Updated on September 17, 2021.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
There is a countdown going on to the midterm elections on November 8, 2022. All 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives will be up for grabs. And an additional 34 seats will be contested on ballots in the U.S. Senate.
In some eras, there can be minimal cabinet shuffling. Some jurisdictions keep the best representatives, the ones that get results. And any political representative that has lost favor in their hometown is likely to be replaced.
The 2022 midterms are expected to show a big change in the House of Representatives and the Senate. There are several topics and causes that have polarized voters. From mask mandates and mandatory vaccinations to eviction protection laws. But one of the most mobilizing causes that will impact the 2022 midterm election is alternative medicine.
Not only will bud be very much on the 2022 ballot, but psychedelics in some states will also go to a public vote. Most seats will be voted in or voted out depending on candidate support for alternative medicines like cannabis, psilocybin, ketamine, and MDMA.
How Do You Get a State Question on a Ballot for Voters?
There are twenty-four states that have something called an ‘initiative process.’ That means that citizens have the right to bypass their state legislature. You know, for those moments where your political leaders focus on everything else but what constituents want?
Let’s use marijuana legalization as a topic. If state lawmakers do not want to legalize (but most public citizens do), it can be sent to a vote. If majority support happens, the proposed legislation moves forward as new statutes or constitutional amendments.
As you can imagine, there is a process to get your legislation on the voter ballot. Advocates are circumventing the state legislature, so of course, it is not easy. Signatures from constituents are a requirement. And the number of signatures required depends on the state. Some states also have geographic or county requirements so that signatures are collected proportionately around the state.
If the signatures are gathered, submitted, and accepted, a ballot measure will be added. That means citizens will have to answer a question when they go vote in the 2022 midterm election. There is a long process to draft the state question or ballot initiative as well. There are strict requirements to how the ballot initiative is written.
One of the best ways to get involved is to help advocate groups gather the signatures required for a ballot initiative. Some states require almost 200,000 signatures of residents. And it is a costly, time-consuming step for nonprofits to gather those signatures. They rely on volunteers to help.
What States Are Pitching Bud on Their Ballot in 2022?
There are three categories of ‘cannabis on the ballot’ to watch out for at the 2022 midterm elections. First, there are states that do not have a medical marijuana program. The ballot represents the first step to providing medical cards and dispensaries for patients.
In the second category, states that have legalized medical marijuana but want to amend the legislation. In these states, cannabis can be limited by restricting the number of qualifying health conditions.
When fewer patients qualify for a medical card, advocates rally to get more qualifying health conditions added. The type of medical cannabis and potency may be lower than what patients want and need. That would require amending the current medical cannabis program and laws.
It is not uncommon for a state to launch a medical marijuana program and then wait a few years to iron out any of the administrative problems. For many states, that period allows them to see how medical cannabis sales are manageable.
In 2020, legal cannabis sales (medical and recreational) went through the rough. Sales during the first year of the pandemic grossly exceeded projections. Who knew that social distancing would lead to an increased demand for weed? Everyone.
These states are placing adult-use (recreational) or medical cannabis legalization on the ballot for November 8, 2022:
1. Nebraska (Medical)
Patients and activists are getting ready for a big legislative push. Legalizing medical marijuana will appear on the 2022 ballot in Nebraska. Confused because you thought that Nebraska had already put medical marijuana on a ballot? You aren’t alone.
In 2020 there were positive ballots initiatives for medical marijuana. It would have allowed patients to have a medical card and legally access non-smokable cannabis products. Senator Anna Wishart sponsored the legislation. But the medical marijuana bill failed to pass a filibuster and vote for cloture.
Only thirty-one (31) Senators supported the bill, and it required the support of 33 Senators to advance and become law. And since it got squashed during the 2020 elections, voters will see it on the 2022 ballots as several different initiatives.
Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts opposes medical marijuana legalization. Legislative Bill 474 is opposed by Nebraska Senators as well. According to USA Today, Ricketts told reporters: “Big pot, big marijuana is a big industry, [one] that is trying not to be regulated, to go around the regulatory process. And that’s going to put people at risk”.
It would be discouraging, but it would not be the first time voters pressed to legalize cannabis when a Governor was acting as a roadblock. In South Dakota, Gov. Kristi Noem learned that you could huff and puff, but you can’t undo the will of voters in a democratic state. Both medical and adult-use was legalized in South Dakota on the 2020 ballots.
2. North Dakota (Adult-Use)
The North Dakota House of Representatives was ready to enact some big changes. The House approved the bill to legalize adult-use marijuana in the state. And then things got weird when the bill arrived at the North Dakota Senate. A sweeping majority of Senators overwhelmingly blocked it.
