Recreational cannabis supply approved by voters in four US states but rejected in New Zealand

United States

On 3 November 2020, in tandem with the US presidential election, the four states of Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota voted on and approved proposals to introduce systems of home and retail supply of cannabis for recreational use for over-21s. In New Jersey, the proposal was placed on the ballot by the State Legislature, as the state has no possibility for public ballot initiatives. In the other three states, the proposals were public initiatives.

Of these, South Dakota is notable as two separate ballot measures legalised cannabis for medical and recreational purposes on the same day; the other states had already approved medical use some years earlier.

Legal sales for recreational use are unlikely to start for at least one year as the states have yet to design their cannabis retail systems. Local and municipal authorities may still introduce zoning restrictions.

The number of states where cultivation and use of cannabis by adults is legal for recreational purposes will now rise to 15 (not counting Washington DC); of these, only DC does not also allow commercial sales. These jurisdictions have a combined population of approximately 112 million people (33 % of the US population).

At the same time, the state of Mississippi voted to approve a system for medical use of cannabis, with 68 % in favour. Voters were given a choice of two options, and chose the more expansive Ballot Measure 65 (for those with qualifying conditions; 22 were listed), with 74 % of the vote, rather than the more restrictive Ballot Measure 65A (for those with terminal medical conditions).

See table below for details.

State Arizona Montana New Jersey South Dakota
Ballot proposal Proposition 207 Initiative 190 Public Question 1 Amendment A
Votes in favour 60 % 57 % 67 % 54 %
Type of law Amendment to state law New law, also amending state laws Amendment to state constitution Amendment to state constitution
State institution to develop regulations Department of Health and Human Services Department of Revenue Cannabis Regulatory Commission Department of Revenue
Home grow limit 6 plants (locked space, not in public view) 4 plants and 4 seedlings (locked space, not in public view) Not specified 3 plants (locked space, not in public view), if jurisdiction has no licensed retailers
Sales tax 16 % 20 % ‘State sales tax’ 15 %
Use and possession permitted from: 30 November 2020 1 January 2021 Not specified 1 July 2021
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New Zealand

On the day of the parliamentary general election on 17 October 2020, New Zealand also voted on a referendum question proposing supply of cannabis for recreational use. A draft law on this was already published in May to enable voters to understand the details, allowing for the fact that modifications could take place after approval (see earlier news). The proposal was rejected by 50.7 % to 48.4 %. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who voted in favour of the proposal, has stated that her incoming government will not legalise recreational cannabis, but will strengthen the application of sections of the Misuse of Drugs Act that refer drug users to health-oriented services rather than punishment.