Voters in three more states could consider legalizing marijuana after the latest effort failed in Oklahoma. Backers are working on potential pot initiatives in Florida, Nebraska, and Ohio.
Oklahomans on Tuesday rejected an effort to let anyone 21 years and older possess cannabis (State Question 820), a proposal that included a 15% excise tax. Their decision went counter to a trend in other states, where voter initiatives have been used to allow dispensaries to open.
Here’s where the legalization action moves next:
- Ohio voters could be asked to decide whether possessing up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis or 15 grams of concentrate should be legal. That proposal, which also would let the state collect a 10% tax, has been submitted to the GOP-controlled Legislature. If lawmakers don’t act on it by April, backers would have to collect about 124,000 valid voter signatures to make it eligible for the November 2023 ballot.
- An effort to place legalization onto Florida’s 2024 ballot is being backed by the cannabis company Trulieve, which so far has contributed over $20 million to the campaign. Supporters have gathered roughly half of the required signatures, which must be turned in by Feb. 1. The measure would allow Floridians to carry up to three ounces and would need 60% of voter approval to become law.
- Activists in Nebraska are trying to gather over 1.2 million signatures to place a proposed constitutional amendment on the 2024 ballot. That proposal includes no tax component. It simply states that “all persons have the right to use all plants in the genus Cannabis.”
“It would be a surprising setback if more than one of these initiatives fail,” said Michael Vitiello, a marijuana law professor at the University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law.
Full-legalization legislation also has been introduced this year in at least 12 states: Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia.
Federal efforts to relax marijuana restrictions fell short last year when congressional lawmakers abandoned efforts to lift a ban on cannabis banking services. Bloomberg Intelligence analysts say it’s likely to remain illicit on the federal level through 2023 and placed the chances of it being legal by 2025 at 30%.
President Joe Biden has given those convicted of simple cannabis possession in federal court or DC Superior Court a “full, unconditional, and categorical pardon”; the Justice Department started accepting applications for the amnesty last week.
Getting On the Ballot
The District of Columbia and 24 states have direct democracy laws that let proposals qualify for the ballot if proponents meet varying signature requirements. So far, 12 states and the District of Columbia have legalized pot that way. Lawmakers in two more states, Maryland and New Jersey, referred their cannabis legislation to voters at the ballot.
More than 158 million people — nearly half the U.S. population — live in states where recreational marijuana is legal: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
Under Oklahoma law, proponents of rejected citizen initiatives can’t revive unsuccessful measures for at least three years and must qualify with signatures from 25% — over 500,000 — of registered voters.
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