Here’s how five states voted on the legalization of recreational marijuana

Marijuana activists hold up a 51-foot inflatable joint during a rally at the U.S. Capitol to call on Congress pass cannabis reform legislation on Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019.
Caroline Brehman | Cq-roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images

Voters in two states approved the legalization of recreational marijuana in Tuesday’s elections, joining the growing list of states where the cannabis market is regulated for adult use.

Maryland and Missouri join 19 other states and the District of Columbia in legalizing recreational marijuana, while legalization proposals failed to pass in Arkansas, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Here’s a look at the five measures.


Following the passage of Maryland’s Question 4, adults in the state will be allowed to possess up to 1.5 ounces, or two marijuana plants, beginning July 1, 2023. 

The amendment also allows for the expungement of records for people arrested for marijuana possession, and for people serving time for simple possession to have their sentences reconsidered. It would also establish a cannabis business assistance fund for small businesses, as well as minority- and women-owned businesses, entering the cannabis industry.

Now, the state’s lawmakers will decide on licensing and taxation.

“Nothing has been set in stone regarding taxation or how those tax dollars will be distributed, which makes the upcoming legislative session extremely important,” said Kevin Ford, executive director of Uplift Action Fund, which advocates for equity in Maryland’s marijuana industry.

“Now, the real work begins to ensure that the rollout of Maryland’s adult-use market provides equal opportunity and equitable resources,” he said.


Missouri voters approved the state’s Amendment 3, which removes existing prohibitions on marijuana and allows adults to purchase and possess up to three ounces and grow up to six flowering plants at home.

A 6% sales tax will go toward facilitating automatic expungements for certain nonviolent marijuana offenses, veterans’ health care, substance misuse treatment and the state’s public defender system.

It also adds at least 144 new small business licensees to the existing businesses licensed for medical marijuana, according to Legal Missouri 2022, the advocacy group that sponsored the measure. New license holders will be selected by lottery.

“Missouri is poised to become a tent-pole for the industry in the Midwest, and we believe Missouri will be a $800 million to $1 billion market,” said John Mueller, CEO of Greenlight, a cannabis company.


Voters in Arkansas failed to pass Issue 4, which would have allowed for the purchase of up to an ounce of marijuana from licensed retailers.

The measure would have implemented a 10% sales tax, with the funds going toward law enforcement, operations at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and drug court programs authorized by the Arkansas Drug Court Act, according to the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.

The measure did not have provisions to expunge criminal records for marijuana convictions or for growing plants at home.

North Dakota

North Dakota’s Measure 2, which voter rejected, would’ve allowed for the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana.

It also would have granted permits to 18 retailers and seven cultivation facilities, imposed a 5% excise tax, and allow individuals three cannabis plants for at-home growing.

It failed to pass, with 55% of North Dakotans voting against it and 70% of votes counted.

Marijuana legalization also failed to pass in the state when it appeared on ballots in 2018, losing by a margin of 41% to 59%.

South Dakota

Voters in South Dakota rejected Measure 27, which would have legalized possession of up to one ounce of marijuana.

Individuals would be able to own up to three plants at home, as long as they live in a jurisdiction where there is not a licensed marijuana retail store. The measure did not include the creation of a regulated market.

It’s the second failure for legalization activists in the state. In 2020, voters approved a constitutional amendment to legalize cannabis, but the state Supreme Court nullified the results on technical grounds, a move championed by Republican Gov. Kristi Noem.

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