Yesterday was a pretty big day for cannabis and psychedelics at the federal and state levels. Aside from the ongoing presidential and congressional competitions, there have been a number of nationwide efforts to legalize cannabis, a move to legalize therapeutic psilocybin, and two efforts to decriminalize drugs. All of them passed, and many of them passed with significantly large margins – even in very conservative states like South Dakota, Montana, and Mississippi. This signals a huge shift in views on drug policy at the national level and could even cause the federal government to change its positions even if Trump remains in control.
In this post, I’ll break those down provisionally Results of various state and federal elections and what they mean for regulated cannabis in the United States. It is important to note that this is a “preliminary” result. Some of the elections weren’t very close and probably won’t change, but many of the results are close and given that ballots aren’t counted in all states, things could change in the next few days. We will do our best to update this post or devise follow-up if anything changes.
The presidency: Not surprisingly, the presidency race has not yet been set and is still very close. At the time of this writing, there are still a handful of swing states that have not yet been invoked, with Biden having a tight lead in some and Trump a tight lead in others. If Biden and Harris win, we think favorable changes to federal cannabis law and policy are far more likely. If Trump and Pence retain power, the status quo is unlikely to change unless a legalization bill goes through both Houses of Congress that Trump chooses to embrace. Hopefully we’ll have more insight later today.
Congress race: Here too, not all races are over. However, it looks like Democrats have retained control of the House of Representatives and have won some Senate seats (albeit not a majority). Chuck Schumer recently noted that legalizing cannabis would be a priority if Democrats recaptured the Senate. It remains to be seen what the Senate Democrats will do now if they fail to get a Senate majority (with or without the Biden presidency). There is still too much uncertainty about how federal cannabis law and policy will be shaped over the next four years.
Arizona: Arizona passed Prop. 207 and legalized recreational cannabis. Once Arizona has its full effect, it will join states like California with medicinal and recreational cannabis regimens. See our analysis of Prop. 207 here.
Mississippi: Mississippi had Alternative Initiatives, Initiative 65 and Alternative Initiative 65A. Both initiatives were designed to legalize medical cannabis in different ways (you can read about the differences here). Initiative 65 was passed by a fairly wide margin, which means medical cannabis will be legalized in Mississippi.
Montana: Montana had duel initiatives, constitutional initiative 118 and initiative 190 (which you can read about here). Constitutional Initiative 118 is over and will amend the state constitution to change the legal age for cannabis use to 21. The adopted initiative 190 will legalize recreational cannabis.
New Jersey: New Jersey voted to approve Question 1, paving the way for recreational cannabis legalization. The next step will be for the state to pass a cannabis law, which could happen very quickly. In this case, New Jersey will offer both medical and recreational cannabis programs. See our analysis of question 1 here.
Oregon: Oregon Approved Action 109 that will eventually establish a legal regimen for psilocybin for therapeutic use. Oregon made history as the first US state to legalize a psychedelic plant, which is a little different than some of the state’s positions a few decades ago. For our previous analyzes of Measure 109, see these posts:
Oregon also approved Measure 110 which decriminalized (not legalized) the non-commercial possession of all controlled substances. This is another first for a US state. Overnight, Oregon proved to be the most progressive state in the union on drug policy.
South Dakota: South Dakota passed Measure 26, paving the way for medical cannabis. With much tighter limits, voters passed Amendment A, which will also legalize recreational cannabis. See our analysis of Measure 26 and Amendment A here.
Washington, DC: DC Initiative 81 was passed by a wide margin, meaning a wide variety of psychedelic plants in DC are now being decriminalized (not legalized). See our analysis of Initiative 81 here.