Marijuana legalization is on the ballot in five U.S. states on Nov.3, four of which are for recreational use. The financial crisis cause by the Covid-19 pandemic and potential to bring in more taxes are the motivation for the measures.
In less than 2 weeks, voters will decide on whether to legalize recreational marijuana in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota. Mississippi will also consider a pair of ballot initiatives to legalize medical marijuana.
Despite COVID-19 risks, advocates managed to collect more than 661,000 signatures in four of those states in the 2020 election cycle to put the questions on the ballot, according to rollcall.com. Some began before the pandemic hit, while advocates with later deadlines added protective steps like using individual plastic-wrapped pens.
In recent years, 11 states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana for adults 21 years old or older, while 33 states plus the District have legalized medical marijuana for some patients.
If successful, as is likely in all the states this year except possibly Mississippi, the new legalization efforts could altogether bring in hundreds of millions in tax revenue, which could help blunt the impact of states’ plummeting revenue due to the economic collapse, according to rollcall.com.
Matthew Schweich, deputy director at the Marijuana Policy Project, said many supporters were already swayed by the revenue marijuana taxes bring in. The dire budget conditions of many states could increasingly become a strong argument in favor of legalization.
“Voters are aware of the fiscal pain that’s already here or coming down the road. I believe they’re seeing marijuana revenue as part of the solution,” he said.