N Dakota, Arkansas reject legal marijuana, Maryland approves – The Denver Post | Media Pyro

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By ANDREW DeMILLO (Associated Press)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) – Voters approved recreational marijuana in Maryland, rejecting it in Arkansas and North Dakota in polls seen as a test of legal support in the nation’s most conservative parts of the country.

When Maryland voted to ratify the law, it became the 20th state to take such action. The measures are on the ballot in Missouri and South Dakota.

“By voting for constitutional reform, Marylanders have rejected past prejudices and chosen to change their laws to protect civil liberties and promote racial justice,” said Erik Altieri. , executive director of NORML, one of the nation’s oldest legal advocacy groups. in a story.

The state’s election on Sunday follows President Joe Biden’s efforts to decriminalize marijuana. Biden announced last month that he was pardoning thousands of Americans convicted of possessing marijuana under federal law.

Marijuana campaigners said Biden’s announcement would boost their efforts.

Before the election, recreational drugs are legalized in 19 states, and polls have shown opposition to the relaxation of the law. All states with recreational marijuana on the ballot, except for Maryland, voted for Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election.

About 6 in 10 voters support legalizing the recreational use of marijuana nationwide, according to VoteCast, a major survey of more than 90,000 voters nationwide. nationally hosted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago.

All five states now have legal prescription drug programs. That includes Arkansas, which in 2016 became the first state in the Bible Belt to legalize medical marijuana. State pharmacies opened in 2019, and more than 91,000 patients have cards to legally purchase medical procedures.

The legislative campaign raised $23 million in five states, with the most in Arkansas and Missouri. More than 85% of donations in these two states come from donors affiliated with companies that hold pharmaceutical licenses, according to an Associated Press analysis of financial reports on the new project.

In Arkansas, supporters ran ad campaigns touting the thousands of jobs they said the measure would create. Activists ran through dangerous areas, warning voters to “save Arkansas from big marijuana.”

“The marijuana industry has spent millions of dollars trying to write itself into the Arkansas Constitution,” said Jerry Cox, executive director of the Family Council Action Committee, one of the groups protesting. in measure. “And they know Arkansans don’t support that kind of politics.”

The plan has drawn criticism from traditional law advocates and some pharmacy advocates, who have said Arkansas’s proposal has too many limits and would benefit some pharmacy departments. Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a former head of the state’s Drug Enforcement Administration, also opposed the measure.

David Owen, who led North Dakota’s enforcement effort, said he wasn’t sure anything else would be done after the proposal was rejected.

“Tonight wasn’t what we wanted, but people have said it, we have to prepare for what’s next,” Owen said.

North Dakota’s proposal allows people 21 and older to use marijuana at home and to possess and cultivate a quantity of marijuana. Policies are also in place to regulate retail stores, growers and other types of marijuana businesses.

“It’s clear that North Dakota families don’t want marijuana across the state,” said Luke Niforatos, vice president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a Virginia-based political organization to legalize marijuana. marijuana, helped fight the measure in North Dakota.

Missouri’s proposal would legalize the recreational drug for adults 21 and older and eliminate records of previous arrests and convictions for non-violent marijuana offenses, except for sale to minors, driving under the influence or under the influence. Maryland’s proposal would change criminal laws and create automatic dismissals of marijuana possession charges.

South Dakotans, including many Republicans, voted to legalize the possession of marijuana in 2020, but that law was struck down by the state Supreme Court because it combined the demand with medical marijuana and hemp. This year, the entertainment pot will be in front of the voters.

In Colorado, where recreational drugs have been legal for nearly a decade, voters on Tuesday approved a proposal that would allow the use of certain psychoactive substances. If approved, Colorado would become the second state to do so.

Melody Finley, a Republican in Little Rock, Arkansas, said she voted for the federal affirmative action law because she thinks it could help some people in some situations.

“If you can buy alcohol, you can buy it,” said Finley, 47, a dance instructor.

But Rick Huffman, a voter in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, voted against that state’s legalization proposal, two years after supporting recreational marijuana in South Dakota’s 2020 election. .

“I have a child who is a teenager now,” she said. “So I think it will happen, but maybe I’ll wait until my kids are older.”

Jeff Borgrud, 68, a Democrat from Fargo, North Dakota, said he voted against that state’s recreational drug proposal.

“I don’t see any benefit to using marijuana,” said Borgrud, a retired Navy veteran. “Maybe it’s a medical issue sometimes but it’s rare.”

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Associated Press writers Stephen Groves in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, James MacPherson in Bismarck, North Dakota, and Dave Kolpack in Fargo, North Dakota, contributed to this report.

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Follow the AP’s coverage of the 2022 midterm elections at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections. Learn more about the issues and issues playing out in the midterms at https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-elections.

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