Voters Move to Legalize Marijuana in These States

Five states have voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana as part of the 2020 U.S. elections.

A majority of voters in New Jersey, Arizona, South Dakota, Montana and Oregon approved ballot measures on the proposed laws. In Oregon, voters also moved to decriminalize possession of small amounts of hard drugs such as heroin and cocaine.

Public questions or advisory on ballots help the state government ascertain whether to amend parts of the law. In the case of New Jersey, legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes was the first question on the ballot paper.

In some states, advisory questions can be called referendums, ballot measures or straw polls. Normally, these questions are non-binding, though at a state level the legislature will assess public opinion.

In Oregon, measure 110 assessed the public's view on decriminalizing drugs such as cocaine and heroin and expanding access to drug treatment and recovery services—rehabilitation over jail time. Residents of the state voted yes to the measure by 58.8 percent. The option of paying a $100 fine or attended rehabilitation if caught in possession of hard drugs was also proposed.

If approved, it would be the first legislation of its kind to be passed in the U.S., but some are concerned that it will normalize dangerous drugs.

In Arizona, its measure on recreational marijuana will also allow people with past marijuana-related convictions to petition the courts for expungements through restorative justice provisions. It is thought that this will remove the stigma associated with using marijuana.

Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey took to his Twitter page to express his feelings about the vote. He said: "We did it, New Jersey! Public Question #1 to legalize adult-use marijuana passed overwhelmingly thought, a huge step forward for racial and social justice and our economy."

We did it, New Jersey!

Public Question #1 to legalize adult-use marijuana passed overwhelmingly tonight, a huge step forward for racial and social justice and our economy. Thank you to @NJCAN2020 and all the advocates for standing on the right side of history.

— Phil Murphy (@PhilMurphyNJ) November 4, 2020

Other states also saw ballot measures passed as part of the U.S. general election vote. California voted "yes" for Proposition 22, which classifies app-based drivers as independent contractors and not employees. This will affect those working for companies such as Uber and Lyft.

Colorado also saw a proposition on late-term abortions, with 59.1 percent of voters voting "no" to ban abortions after a fetus reaches 22-weeks gestational age. Louisiana also had an amendment (Amendment 1) on abortion—residents voted "yes" to add language to the Louisiana Declaration of Rights to say that "nothing in the state's constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion."

iStock Marijuana
Stock image: Marijuana can be taken recreationally in a further five states in the U.S. iStock