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2020 Primary Election Cycle Passed Drug-Related Ballot Proposals

In the most recent presidential election cycle many states took the opportunity to introduce new statute and regulatory proposals on their ballot. Seven States and Washington, DC have introduced proposals related to the regulation and legalization of various drugs with the majority of attention given to Marijuana. Many states have successfully passed regulations for the decriminalization of a variety of controlled substances. This decriminalization will result in a shift in how policing is facilitated for those substances but the substances are still illegal to some degree in the state. Below is a summary of each state's passed drug related ballot proposal.


Proposition 207 legalized the possession and use of marijuana for adults (age 21 years or older) in Arizona. Individuals were permitted to grow no more than six marijuana plants in their residences, as long as the plants are within a lockable enclosed area and beyond public view.


This measure was designed to incrementally increase cigarette and tobacco product taxes and create a new tax on nicotine products such as e-cigarettes. In Colorado, cigarettes have been taxed at a statutory rate of 20 cents per pack (one cent per cigarette). Additionally, Amendment 35 of 2004 authorized an additional constitutional tax of 64 cents per pack (3.2 cents per cigarette), for a total state-levied cigarette tax of 84 cents. The ballot measure was designed to incrementally increase the statutory cigarette tax rate to $1.80 per pack by July 2027, thereby increasing the total state-levied cigarette tax to $2.64 per pack. Proposition EE was also designed to set minimum price requirements for cigarettes.

In Colorado, tobacco products (cigars and tobacco designed to be chewed or smoked in a pipe) have been taxed at a statutory rate of 20% of the manufacturer's list price (MLP) and a constitutional rate of 20% of the MLP for a total rate of 40% of the MLP. The measure was designed to incrementally raise the statutory tax rate by 22 percentage points by July 2027 for a new total state-levied tobacco products tax rate of 62% of the MLP.

Prior to Proposition EE, in Colorado, nicotine products such as e-cigarettes were not taxed. The ballot measure creates a tax on nicotine products that would match the tobacco products tax rates. The rate will begin at 30% of the MLP in 2021 and increased gradually to 62% of MLP by July 2027.

Revenues are to be dedicated to health and education programs including the following:

  • Preschool programs cash fund;

  • State education fund;

  • Rural schools cash fund;

  • Housing development grant fund;

  • Tobacco tax cash fund;

  • Tobacco education programs fund;

  • State general fund.


Initiative 190 legalized the possession and use of one ounce or less of marijuana or 8 grams or less of marijuana concentrate by persons over the age of 21 in Montana. It allowed individuals to grow no more than four marijuana plants and four seedlings for personal use in their residence, as long as the plants are within an enclosed area with a lock and beyond public view. Montana residents would be allowed to possess, use, and grow marijuana on January 1, 2021.

Montana CI-118 amended Section 14, Article 2 of the Montana Constitution to allow the legislature or a citizen initiative to establish the legal age of purchasing, consuming, or possessing marijuana, as the legislature did with alcohol. At the time of the election, purchasing, consuming, or possessing marijuana was against state law. The legalization of marijuana for medicinal use was approved by voters in 2004.


Initiative 65 amended the constitution to provide for a medical marijuana program in Mississippi under the direction of the Mississippi Department of Health. Individuals with a debilitating medical condition can seek certification from a Mississippi-licensed physician to obtain medical marijuana under the measure. The measure taxes marijuana sales at a rate not to exceed the state's sales tax rate, which was 7% as of 2020. Medical marijuana patient identification cards can cost up to $50 under the initiative.[

New Jersey

Question 1 added an amendment to the state constitution that legalizes the recreational use of marijuana, also known as cannabis, for persons age 21 and older and legalizes the cultivation, processing, and sale of retail marijuana. The constitutional amendment will take effect on January 1, 2021. New Jersey was the first state in the Mid-Atlantic to legalize marijuana.


Measure 109 created a program for administering psilocybin products, such as psilocybin-producing mushrooms and fungi, to individuals aged 21 years or older. As of 2020, the manufacturing and consumption of psilocybin is illegal under both federal law and state law.

The measure reclassified personal/non-commercial drug possession offenses. Possession of a controlled substance in Schedule I-IV, such as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamines, was reclassified from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class E violation resulting in a $100 fine or a completed health assessment. Individuals who manufacture or distribute illegal drugs are still subject to a criminal penalty. The Oregon Criminal Justice Commission estimated that convictions for possession of a controlled substance would decrease by 3,679 or 90.7%

South Dakota

Amendment A legalized the recreational use of marijuana for individuals 21 years old and older. Under the measure, individuals are allowed to possess or distribute up to one ounce of marijuana. The amendment required the South Dakota State Legislature to pass laws providing for a program for medical marijuana and the sale of hemp by April 1, 2022.

Washington, DC

Initiative 81 was designed to declare that police shall treat the non-commercial cultivation, distribution, possession, and use of entheogenic plants and fungi as among the lowest law enforcement priorities. The ballot initiative defined entheogenic plants and fungi as species of plants and fungi that contain ibogaine, dimethyltryptamine, mescaline, psilocybin, or psilocyn. Examples include psilocybin mushrooms, also known as magic mushrooms or shrooms, peyote, and iboga. The ballot initiative also asked the D.C. Attorney General and U.S. Attorney for D.C. to cease the prosecution of residents who engage with entheogenic plants and fungi.

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