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Six States Where the Voters Could Decide on Marijuana Policy in 2024 [FEATURE]

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #1209)

A half-dozen states could see marijuana legalization or medical marijuana initiatives on the ballot this year.

A decade after Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize marijuana, legalization has now spread to 24 states and the District of Columbia. Medical marijuana, where California led the way in 1996, is now available in all but 13 states.

This year, Ohio became the latest state to end pot prohibition, but hopes that Hawaii would join it wilted this month, and legislative legalization efforts in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania have yet to bear fruit.

Likewise, legislative efforts to achieve the legalization of medical marijuana in those recalcitrant states yet to embrace it have yet to bear fruit this year. North Carolina may be the best bet this year, but it hasn't happened yet.

That means any further progress on state-level legalization and medical marijuana campaigns will most likely be coming directly from voters in states with the initiative and referendum process. There are three states where voters could say "legalize it" this year -- Florida, North Dakota, and South Dakota -- and two where campaigns to legalize medical marijuana are aiming at the November ballot -- Idaho and Nebraska -- and then there is Arkansas, of which see more below.

Here is what we're looking at:

Marijuana Legalization Initiatives


The Adult Personal Use of Marijuana constitutional amendment has passed all hurdles, from signature-gathering to a state Supreme Court review, and will be on the November ballot.

The amendment would allow people 21 and over older "to possess, purchase, or use marijuana products and marijuana accessories for non-medical personal consumption by smoking, ingestion, or otherwise," and it would permit medical marijuana treatment centers and other state licensed entities "to acquire, cultivate, process, manufacture, sell, and distribute such products and accessories."

It sets a personal possession limit of three ounces and five grams of concentrates but has no provision for home cultivation or expungement.

It is sponsored by Smart and Safe Florida and bankrolled to the tune of $40 million by medical marijuana operator Trulieve, which stands to benefit immensely from being able to turn its existing "Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers" into adult-use cash cows with legalization. The legislature would have the option of opening up retail sales to other licensees later.

Under Florida state law, the amendment will need to pass with 60 percent of the vote to become law. That could be tough to do. Of two recent polls, one had it with only 47 percent support (although 18 percent were undecided) and the other had it with 56 percent, a majority but not a big enough majority to win.

North Dakota

Maybe the third time will be the charm. State voters defeated previous marijuana legalization initiatives in 2018 and 2022, but this year, a political committee called New Economic Frontier has produced its own marijuana legalization initiative.

It has been submitted to Secretary of State Michael Howe (R), who should draft a petition title clearing the way for signature-gathering any day now. Once it is approved for signature-gathering, campaigners will have until July 8 to come up with 16,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November ballot.

The proposed initiative would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana and four grams of concentrates by people 21 and over. It would also allow for the home cultivation of up to three plants, with a limit of six plants per household.

It would also mandate that the state establish a system of regulated marijuana commerce by October 1, 2025, but that commerce would be limited to seven growers and 18 dispensaries. To avoid excessive concentration, people or businesses may not operate more than one grow, four dispensaries, or one dispensary within a 20-mile radius of another.

There is no recent polling on marijuana legalization in the state. But if the initiative qualifies for the ballot, it will have to do at least five points better than its failed 2022 predecessor did.

South Dakota

The third time could be the charm in South Dakota, too. Voters approved marijuana legalization in 2020, only to see it overturned by the state Supreme Court at the behest of Gov. Kristi Noem (R), then narrowly rejected a second effort amidst lower turnout in the off-year election of 2022.

Now, thanks to South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, voters could have a third shot at getting it right. Their marijuana legalization initiative has been approved for signature-gathering and a petition drive is currently underway. Campaigners need to come up with 17,509 valid voter signatures by May 7 to qualify for the November ballot.

The initiative would legalize the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana or 16 grams of hash or cannabis extracts. It also allows for the home cultivation of up to six plants. It does not establish a system of regulated legal marijuana commerce. That would presumably be up to the state legislature.

Whether South Dakotans will embrace limited legalization is an open question. A South Dakota State University poll this month had support at 49 percent, with 41 opposed and 10 percent undecided. The rule of thumb for initiative campaigns is that they want to have a 10-point lead going into the final weeks. This initiative isn't quite there yet, but it is within striking distance.

Medical Marijuana


The state already has a voter-approved medical marijuana program, but the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment of 2024 would relax regulations, such as allowing medical professionals other than doctors to make recommendations and allowing patients to grow their own medicine. It would also allow the use of medical marijuana for any debilitating medical conditions instead of limiting it to the existing list of qualifying conditions.

But the amendment also intriguingly creates a trigger law that would allow medical marijuana dispensaries to sell recreational marijuana if it becomes federally legal.

The committees behind the measure, Arkansans for Patient Access and the Arkansas Cannabis Industry Association, are in the midst of signature-gathering and have until July 5 to come up with 72,563 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November ballot.

State voters defeated a legalization initiative in 2022. There is no polling on this initiative yet.


Among the reddest of red states, Idaho has some of the strictest marijuana laws on the books, but the campaign committee Kind Idaho is working hard to change that. It is currently collecting signatures for its Idaho Medical Marijuana Initiative.

Under that measure, people who have "chronic diseases or conditions or who are terminally ill" and their caregivers would be allowed to possess up to four ounces of marijuana and grow up to six plants. A number of conditions are specified in the text, and the text contains a provision allowing the state to include more conditions.

The initiative also envisions a system of regulated medical marijuana producers and dispensaries.

To qualify for the November ballot, campaigners must come up with 62,896 valid voter signatures by May 1. There are no recent polls on the issue, but a 2022 poll had support for medical marijuana at 68 percent in the state.


Long-thwarted Cornhuskers are set to try again this year to get medical marijuana approved by the voters since it has gotten nowhere for years in the conservative state legislature. The ballot committee Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana is leading a two-pronged initiative campaign designed to achieve medical marijuana legalization while avoiding legal hurdles that successfully blocked earlier efforts.

The first measure, the Patient Protection Act initiative would simply protect those "with serious health conditions and their caregivers from arrest for the use of medical cannabis as recommended by a health care provider. The second measure, the Medical Cannabis Regulation Act initiative, would deal with regulating commercial medical marijuana producers, dispensaries, and related businesses.

Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana has until July 3 to come up with 87,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November ballot. As of last month, the campaign was halfway there.

If campaigners can get the initiatives on the ballot, they are likely to pass. Recent polling had support for legalizing medical marijuana at 70 percent.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

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