North Dakota has a medical marijuana program. The North Dakota Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative (Initiated Statutory Measure 5) was approved by voters on November 8, 2016. But attempts to legalize recreational cannabis for adults 21 years or older have failed.
North Dakota House Bill 1420 made it to the second reading of the Senate. Only 10 Senators supported the legalization of adult-use cannabis. And 37 North Dakota Senators voted to stop the legalization of recreational marijuana. Some residents are also disappointed that the Senate shelved a proposal to expand the current cannabis decriminalization law.
Legalize ND is one of the largest advocacy groups leading the charge. The group currently supports the legislation in front of North Dakota Senators and organizes their signature drive for the November 8, 2022, midterm elections.
3. Oklahoma (Adult-Use)
Dubbed the “Wild West of Weed,” Oklahoma’s medical marijuana program went from 0 to 60 in two seconds flat. The state has more medical marijuana dispensaries per capita than California. And it has issued more business licenses than other states as well.
On May 18, 2021, Gov. Kevin Stitt signed House Bill 2272. That might be the end of the ‘wild west’ mentality. Inside the legislation were new requirements for attestation—a need to cap the number of business licenses issued in the future. Business owners will also be required to reach certain revenue benchmarks and earnings to renew their licenses annually.
Putting a few more restrictions on medical cannabis businesses in Oklahoma makes sense. But the timing of it also indicates that OMMA (Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority) may be expecting adult-use legalization to go through.
If you thought there was no room for more dispensaries, cultivators, and processors in Oklahoma? Buckle up. If adult-use passes you can expect a flood of recreational weed shops. That will be great for people living in Texas, and Kansas who have restrictive (or non-existent) cannabis programs.
Oklahoma will start issuing two-year non-resident medical cards soon. Further stimulating cross-border personal-use purchases. Offering high-quality and affordable cannabis products (including edibles and concentrates) to Oklahoma visitors is a good strategy.
Increased tourism and tax revenues provide a powerful motivation to consider legalizing recreational weed. Boomer Sooner residents will have to sit tight and get ready to vote on adult use at the 2022 midterm election.
4. Arkansas (Adult-Use)
The state of Arkansas has faced some challenges and appeared to be a ‘failure to launch’ for the first ten months of the medical cannabis program. The state had issued licenses, but companies (including cultivators, processors, and dispensary owners) had not set up shop. And that led to a reciprocal agreement (that no one talks about) with Oklahoma.
Now that cannabis regulators in Arkansas have the medical marijuana program running well, they are answering constituents that want to see adult use legalized. Arkansas True Grass is a group proposing a limit of (4) ounces of cannabis per purchase for adults 21 and older. And the right to grow up to twelve (12) plants for personal use.
What makes the legislative proposal in Arkansas interesting is the proposed maximum possession amount. If voters accept the proposed legislation, Arkansas would be the first state to have NO LIMIT on the amount of cannabis a resident could possess as long as it was stored or used away from public view.
5. Missouri (Adult-Use and Expansion of Medical)
Voters in Missouri may have a few different initiatives on the November 2022 ballots if all of them pass with a resolution through the legislature. Some of the measures are aimed at broadening the rights of patients with a Missouri medical card. Others aim to legalize recreational use of cannabis by any resident 21 years of age or older.
In September 2021, the campaigns to legalize adult-use in Missouri kicked into high gear. Not only do they want to see voters approve recreational marijuana, but they want more opportunities for entrepreneurs in Missouri.
Fair Access Missouri is one group that wants to see a cap on the number of business licenses removed. If adult use is legalized, that means any resident of Missouri could open a dispensary. That is a model that was used by Oklahoma legislators, who did not initially limit the number of business licenses issued for medical dispensaries. And cultivators, as well as processors.
Cannabis Business Times reported in August 2021, that Missouri had added more than 56,000 new patients to its medical cannabis program. Sales of medical cannabis did not start until October 16, 2020, in Missouri. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) regulates the medical cannabis program. The department also renewed 12,062 patient licenses from December 2019 to December 2020.
6. Ohio (Adult-Use)
Did you know that in Ohio, possession of up to 3 ½ ounces of cannabis was decriminalized in 1975? Not only that, t many cities across the state have further deprioritized cannabis charges for personal use amounts? Ohio is chill when it comes to cannabis.
The Ohio State Legislature passed medicinal use cannabis laws in 2016. But on July 30, 2021, the House of Representatives made history by introducing a bill to ‘legalize marijuana.’ And that includes cultivation and production and retail sales.
