Legalizing Marijuana: Legal Cannabis for Arizona, New Jersey, South Dakota and Montana
While America was waiting for the results of the 2020 election, individuals might have missed the legalization of marijuana in four states: Arizona, New Jersey, South Dakota and Montana. All four states passed legislation last Tuesday to permit the possession of marijuana by adults, making a total of fifteen states that allow for legal recreational and medical cannabis. Cannabis enthusiasts were also able to celebrate a significant win in Mississippi which voted to allow legal medical cannabis for their citizens. With these legalized states of Arizona, New Jersey, South Dakota and Montana, more cannabis consumers are excited about the possible future of legal cannabis for more states in the coming years.
New Jersey’s Path to Legalization
Before the 2020 election ballot decision, New Jersey was one of the 33 states in the nation that allowed for medical marijuana. For over two years, New Jersey lawmakers couldn’t find enough support to pass a bill for the full legalization of marijuana. With the COVID pandemic, all further legislation for legalization was put on hold and expected to be re-evaluated until next year. Although with the growing rise of unemployment, more New Jersey state representatives have looked into the growing cannabis business to help improve the state’s economy. A state legislature research team estimated that taxes on the sales of recreational cannabis use could possibly generate a $126 million a year market in New Jersey. Not only that but since the election, the state has also received over 200 applicants for dispensary licenses to grow marijuana in the state.
Cannabis supporters of legalization also acknowledged that race played a huge factor in what persuaded city lawmakers to amend their drug laws. State Senator Nicholas Scutari, a former prosecutor who championed marijuana legalization, comments that in New Jersey African American residents are more than three times likely as Caucasian residents to be charged with marijuana possession. This disparity, Senator Scutari believes “is a colossal waste of state resources and a waste of people’s lives.”
Sponsored by Senator Scutari and other pro-cannabis lawmakers, New Jersey’s Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act will allow for adults to be able to purchase and possess an ounce of marijuana or five ounces of other THC infused products. The law also allows for on-site consumption in cannabis retail stores as long as local law enforcement approves of marijuana consumption. Delivery services are also allowed to ship products in the state regardless of a possible local ban. Although cannabis consumers are still limited in being able to smoke or consume marijuana in public or in a property outside their homes.
Arizona’s Smart and Safe Act for Cannabis
In 2016, an initiation to legalize cannabis in Arizona with Proposition 205 was rejected by 51%, but local cannabis activists and lawmakers were eager to push future legislation for legalization. With 2020’s Proposition 207, also known as Arizona’s Smart and Safe Act, consumers are legally able to possess an ounce of marijuana or five ounces of other marijuana extract products. The new Arizona cannabis law also allows consumers to home-grow their own marijuana with 6 or less plants at an individual’s primary residents if certified by legislators. More importantly, the Smart and Safe Act also allows for individuals who were originally convicted of possessing less than an ounce of marijuana or growing six or fewer cannabis plants can petition to expunge their record by next year.
Montana Marijuana Initiative 190
Montana’s Initiative 190 is similar to Arizona’s Smart and Safe Act, both legalizing the sale and home cultivation of marijuana. Although some of the major differences are that Montana won’t be taking applications for cannabis dispensaries until the year 2022. Previously Montana legalized the use of medical marijuana in 2004, but since then the state has made changes to the sale and distribution of cannabis for medical purposes.
Montana’s medical marijuana program has gone through many legal changes since Senate Bill 423 was passed in 2011. The bill previously banned the advertisement of marijuana, limited dispensaries sale to customers and required a state review of doctors who prescribed marijuana to more than 25 patients a year. It wasn’t until 2016 when the bill was repealed to allow more doctors to prescribe marijuana to patients with severe chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Pepper Peterson, a spokesperson for the New Approach Montana campaign that helped gather support for Montana’s Initiative 190, comments that their “research always shown that the majority of citizens supported the legalization of marijuana and also saw the opportunity for the state to create more jobs and revenue for their communities.” Peterson also states that this new initiative gives “law enforcement more resources to focus on real crimes” instead of worrying about the previous medical marijuana regulations that confused both consumers and law enforcement.
South Dakota’s Amendment A and Measure 26
South Dakota is one of the first conservative states that previously prohibited all marijuana consumption to pass two separate bills to legalize the use of recreational and medical cannabis. Amendment A will allow individuals 21 and older to possess and distribute one ounce of marijuana in the state. The amendment also allows individuals to grow up to three plants of marijuana for personal use. South Dakota’s Measure 26 was passed to help create a legal medical marijuana program that allows patients with debilitating conditions to purchase and possess up to 3 ounces of cannabis from a licensed dispensary.
The executive director of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Law’s, Erik Altieri, commented that these votes are an “indication of the near-universal popularity of marijuana legalization across all regions in North America.” Altieri states that the majority of South Dakotans, like the majority of Americans, believe that physicians, not doctors, should be able to decide if medical cannabis is a proper choice of medical treatment.” More importantly, Erik Altieri comments that more Americans don’t believe that people of color should be criminalized and stigmatized for possessing small amounts of marijuana.
With these pro-cannabis laws, Montana, Arizona, New Jersey and South Dakota could potentially help grow their economies, provide possible relief to millions of citizens with chronic pain and other debilitating conditions, and more with legalizing marijuana. As the country continues to see more pro-cannabis initiatives pass in previously conservative states, more states like Texas have taken steps to pre-file a bill in congress to potentially legalize marijuana in 2021. Go Green Botanicals always recommends individuals to discuss with their doctors before trying marijuana and other forms of cannabis. The future for legal cannabis nationwide is becoming more of a possibility by vigilant individuals who are voting to wash away the stigma of marijuana use and possession. Stay up to date with Go Green Botanicals.