Why So Many Recreational Pot Measures Failed This Year – Mother Jones

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In America, people like weed. About 68 percent of the country supports legalizing recreational marijuana — including more than 80 percent of Democrats and more than 50 percent of Republicans. About half of the country lives in a state where cannabis is legal and in all 50 states, according to a recent estimate, a majority of voters think it should be.

But for the most part during the midterms, cannabis was, well, skunked. Voters in five states considered marijuana-related ballot measures: Maryland and Missouri voted for legalization, but cannabis measures in North Dakota, South Dakota and Arkansas failed. (Colorado, meanwhile, voted by a razor-thin majority to legalize some hallucinogenic drugs, including “magic mushrooms.”) In short, the country did not experience the green wave that many proponents had hoped for.

If marijuana is so popular, why didn’t it do well in the elections? In states where Weed failed, there have been a number of big names — including popular governors — who have been vocal in opposing the initiatives. At the same time, the country could reach a saturation point; With nearly half of the states legalizing adult use of cannabis, the rest of the states are bound to experience ballot box failures. One could also blame the midterm elections: turnout among young voters, who are more pro-Democratic, generally falls in non-presidential elections. (The data for this election is still being analyzed, but recent estimates suggest the trend may be changing as more young people become involved in democracy, particularly in battleground states.)

Other experts said last Tuesday’s mixed results were an indication that voters are becoming more selective about their voting initiatives. “I think the results reflect the reality that a growing number of Americans support legalization reform, but not only that any Legalization or reform efforts,” Cat Packer, director of drug markets and regulatory regulation at the Drug Policy Alliance, an advocacy group, told me, adding, “People are starting to get more critical of what’s actually going on in the content and details of some of them.” included is these packages.”

Here are four likely reasons why weed flopped in 2022:

Since Colorado became the first state to legalize marijuana ten years ago, a total of 21 states have legalized some form of adult-use cannabis, including now Maryland and Missouri. Of these states, many, if not all, are blue-heavy, including those along the Pacific Coast, such as California, Oregon, and Washington, and in the Northeast, including Connecticut, New York, Vermont, and Virginia.

As the marijuana reform movement gets more and more state legalization legislation on the books, says Tom Angell, editor of the cannabis news website marijuana moment, there are fewer and fewer places where electoral initiatives can be successful. “The more success they have, the fewer targets there are.” With the exception of Maryland, Angell says, the states that voted on marijuana policy reform this year were conservative states.

In the early days of legalization, says Douglas Berman, executive director of the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law, marijuana advocates believed voters were so eager to see policy reform that nearly every election took place measure would happen. That is no longer the case. “This now requires much more robust political calculations and analysis than the kind of simplistic ‘everybody wants this, and they’ll vote for it, and we just put them in front of them.'” Partly he says this because modern voting measures are no longer a grassroots-led effort are; Corporate interests have become more involved in recent years and may be less likely to support social justice provisions such as deleting records of people with prior convictions for marijuana possession; or funding equity programs that help marginalized individuals enter the cannabis industry. (More than a dozen states have implemented this type of program.) Tensions between interest groups can lead to fragmented support, he says. “In the long run, what the industry wants and what’s good for business isn’t always what’s good for activists and advocates.”

In Arkansas, for example, the state measure lacked social justice provisions, Packer notes, such as deleting records of people with prior convictions for marijuana possession. And it would have secured a 10 percent tax on cannabis sales, 15 percent of which would support law enforcement. In either case, the lack of focus on social justice may have deterred progressive voters.

Additionally, the Arkansas measure did not include a provision allowing people to grow their own pot. And medicinal stores would have been allowed to sell cannabis at their existing locations. With a limited number of dispensary licenses available, opponents argued that this would give current sellers the first slice of the new generation of cannabis users, says Angell. “There was certainly a feeling among supporters that this was just some form of self-interested money-grabbing of the existing medicinal cannabis industry,” said some of the campaign’s key funders.

In 2020, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) emerged as a vocal opponent of a state initiative to legalize recreational marijuana. Before the election, you published an ad urge voters to reject the measure. When it passed, her administration challenged it in court. And in 2021, the South Dakota Supreme Court struck down the initiative, ruling that it was unconstitutional. That year, Noem said she would respect voters’ decision on the revised measure, called Measure 27, but declined to support it, instead speaking out in favor of medical marijuana efforts. Since 53 percent of voters voted against, measure 27 failed.

In Arkansas, current Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, and incoming Republican Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders decidedly opposed the ballot measure to legalize recreational cannabis. “I don’t think with the drug epidemic that we have in this state, frankly across the country, adding that and having more access to it is doing anything to benefit Arkansas,” Huckabee Sanders said.

Berman told me he was particularly impressed by what he sees as a “much more vocal political establishment” actively challenging the measure in Arkansas. “They were all out there saying, ‘This is important’ and ‘Look, vote against.’ And I think those things are important, especially on the fringes.” “It’s quite a challenge for anyone,” he adds. “But even more so when popular leaders are against it.”

At the same time, she champions the Arkansas chapter of NORML, the National Organization for Marijuana Law Reform, a local marijuana advocacy group that supports an initiative for 2024, Hutchinson and Huckabee Sanders joined in opposing that year’s election measure. In July, the treasurer of the group told a local news station The 2024 voting measure, which would allow for record deletion and home growing, was “the only human-centric option.” Pro-marijuana critics of the 2022 measure also protested how much it would benefit existing medical marijuana businesses and law enforcement, Packer says. Taken together, the measure appears to have managed to deter conservative swing voters and marijuana advocates alike. It failed 56 to 44 percent.

North Dakota’s Measure 2 met opposition from the North Dakota Medical Association, which said easier access to cannabis could lead to an increase in bad health outcomes, such as mental health problems and emergency room visits. Law enforcement groups, including the North Dakota Police Chief’s Association and the North Dakota Sheriff’s and Deputy’s Association, also opposed the measure, arguing that legalizing marijuana would create more crime, not less, since it increases DUIs and is a gateway drug to harder, illegal substances provide. (Research on these claims is mixed, and more study is needed.) It failed, with nearly 55 percent of voters saying “no.”

In general, Packer says, younger, liberal Americans are the most supportive of cannabis legalization. And at the same time, older, conservative Americans are not. And unfortunately for weed proponents, in a streaky year, especially with an unpopular Democratic president, the people most likely to emerge are these, too least likely vote for marijuana in general.

Take South Dakota: Angell notes that the state first voted to legalize in 2020, a year of presidential elections. After the initiative was overturned by the courts, proponents presented voters with a slimmed-down version this year, and it failed. While it’s unclear why that was the case, Angell surmises that the timing of a half was a “significant factor”.

After learning the lessons of 2022, Berman says electoral measures could have better luck next time as more voters turn out for the next presidential election. “I won’t be surprised if some – maybe all – of the states that said ‘no’ in this round make at least a serious effort to do so again in 2024.”