Ten years ago, Washington and Colorado became the first states to legalize cannabis for adult use when voters approved ballot measures in 2012. Since then, a total of 19 states and the District of Columbia have legalized adult-use cannabis. Now, another five states are poised to change cannabis policy in the midterm elections, potentially making adult-use cannabis legal for more than half of the nation.
According to an April 2021 Pew Research Center survey, 91 percent of US adults favor some form of cannabis legalization. Forty-three percent of US adults currently live in a jurisdiction that has legalized cannabis for adults over 21; sales of adult-use and medical cannabis products hit $25 billion in 2021 and, by one Wall Street estimate, could reach $100 billion by 2030. And last month, President Joe Biden announced that he’s taking steps to overhaul America’s federal cannabis laws, starting by pardoning everyone convicted of simple cannabis possession at the federal level.
Notably, four states with legal cannabis on the ballot are traditionally conservative: Arkansas, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota voters will all consider measures legalizing cannabis, while Maryland voters are widely expected to approve legalization.
“Four of the five states voting have two Republican senators and either completely or majority Republican congressional delegations in the house,” says BOWL PAC founder Justin Strekal, a longtime cannabis lobbyist in Washington, DC, and the former political director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). “Voters deciding on adult use could significantly change the calculus for their federal representatives as to how to approach cannabis at the national level.”
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