Nov 4, 2020
2020 Election: Four States Legalize Adult-Use Cannabis

Voters in four states have approved measures legalizing adult-use cannabis and voters in two states approved a measure legalizing medical cannabis. After Election Day, recreational cannabis is now legal in 15 states and medical cannabis is legal in 35 states.

Below is a summary of the measures approved on Election Day.


Proposition 207, known as the “Smart and Safe Act,” legalizes cannabis use and cultivation for people 21 and older. Possession of cannabis is limited to up to an ounce. The measure imposes a 16% excise tax on cannabis sales to fund public programs, bans smoking marijuana in public and allows for the expungement of marijuana offenses. The measure was approved with 60% of votes.

New Jersey

New Jersey’s result was the first of all states with cannabis measures to be called. Voters approved Question 1, a constitutional amendment to legalize the possession and use of marijuana for people age 21 and older and legalize the cultivation, processing and sale of retail marijuana. The measure was approved with 67% of votes.


Two measures related to medical cannabis were on the ballot, one being more restrictive than the other regarding which patients would have access to cannabis. Initiative 65, the approved measure, will create a list of qualifying debilitating medical conditions and allow medical marijuana patients to possess up to 2.5 ounces at one time. Cannabis sales would be taxed at 7% under the measure. Final rules and regulations would have to be adopted by the Mississippi Department of Health no later than July 1, 2021.

Alternative 65a, the second measure, would have limited smoking marijuana to terminally ill patients while other marijuana products would be available to patients with serious conditions.


Voters in Montana approved two complementary measures related to cannabis. The first, Initiative 90, makes limited amounts of marijuana legal for adults 21 years of age or older, and regulates, controls, and taxes the commercial production and distribution of marijuana. A 20% excise tax would be established on all marijuana sold and the medical marijuana tax would be reduced to 1%.

Under the Montana Constitution, a person 18 years of age or older is an adult, except that the legislature or the people by initiative may establish the legal age of purchasing, consuming, or possessing alcoholic beverages. Constitutional Initiative 118, approved by voters, amends the Montana Constitution to allow the legislature or the people by initiative to establish the legal age for purchasing, consuming, or possessing marijuana.

South Dakota

Measures related to recreational and medical cannabis were both approved in South Dakota. Constitutional Amendment A makes it legal to regulate and tax cannabis; and to require the Legislature to pass laws regarding hemp as well as laws ensuring access to marijuana for medical use. The state’s medical initiative, Initiated Measure 26, legalizes the medical use of cannabis by qualifying patients, including minors. Cardholders may possess a minimum of three plants and possess 3 ounces of marijuana and additional amounts of marijuana products.

Industry Reactions

The Marijuana Policy Project, a cannabis legalization advocacy group, issued a statement celebrating the approved measures.

“With the passage of these initiatives, one-third of the population now lives in jurisdictions that have legalized cannabis for adult use, and 70% of all states have embraced cannabis for medical use. The federal government is out of step with a clear national trend toward legalization,” said Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. “We can put an end to the social injustices and other harms that result from the criminalization of marijuana. While cannabis legalization is not the cure-all to end the war on drugs, it is a necessary step and would provide an opportunity for many long-oppressed communities to finally have a chance to heal.”

The National Cannabis Industry Association also celebrated the approved measures.

“These state-level victories will mean tens of thousands of fewer arrests and new jobs, much-needed tax revenue, and increased public safety,” said Aaron Smith, co-founder and chief executive officer of the NCIA. “We look forward to building on this progress as we continue to work with Congress to end the conflict between outdated federal laws and the growing number of states with regulated cannabis markets, and help undo the racially and economically disparate harms caused by prohibition. There is still a lot of work to do, but the wind is at our backs.”

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