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Four States Vote to Legalize Recreational Marijuana, Arizona Introduces Expungement Process for Low-Level Cannabis Crimes

On Tuesday, voters in four states passed laws legalizing recreational marijuana. Voters in New Jersey, South Dakota, Montana and Arizona approved ballot measures to legalize recreational use of cannabis.

South Dakota is the first state to legalize recreational and medical marijuana at the same time. Approving medical and recreational marijuana is typically a multi-step process, but South Dakota residents voted to approve both measures on one ballot.

Oregon also became the first state to decriminalize possession of small amounts of heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine.

“This is incredible,” said Kassandra Frederique, executive director of the advocacy group Drug Policy Alliance, to The New York Times. “This is like taking a sledgehammer to the cornerstone of the drug war.”

In Missississpi voters approved medicinal marijuana.

In Arizona, voters decided 60 percent to 40 percent in favor of proposition 207, which makes recreational marijuana legal for people aged 21 and over. Medical marijuana was legalized in the state in 2010.

On Nov. 30, adults will be permitted to possess up to an ounce of marijuana. Under the proposition, residents will also be able to transfer up to one ounce of cannabis. Adults can grow six plants at home and up to 12 plants at a home with multiple adults.

Dispensaries are set to begin recreational sales on April 20, 2021. On July 12, people with felony marijuana convictions will be able to petition to have their records expunged if they possessed 2.5 ounces or less of marijuana.

In New Jersey, recreational marijuana passed by a vote of 67 percent to 33 percent. The state also legalized medical marijuana in 2010. Residents in New Jersey will not be allowed to legally possess marijuana until a new “regulatory framework” has been established, the state Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said.

It will likely be at least a year before people will be able to petition to have their records expunged for low-level cannabis offenses.

The decision to legalize marijuana passed by a margin of 57 percent to 43 percent in Montana, and by 53 percent to 47 percent in South Dakota. Republican Gov. Kristi Noem opposed both ballot measures in the latter state.

“The fact is, I’ve never met someone who got smarter for smoking pot,” Noem said in an anti-legalization ad. “It’s not good for our kids and it’s not going to improve our communities.”

The amendment will impose a 15 percent excise tax on cannabis sales, and becomes effective on July 1, 2021. The revenue department must establish licensing rules by April 2022.

Recreational marijuana is now legal in 15 states and Washington D.C., while medicinal marijuana is legal in 35 states and D.C.

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