Ask Our Experts: State Legalization Initiatives

 

Q: How many states are voting about legalization this election cycle, and what are the likelihoods for passage?

 

By Josh Adams, Senior Industry Analyst, New Frontier Data

A: With the 2020 U.S. elections nearly a week away, and early voting already underway nationwide, voter attitudes and positions have begun to solidify. The same is true in five states with cannabis-legalization measures on their ballots.

Voters in each Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota are considering cannabis initiatives. Despite differences in regional politics and demographics, much of the polling in those states has reflected general support for passing them.

With adult-use legalization on their ballots, Arizona and New Jersey represent the largest of the potential new markets, and show fairly strong support: Arizona’s Proposition 207 is polling with 56% favorability, while New Jersey’s Public Question 1 is standing at 66%. Beyond support for their legalization initiatives, both states are trending Democratic for the U.S. presidential election. By the reckoning of RealClear Politics, Democratic candidate Joe Biden was outpolling President Trump in Arizona by an average of 2.8 percentage points, while Biden also led in New Jersey by 17.4 points. Strong showings by the Democrats in those states would expectedly mirror solid turnouts in favor of the cannabis initiatives.

Conversely, Mississippi ranks as perhaps the most conservative state among the list. Both Mississippi Initiative 65 and Alternative 65A would legalize cannabis for restricted medical use. Initiative 65 would allow it for specified, qualifying conditions, while Alternative 65A would allow it only for palliative care of a terminal illness. A surveyed strong majority (81%) has expressed support for medical cannabis, though uncertainty remains as to how that might translate through the voting process given the separate choices on the same ballot.

Another close call made be made about Montana I-190 to allow for adult use. Polls have seen public support at 49%, versus opposition skewing at 39%. As a traditionally conservative state given to libertarian leanings, predictions there lack certainty regarding the measure’s outcome. Last week, a Trump-appointed federal prosecutor, U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme issued a public warning about the proposal, associating cannabis with increased threats to public safety and the welfare of children.

The questions facing South Dakota voters are unique, as the state has both adult-use and medical cannabis measures on its ballots. Both have been garnering strong support: Constitutional Amendment A (to legalize both adult-use and medical cannabis) showed 60% support, while Initiated Measure 26 (a state-designed, medical-use initiative), has seen backing of 70%. Though President Trump is heavily favored to win in South Dakota, and Governor Kristi Noem is opposed to either measure, voters nevertheless appear to favor legalization.

New Frontier Data is closely tracking the respective state ballot measures, with updated projections for economic impacts and market opportunities. For more information about these state initiatives, consult the state fact sheet or visit www.newfrontierdata.com/2020 for full election coverage.

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