Red State Voters Widely Reject Marijuana Legalization In Midterms

(Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Dylan Housman Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent
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Voters took to the polls in Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota and South Dakota Tuesday night to decide whether or not to legalize marijuana in their states.

Arkansas and Missouri residents had the opportunity to amend their constitutions to allow for the use of and possession of marijuana by individuals aged 21 and older, while the other three states could change state law to legalize recreational marijuana for adults of the same age. Had each of the new laws is implemented, recreational marijuana would have become legal in nearly half the states in the union, with the total reaching 23 states and Washington D.C.

However, voters Arkansas and the Dakotas rejected the pro-cannabis ballot measures by largely narrow margins. The “yes” vote in Maryland won by more than 30 points, and squeaked by in Missouri after a late-night surge, but the pro-marijuana sides in the other three states currently trail by five to fifteen points.

Arkansas and North Dakota’s new regulations would have only permitted up to one ounce of marijuana to be legally used and possessed. North Dakotans would also have been permitted to own up to three marijuana plants for themselves. The Arkansas and Missouri referendums included proposed tax rates of ten and six percent on marijuana sales, respectively.

Missouri’s referendum was unique in permitting individuals who have been convicted of a marijuana-related crime to petition for parole or release from prison as well as having their records expunged. President Joe Biden recently pardoned all federal convictions for simple marijuana possession, a move activists said didn’t go far enough. (RELATED: ‘Disappointed’: Immigration Orgs Decry Biden’s Marijuana Pardon For ‘Excluding’ Illegal Migrants)

Most of the states with legalized recreational marijuana before Tuesday were liberal-leaning politically, but four of the five that voted Tuesday were won by former President Donald Trump in 2020, marking an opportunity for pro-legalization activists to make inroads in more red states. The vote tally was considerably closer in the four Trump-voting states than it was in Maryland, where the pro-cannabis referendum sailed to a victory of more than 30 points.

In 2022, the number of Americans who smoke marijuana surpassed the number who smoke cigarettes for the first time ever.