Marijuana on the Ballot: These States May Legalize Recreational Marijuana

As early voting starts in many states across the country ahead of the Nov. 3 election, people on both sides of the political aisle are expecting a large turnout of their base supporters. Cannabis advocates in five states hope for the same.

Five states have marijuana on the ballot for either recreational or medical use. Recreational use, sometimes referred to as adult-use, already is legal in Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. Medical marijuana is approved for use in 33 states. The District of Columbia also allows both recreational and medical use.

This November, we will find out what other states might join those lists.

States Where Voters May Legalize Marijuana

Of the five states with marijuana on the ballot, four are considering only recreational use. South Dakota will consider both adult use and medical use. Here’s a rundown on where things stand in all the states as the election draws near.


Voters in Arizona will get a chance to legalize recreational marijuana for the second time. In 2016, a similar ballot initiative failed by a narrow margin, The group driving the effort, called Smart and Safe Arizona, got 420,000 signatures to put the issue on the ballot, far more than needed. If approved, the measure would allow existing medical marijuana establishments first consideration for selling recreational marijuana, should they choose to apply to do so.


Montana has a conservative reputation, but advocates were able to get two proposals on the ballot. The first legalizes recreational marijuana and sets up a system to regulate and tax it. The second addresses the legalities around who can buy cannabis (adults over the age of 21).

New Jersey

After failing to vote on making marijuana legal in 2019 – something legislators later accomplished in Illinois – lawmakers in New Jersey decided to put the issue before the people. They approved a ballot initiative called the New Jersey Marijuana Legalization Amendment that amends the state constitution, allowing for sale of recreational marijuana to those 21 and older. The new law would take Jan. 1, 2021, making New Jersey the third East Coast state to approve adult use sales.

South Dakota

South Dakota voters will consider making a huge change, approving both medical and adult-use sales in separate ballot proposals. It’s of special interest because residents of South Dakota currently face some of the toughest marijuana laws in the country – a year in jail and a $2,000 fine for possession.


Mississippi voters face two competing marijuana on the ballot issues, both of which make medical marijuana legal in the state. Initiative 65 makes medical marijuana legal. Initiative 65A, passed after the first amendment was approved, would place a cap on the number of marijuana licenses the state would allow and give the state more control over marijuana operations.

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