Drug Reform Initiatives Already on the November Ballot and Those That Could Still Make the Cut [FEATURE]

With signature-gathering deadlines now past nearly everywhere, the picture of where voters will have a chance to vote on drug reform initiatives becomes clearer -- although not yet finalized because state officials are still counting petitions in some cases. Marijuana legalization will be on the ballot in at least two states and as many as four states and ditto for medical marijuana. Groundbreaking initiatives on psychedelic policy and drug decriminalization will also go before voters.

Voters in a number of states will have the chance to weigh in on drug reform initiatives in November. (Creative Commons)
In a handful of cases, statewide initiative campaigns had qualified before the coronavirus reared its head, but most campaigns had to struggle to find ways to get signatures in the midst of virtual lockdowns. The virus proved particularly lethal to marijuana legalization efforts in the Heartland as initiative campaigns in Arkansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Oklahoma all succumbed. It also helped fell a Washington state drug decriminalization campaign, with organizers there opting instead to go the legislative route.

But in some other states, organizers managed to overcome such obstacles and have -- as of this writing -- either already qualified for the ballot or have handed in enough raw signatures to suggest that they well could qualify once state officials get their counting done.

Here's where things stand at this juncture.

QUALIFIED:

Mississippi -- Medical Marijuana. Ballot Initiative 65 qualified for the November ballot before the pandemic hit. If approved, it would allow patients with any of 22 specified medical conditions to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana every two weeks.

New Jersey -- Marijuana Legalization. A constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana was already on the ballot before the pandemic hit. It would legalize the possession, cultivation, processing, transport, and distribution of marijuana under the purview of the already-existing Cannabis Regulatory Commission, with sales subject to the state's sales tax. This is not a citizens' initiative -- the state doesn't have those -- but a legislative one. After the governor and the legislature couldn't manage to come to agreement on a legalization bill last year, the state's elected officials punted, instead passing a resolution in December that refers the question to the state's voters.

Oregon -- Drug Decriminalization. For the first time, drug decriminalization will go before voters after the Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act (IP44) qualified for the November ballot. The initiative would decriminalize the possession of personal use amounts of drugs and channel marijuana tax revenues into drug treatment.

Oregon -- Therapeutic Psilocybin. Using an online signature-gathering strategy after pandemic lockdowns took effect, the campaign behind Initiative Petition 34, which would legalize psilocybin to use for therapeutic purposes in a controlled setting with a licensed facilitator qualified for the November ballot in early July.

South Dakota -- Marijuana Legalization. With support from the Marijuana Policy Project and the New Approach PAC, Constitutional Amendment A has qualified for the November ballot before the pandemic hit. It would legalize the personal possession of up to an ounce and the cultivation of up to three plants by adults, as well as setting up a system of taxed and regulated marijuana sales. The measure would also compel the legislature to come up with regulations for medical marijuana and hemp by 2022.

South Dakota -- Medical Marijuana. Maybe the third time will be the charm. South Dakota is the only state to twice defeat medical marijuana initiatives, in 2006 and by an even bigger margin in 2010. Initiated Measure 26, another New Approach-supported campaign, would allow patients from a list of qualifying conditions to possess up to three ounces and grow up to three plants, as well as create a system of dispensary sales.

WAITING TO HEAR:

Arizona -- Marijuana Legalization. Backers of the Smart and Safe Arizona Act marijuana legalization initiative filed more than 420,000 raw signatures with the secretary of state's office on July 2. It only needs 237,465 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November ballot. The initiative would allow people 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, allow for cultivation, distribution, and retail sales, and use tax revenues from those sales to fund public education and public safety programs.

District of Columbia -- Natural Entheogens. Decriminalize DC, the folks behind Initiative 81, which would makes natural psychedelics law enforcement's lowest priority, handed in some 35,000 raw signatures on July 6, the deadline for submitting them. They need 24,712 valid voter signatures, and organizers say they have already independently verified they have 27,000 valid signatures. DC officials will rule officially in 30 days.

Montana -- Marijuana Legalization.New Approach Montana, the group behind the I-190 marijuana legalization initiative and the C-118 constitutional amendment to set the legal age for marijuana at 21, turned in more than 52,000 raw signatures for the initiative (it needs 25,000 valid voter signatures) and 80,000 signatures for the amendment (it needs 50,000 valid voter signatures) on June 19. Now it's nail-biting time as organizers wait for the state to see if they came up with enough good ones.

Nebraska -- Medical Marijuana. Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana, the group behind the state's proposed medical marijuana initiative, handed in some 182,000 raw signatures on July 2. They need at least 121,669 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November ballot. The campaign must also meet a requirement that at least 5% of voters in at least 38 counties sign up.

STILL GATHERING SIGNATURES:

Idaho -- Medical Marijuana. The Idaho Cannabis Coalition had given up the ghost in the face of the coronavirus back in March, but its medical marijuana initiative has received an unexpected boost and could still make the ballot after federal court decisions around electronic signature-gathering for an unrelated initiative opened the door for a potential revival. Now, the group is asking the state to allow them to collect signatures electronically. They would still need some 55,057 valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Come November, medical marijuana and marijuana legalization could continue to expand across the country, while we could also break new ground on drug decriminalization and psychedelics. Let's get out and vote. As if you needed to be told that this year.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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