Voters will decide next month whether recreational marijuana can be used legally in five states: Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota and South Dakota. Four out of the five states are home to many conservatives — a testament to how the once-liberal issue has achieved increasingly bipartisan support, reports the Washington Post. As it stands, 19 states, two territories and Washington, D.C., have embraced marijuana legalization over the last decade, while medical cannabis is legal in 37 states, three territories and the District, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Still, it was only a decade ago when recreational marijuana was illegal nationwide, and efforts by cannabis advocates haven’t been without setbacks. Most recently, voters rejected ballot measures to legalize adult use of marijuana in North Dakota in 2018 and Arizona in 2016, although the latter voted in favor of the initiative the following election year.
“When you look at ballot campaigns in the past, you’ll see that this is an issue that crosses traditional party lines,” said Paul Armentano of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. “We anticipate similar outcomes this November.” Most states that have legalized recreational marijuana have done so through citizen-initiated ballot measures, a tactic progressive activists are also eyeing to keep abortion legal in red states. At the federal level, marijuana remains classified as an illegal Schedule I substance, a category that also includes heroin and ecstasy. Advocates say recent action by the Biden administration, which pardoned thousands convicted of “simple possession” of marijuana under federal law, signals a greater shift in U.S. views on marijuana use.