Welcome back to The Week in Weed, your Friday look at what’s happening in the world of legalized marijuana.
This week, it’s all about the election. It was a mixed bag for cannabis – two states voted YES and three states voted NO. Let’s have a look at each. Note: shout-out to Marijuana Moment, for their excellent election coverage, including live results by county for each state.
This was a race the pollsters got right. The prediction for months had been that Maryland would vote in favor of legalizing adult-use marijuana, and they did. Statewide, the margin of victory was about 65% – 35%. What’s interesting about the results is that Question 4 won in every county, except for Garrett County (the furthest west in the state). Even there, the vote was 53% against to 47% in favor. Maryland may be a reliably blue state overall, but that’s because the areas around Baltimore and DC are more populous and more liberal than the rest of the state. Once you head south or west or to the far northeast of the state, the politics becomes quite conservative. Time will tell if the broad support for legalization will translate into profitable dispensaries statewide.
This was a far tighter race than the one in Maryland. The polls showed that most voters supported legalization, but many were undecided. In the end, Missouri voted “yes.” The map showed that the areas around Kansas City, St. Louis and Springfield were in favor, and most of the rest of the state was not. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this election was the coalition arguing against the measure. Groups opposed to cannabis legalization generally were joined by people in favor of legalization, but unhappy with the details of this particular proposal. Look for legislation around social equity issues to emerge in the future.
There was no “green wave” in this election, however. Arkansas was among three states to reject legalization. Early support for the measure collapsed as those opposed to an adult-use market turned up the volume on their antipathy. Even in the counties voting “yes,” support was not overwhelming. The measure gained no more than 57% in favor in any county, which was not enough to overcome the widespread “no” vote in most areas outside Little Rock. Even Snoop Dogg’s encouragement was not enough to turn the tide.
Legalization supporters must be feeling a bit discouraged by this second loss at the ballot box. North Dakota voters rejected legal marijuana in 2018, and they rejected it again in 2022. The count currently stands at 55% against to 45% in favor, with 73% of the votes counted. The Fargo and Grand Forks areas voted “yes,” but Bismark was a “no.” When you can’t get your second-largest metro area to vote in favor of cannabis, you’re likely to go down to defeat.
As we’ve advised before in this column, don’t mix up your Dakotas. Granted, this time they both voted against legalization, but the North’s consistency is contrasted with the South’s change of heart. South Dakota voters famously voted in favor of legalization in 2020, only to see that result overturned in the courts. This time, support among Native Americans and in Sioux Falls was no match for the opposition elsewhere in the state.
In our one non-election story, we note that the National Park Service is urging people not to lick psychedelic toads. We are left speechless at the fact that this warning is necessary, but are passing it along nonetheless.
Stay safe and be well everyone – we’ll see you next week!