How many narratives can one election sustain?
In some ways, that’s been the central question of the 2020 vote. Trying to keep track of every notable thread — and to be sure, there are no shortage of them — can feel like an exercise in futility. From razor-thin margins of victory to #coups, things are very, very intense and complex right now.
While signs indicate a resolution in the presidential race may soon arrive, there’s already one clear winner in this election. As of Wednesday evening, cannabis legalization measures on five state ballots had all successfully passed.
“Of the five states that voted on cannabis,” reported Tech Crunch, “four states approved legal recreational marijuana for adults age 21 and older. Mississippi approved medical use, while South Dakota approved both recreational and medical use at one time.”
In addition to wins in Mississippi and South Dakota, recreational cannabis was also approved by voters in New Jersey, Montana, and Arizona. Notably, Montana and South Dakota’s measures call for them to wait until at least 2022 to implement their respective recreational markets. In South Dakota’s case, the move is easier to digest as on Tuesday, the state became the first in the nation to simultaneously vote to approve both medicinal and recreational cannabis at once.
By contrast, recreational markets in New Jersey and Arizona are in position to debut next year. That’s the same time frame Mississippi’s medical market will target as well.
On Tuesday, election victories for drug policy reform advocates weren’t even limited to cannabis wins.
In Oregon, a historic vote saw the state become the first in the nation to legalize the regulated medical use of psilocybin — the active ingredient in so-called “magic” mushrooms. Now comes a two-year development period, after which medical use will ostensibly begin.
The win for psilocybin was the first of a one-two punch that also saw the success of a measure which, as TechCrunch summarized, “[will] decriminalize small amounts of street drugs, making offenses similar to traffic violations.”
Post-election analysis from the Washington Post detailed more about what the wide-reaching drug decrim bill will do.
“Oregon’s measure, which passed with almost 60 percent support, goes further than other states that have increasingly eased restrictions on drug use. Measure 110 decriminalizes hard drugs often associated with crippling addiction and social decay.”
“In favoring rehabilitation over incarceration,” the Post added, “proponents say, the measure prevents recovering drug users from being stigmatized by employers, lenders and landlords for years — and gives them the ability to pull themselves out of a cycle of drug-related criminality.”
NORML’s Executive Director Erik Altiieri also shared some analysis, speaking specifically about the victories made by state cannabis measures as added fuel for the argument in favor of federal legalization.
“These results once again illustrate that support for legalization extends across geographic and demographic lines,” Altiieri said. “The success of these initiatives proves definitively that marijuana legalization is not exclusively a ‘blue’ state issue, but an issue that is supported by a majority of all Americans — regardless of party politics.”
It is also perhaps worth noting that weed being on the ballot seems to bode well for Democratic candidates. The best example may ultimately be Arizona, though it’s still too soon for any analysis there.
Partisanship aside, Altiieri again echoed that the will of the people can only be ignored so long.
“The public has spoken loudly and clearly. They favor ending the failed policies of marijuana prohibition and replacing it with a policy of legalization, regulation, taxation, and public education. Elected officials — at both the state and federal level — ought to be listening.”
His point is perhaps most succinctly made by the fact that, when one factors in this latest crop of states to legalize, one in three Americans will be soon able to buy weed legally.
It was only a decade ago that recreational cannabis was illegal across the country. Now, led by California’s initial medical vote in 1996 and subsequent recreational votes in Colorado and Washington in 2012, the dream of cannabis as a normalized plant for the full country grows ever closer.