Five States to Vote on Legal Cannabis: Ballots & Boundaries

Maybe call it the low-hanging dope principle: It has become tougher for marijuana legalization backers to get their proposals in front of voters, either because the states where cannabis is still illegal have more qualification requirements, unsympathetic public officials, or both.

As NORML’s state policy manager Jax James put it: “We’re getting into the more meaty part of the work.”

And meaty can mean expensive.

A recreational legalization measure made it onto the November ballot in Missouri (Amendment 3) as campaigners raised over $3.7 million, according to the campaign finance tracking website

Adjusted for inflation, the per-signature cost worked out to being almost seven times higher than the $2.46 per name spent in Colorado in 2012, and three times what California advocates spent to gather weed legalization signatures in 2016, according to Ballotpedia.

The other cannabis questions on this year’s ballot:

  • Arkansas’s (Issue 4) seeks to let 21-year-olds buy marijuana and allow the state to collect a 10% tax on it. That state’s Supreme Court ordered it to go before voters after the board of election commissioners tried to keep it off.
  • The North Dakota initiative lets adults 21 and older own an ounce of the drug or three plants.
  • South Dakotans will again vote on legalizing cannabis and related paraphernalia this fall after the successful 2020 initiative was thrown out in court (Initiated Measure 27).
  • Marylanders will vote on a proposed constitutional amendment (Question 4) to legalize marijuana and direct the Legislature to pass further legislation to create a regulated market.

Meanwhile, bureaucracy worked against initiative proponents in two states.

The campaign for Oklahoma’s legalization measure (State Question 820) missed an Aug. 26 ballot-preparation deadline due to an unusually slow signature count, making it ineligible for the 2022 ballot, the state Supreme Court ruled last week.

And backers of Nebraska’s medical marijuana proposal say they missed a 10-day window to challenge the initiative’s signature count because it took too long. —Tiffany Stecker

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Razor’s Edge Races

The latest in our series spotlighting close congressional contests after redistricting changes.
Today: California’s 22nd District
Where Is It? Central Valley. The district includes most of Kern and Kings Counties and part of Tulare County.
Who Drew It? California’s independent redistricting commission.
2020 Presidential Vote: Joe Biden 55%, Donald Trump 42%
Demographics: 74% Hispanic, 16% White, 4% Black, 4% Asian
Cook Political Report Rating: Toss-Up
Nominees: Rep. David Valadao (R), Rudy Salas (D)

Source: California Citizens Redistricting Commission

What to Watch: Re-electing Valadao is a top priority of House GOP brass led by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who’s from a neighboring district. They breathed a sigh of relief when Valadao narrowly advanced in the June primary despite voting to impeach Donald Trump over Jan. 6, 2021; Valadao and Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) are the only Republicans on the Nov. 8 general election ballot who voted to impeach the ex-president. Valadao also bucked most Republicans in voting for Democratic immigration measures like the Dream Act. After redistricting, about 45% of the people in the 22nd District aren’t Valadao’s current constituents. The changes increased Biden’s margin of victory in the district to 12.9 percentage points from 10.9 points in 2020. Salas is a five-term California assemblyman and former Bakersfield city councilman who’s cultivated an image as a pro-business Democrat.
Next edition: Ohio’s 1st Congressional District

Caught Our Eye

  • Supreme Court Preview: A Voting Rights Act dispute could lead to fewer districts where racial minorities stand a strong chance of winning. (Bloomberg News/Greg Stohr)
  • After tabulator breaches, Michigan working to ensure vote system security (Bridge Michigan)
  • Voters divided amid intense fight for control of Congress (Washington Post)


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To contact the reporters on this story: Tiffany Stecker in Sacramento, Calif. at; Greg Giroux in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Katherine Rizzo at