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The Green Wave | Cannabis Legalization In 2020 - 11 4 2020 8 51 47 AM


After last night 16 million Americans will join 93 million others who now live in states that allow adults to use marijuana legally after voters in New Jersey, Arizona, South Dakota, and Montana on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved ballot measures on weed. 

This means that 1 in 3 Americans now live in states where marijuana is legal for anyone at least 21 years old.  While ballots are still being counted, four states have joined the ranks of legal-marijuana states in the U.S., and two have legalized medical marijuana. 

Early this morning, Democrats had clinched 47 seats, and Republicans had clinched 47 seats, with six seats still left uncalled.  Democrats snagged new seats in Colorado and Arizona and lost one in Alabama.

Unfortunately, a complete Green Wave sweep will not be, as several seats that needed to flip have been lost or appeared to be trending Republican:

  • Montana Gov. Steve Bullock failed to dethrone GOP Sen. Steve Daines.
  • Lindsey Graham won in South Carolina.
  • Jon Ossof trails GOP Sen. David Perdue in Georgia.
  • Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon is still fighting at the strong lead of Sen. Susan Collins.
  • Republicans also look like they may flip Michigan — GOP challenger John James leads over Democratic Sen. Gary Peters as of early Wednesday.

Unless most of these Democratic hopefuls make final-stretch gains on the Republican incumbents, they are challenging; the Senate makeup will not be sympathetic to cannabis policy and, a Republican-led Senate without Cory Gardner might be a worst-case scenario for legalization.  Democrats, meanwhile, are projected to keep control of the House — though the size of their majority is still in question. They also lost some key figures such as House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), a significant hemp policy player.

At the State level, the "Green Wave" is alive and well:


60% of voters supporting the measure, with more than 82% of precincts reporting. The state will join 12 others in taxing and regulating marijuana for adults over 21. Arizona is already home to one of the largest medical marijuana markets in the country.  This time around, marijuana advocates significantly outraised their opponents and survived a last-minute ad buy opposing the measure by progressive group Living United for Change in Arizona, the Phoenix New-Times reported. The Department of Health Services is tasked with implementing the measure.

New Jersey

Voters approved a recreational marijuana legalization amendment.  More than two-thirds of voters supported the issue when the Associated Press called the race with 58% of precincts reporting.  State lawmakers are now tasked with passing legislation to set up a regulatory framework for legal marijuana. Earlier this week, Democratic state Sen. Nick Scutari indicated that he wanted to introduce a marijuana bill by the end of the week.  WE could see recreational sales by 2H2021.  This victory will undoubtedly have a rippling effect in the Northeast and add to the increasing pressure in neighboring states to take action on marijuana legalization.


Voters overwhelmingly passed a citizen-driven medical marijuana initiative that lays out 22 qualifying medical conditions, allows for possession of up to 2.5 ounces of product, and requires the program to be in place by August 15 of next year.  Supporters of the referendum overcame a competing measure that was put on the ballot by the Legislature. That proposal contained few details, and legalization advocates charged that it was designed to confuse voters.  Mississippi is only the latest deep-red state to embrace medical marijuana. Utah, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri are among the other staunchly conservative states with recently enacted programs.

South Dakota

Voters made South Dakota the first state to jump straight from no form of legal marijuana to legalizing medical and recreational marijuana on the same day. A medical initiative in the state was approved by more than two-thirds of the vote, as of early Wednesday morning. The recreational referendum passed by a much closer margin.


Voters approved a ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana and a constitutional amendment to set the legal age for consumption to 21. The state's Department of Revenue is now in charge of implementing regulations outlined in the ballot measure, with some oversight from the Legislature. Some advocates fear the Legislature or Governor-elect Greg Gianforte could limit or add restrictions to the measure. 


Voters approved a ballot initiative to decriminalize all drugs — the first in the nation to adopt such a policy. The measure will use marijuana tax revenue to fund drug treatment services.