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Marijuana Emerges As Big Winner In Election As Five States Vote To Legalize

forbes.com November 14, 2020
Marijuana Emerges As Big Winner In Election As Five States Vote To Legalize

If there was a clear winner that emerged from the highly contentious 2020 November 3 election, it was marijuana. Yesterday, all five states that had cannabis legalization measures on their ballots, passed overwhelmingly. Breaking it down, Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota legalized adult-use, with the latter also approving a medical initiative. Mississippi voters also jumped into the fray by supporting two medical cannabis initiatives.

As a result of these wins, 15 states, which also includes D.C, now have legal adult-use markets while 36 (plus D.C.) have approved medical markets. This is a special victory for an industry in which businesses are still hampered by the banking ban caused by the federal illegality. These punitive restrictions have forced many cannabis businesses to operate as cash-only enterprises even if they subsist in a legal market. Then there are the many people who remain incarcerated indefinitely for nonviolent drug possession.

In a public statement, Aaron Smith, co-founder and CEO of the National Cannabis Industry Associate, the largest cannabis trade association in the U.S., hails these wins as they "will mean tens of thousands of fewer arrests and new jobs, much-needed tax revenue, and increased public safety."

New Jersey's cannabis legalization measure passed unsurprisingly in this traditionally blue state with 67 percent of the vote, said NCIA. This initiative makes cannabis legal for adults age 21 and older and "would require lawmakers to determine a regulatory structure as well as set limits for possession and home cultivation. Cannabis will be subject to the standard state sales tax, currently 6.625 percent, and the legislature may authorize municipal governments to institute up to an additional 2 percent in local taxes."

Voters in South Dakota approved a medical cannabis initiative by 69.2 percent and a separate adult-use initiative by 53.4 percent, noted NCIA. The state's Department of Revenue will decide on regulations and apply a 15 percent sales tax, with proceeds going to schools and the general fund. South Dakota is the first state to approve an adult use initiative or bill without a pre-existing medical cannabis system.

After narrowly defeating an adult-use bill in 2016, Arizona rebounded by voting for the current legalization measure. This initiative "will make possession of up to an ounce of cannabis flower and up to five grams of cannabis concentrate legal for adults aged 21 and older, and allows adults to grow up to six plants at home in an enclosed, locked area out of public view." Also, retail licenses will be limited to no more than one per every 10 pharmacies in the state.


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