Update: Recreational marijuana


Four years ago, the legalization of marijuana was a big deal. While it’s still illegal on the federal level, states have the power to vote on it and legalize it on the state level. California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada were among the first to do so. 

Before the 2020 election, eleven states and Washington DC had legalized recreational marijuana. For the 2020 election, four states had recreational marijuana on their ballots: Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota. Let’s take a closer look at the results.

Results for the 2020 ballot measures

All the recreational marijuana-related measures on the ballots in all four states passed after the November 3 election:

  • Arizona: 60.03% of voters said yes to Prop 207 to legalize recreational marijuana.
  • Montana: 56.9% of voters said yes to MT Initiative 190 to legalize marijuana.
  • New Jersey: 67.01% of voters said yes to legalize marijuana.
  • South Dakota: 54.18% of voters said yes to the SD Amendment A to legalize marijuana.

Now 15 states (plus DC) have legalized adult-use marijuana.

What comes next


Regulators in Arizona can begin issuing licenses in January 2021, and residents could see the first shops appear as early as February 1. The Department of Health Services will be responsible for issuing licenses to cannabis businesses and regulating the program. Sales will be taxed at 16%, and the money will go toward implementation costs first, then to infrastructure, community colleges, and public services. 


In addition to passing MT Initiative 190 to legalize recreational marijuana, the state also passed MT Constitutional Initiative 118, which sets the legal age for marijuana at 21. The new laws will take effect no later than October 2021, which is the deadline for the Department of Revenue to establish rules and regulations. 

According to the new law, a person over the age of 21 can possess up to one ounce of weed, but no more than 8 grams if it’s in a concentrated form. Adults may also grow up to four mature plants and four seedlings, so long as they follow strict regulations.

New Jersey

Following suit, New Jersey’s new laws aren’t immediate. Right now, criminal laws still apply according to the Attorney General. While the constitutional amendment will go into effect in January 2021, the state’s legislature needs to draft and implement enabling legislation. New Jersey still has a few hurdles to overcome, but people may start seeing dispensaries open in fall 2021.

South Dakota

South Dakota passed measures to legalize both recreational and medical marijuana on the November 3 ballot. The recreational measure, an amendment to the state’s constitution, will go into effect on July 1, 2021, following its formal passage. Under the new law, adults 21 and older can have up to one ounce of marijuana and cultivate up to three plants at home. The Department of Revenue will oversee issuing licenses to dispensaries, and all sales will be taxed at 15%. 

Will recreational marijuana become legal on the federal level?

As more states legalize marijuana, the question becomes, will marijuana ever be legal on the federal level? Bills have been introduced a few times but never made it very far. The House voted on and passed the bill in December and now it will go to the Senate. 


While the future of recreational marijuana is unknown on the federal level, what we do know is that legalization is becoming more popular. As time goes on, we will likely see more states legalize marijuana use — even if it remains illegal federally.