The proposed adult-use legislation is modeled after the state of Michigan and its successful marijuana market. It would allow the existing Ohio medical marijuana program to continue unchanged. The Ohio Department of Commerce would manage Adult-use dispensaries in Ohio.
The draft legislation would allow:
Adults aged 21 years or older to purchase cannabis at a dispensary
Purchases and possession of up to five (5) ounces of marijuana
Possession of up to twelve (12) mature plants for personal use
The “Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol” had the single issue (legal question) approved by the Ohio Ballot Board in August 2021. That means the CTRMLA can start collecting signatures for the November 2022 midterm election. The group will need to collect 132,887 signatures to have the state question placed on ballots for voters.
7. Wyoming (Medical and Decriminalization)
Maybe it is the Kanye West effect. The rapper has made Wyoming his new home with a sprawling ranch and sound studio. And while Mr. West has confessed to (discreetly) loving weed, he moved to a tranquil state with some unfriendly cannabis laws.
Maybe that’s why there aren’t many music videos filmed in Wyoming. Sorry Kanye. Because in the state, cannabis is 100% illegal. There is no medical cannabis program for qualified patients. And no adult-use laws permit recreational weed. In fact, CBD is currently the only cannabinoid you can legally buy and consume in Wyoming.
In Wyoming, the good news is that cannabis advocates only must get 100 signatures for each ballots initiative. Only one hundred! (You know organizers in Ohio are jealous). The focus of the proposed legislation is first to legalize medical cannabis. And make it accessible to patients as soon as possible.
The first draft of the new cannabis laws has listed over a dozen qualifying health conditions for patients. A diagnosis of cancer, HIV, Parkinson’s disease, MS, or glaucoma would make you eligible to apply for a medical card in Wyoming.
The Speaker of the House in Maryland is Adrienne A. Jones. In July 2021, Jones provided a press released that confirmed lawmakers in Maryland are ready to put recreational (adult-use) cannabis on the 2022 ballot.
Adrienne Jones has created a cannabis working group, which met for the first time in July 2021. The working group will advise on matters from issuing adult-use business licenses to social equity measures.
In her July press release, Speaker of the House Adrienne Jones stated:
“While I have personal concerns about encouraging marijuana use, particularly among children and young adults, the disparate criminal justice impact leads me to believe that the voters should have a say in the future of legalization”.
Voters in Wyoming Could Approve Less Jail Time and Small Fines for Marijuana
The bad news is that once the medical cannabis and decriminalization proposals are accepted, the advocates (or petitioners) will have until February 14th, 2022. By that time, they will have to gather 41,775 signatures from Wyoming residents in support of the initiatives.
Patients would be able to buy and possess up to four ounces of cannabis flower. It would also be legal to have an additional 20 grams of ‘other medical marijuana-derived products” in a thirty-day period. Mass expungement of personal-use cannabis charges is a big part of the proposed legislation.
In the decriminalization legislation, first and second cannabis offenses would be considered a misdemeanor, with a mandatory fine of $50. Third offenses would be punishable by a misdemeanor with a $75 fine. Anyone living in Wyoming who is caught cultivating cannabis would face a maximum fine of $200 and no jail time. All fines are subject to possession of four ounces or less of marijuana.
How to Tell If Your Senate or Representative is Pro-Cannabis Legalization
Some political representatives say that they are for the decriminalization of cannabis. But they are against the federal legalization of weed. Does that mean they are supportive of ending the federal prohibition of marijuana?
It can be really hard to determine which one of your local representatives supports legalizations. In some states where the majority of voters want to legalize cannabis, representatives are going to be vocal in their support. But if you are a representative that does not support cannabis legal reform? You are likely to remain quiet about your opposition.
There are two main legal causes when it comes to cannabis in the United States. The first goal is to decriminalize marijuana. That would mean the end of criminal charges for people who use marijuana (in small personal-sized amounts). Decriminalization would also mean an expungement plan. That includes dismissing any minor possession charges in the process (nationwide) and erasing prior charges from the record.
The second goal is to federally legalize cannabis. That means individuals would be able to choose between having a medical card (with patient tax savings and other benefits) or purchasing at recreational dispensaries. People would be able to interstate travel with legal amounts of cannabis. And interstate commerce in cannabis could also start.
If you want to see cannabis reform laws move forward, and you support federal legalization, you can keep that in mind at the midterm elections. Between now and election day, get informed about your local candidates, and their stance on ‘green’ initiatives before you cast your ballots.