for fentanyl, which was “likely accidental contamination and an isolated incident.” The fentanyl detected in the cannabis was likely due to cross-contamination, a result of improper equipment cleaning. There is no evidence that the fentanyl was intentionally mixed with cannabis with the intent to sell it.

The availability of fentanyl-laced drugs is a legitimate public health and safety concern and a real danger to society. But deliberate scare tactics designed to justify increased enforcement of drug-related crimes are not legitimate solutions.

Bad information leads to bad public policies.

Cannabis is medicine for some and is consumed responsibly by millions of adults across the country. Some studies even suggest that cannabis can potentially reduce opioid use and exposure to fentanyl. Misinformation and “Reefer Madness” sensationalism impede laws to legalize and expand access to safe cannabis.

There is a solution: Mandatory laboratory testing–coupled with common-sense regulations and adequate access to legal cannabis for patients and consumers.

Fear mongering, rumors, and misinformation are not credible nor effective public health and safety strategies.


For more information about fentanyl, check out Drug Policy Alliance’s “10 Facts About Synthetic Opioids (Fentanyl).”

For information on Naloxone, check out the CDC’s resource here.