Six states had drug liberalization measures on the ballots this US midterms cycle. Voters in Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota could determine the legalization of recreational marijuana, while Coloradoans considered whether to become the second state to decriminalize so-called magic mushrooms, which contain substances increasingly used for therapeutic purposes.
The results were mixed.
👎Voters in the states of North Dakota and South Dakota rejected proposals to legalize marijuana possession and use as they did in Arkansas, where the ballot measure also included the liberalization of the commercial sale of cannabis. All three states already allow for medical marijuana.
👍 In Maryland and Missouri, there was resounding support for the liberalization measure, and possession and use of marijuana will become legal in those states in 2023 for adults aged 21 and over. That will bring the total number of US states where recreational marijuana is legal to 21, plus Washington, D.C.
The results show where opposition would come from should president Joe Biden follow through on reviewing the status of marijuana under federal law. Both marijuana and magic mushrooms are currently considered class A drugs, on the same level of heroin, LSD, and ecstasy, and above cocaine and oxycontin.
Colorado’s magic mushrooms ballot
At the time of writing, it was still too early to call the Colorado measure, Proposition 122. With 80% of the vote counted, legalization supporters had a majority of 51%.
If that result was confirmed, Colorado—which was a pioneering state in the commercialization of cannabis—would join Oregon in decriminalizing the possession and use of certain psychedelic plants and fungi for residents and tourists of at least 21 years of age, and the state would create “healing centers” where the drugs would be administered under the supervision of facilitators.
Fun fact: Natural psychedelics have already been decriminalized in a part of Colorado
In May 2019, Denver became the first city in the nation to remove criminal penalties for possession of magic mushrooms and other natural psychedelics. Oakland, California followed suit a month later. Michigan’s Ann Arbor and Seattle in Washington have adopted the same stance.
Coloradoans for and against legalizing magic mushrooms
Supporters of the ballot initiative argue it would:
🩺 allow the psychedelics to be used for treating mental health issues like depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, addiction and more,
💰 Save taxpayers money by not jailing people for non-violent offenses
But dissenters have a case to make, too:
🔎 The FDA has not approved the psychedelics as a medical drug
💭 It would send the wrong message to adults and children about substance use and abuse
Regardless, voting is only the first step. In Oregon, state authorities are yet to come up with a legal framework—they have until the end of this year. Colorado would have until the end of 2024.
Meanwhile, the Centennial State should expect continued backlash. Already, individual counties in Oregon are launching local ballot initiatives to ban the production and distribution of psilocybin, the active ingredient in hallucinogenic mushrooms.
By the digits: The legal drug industry
18: number of states, plus the District of Columbia, that have legalized marijuana outside of medical use
1,300: bills pertaining to marijuana in Congress in 2021
$1 billion: combined revenue Maryland and Missouri could generate from marijuana adult-use sales in the first year
$32 billion: US marijuana industry projected sales for 2022, up from $26.5 billion a year prior
1 million: jobs that could be created by 2025 if marijuana use was made legal in all 50 states
$1,500 to $7,000: How much psilocybin experiences could cost in Oregon
$30 or $2,000: How much magic mushroom centers in Colorado could charge for an hour or for a day respectively
46%: Share of the signature requirement California activists managed to gather to put legalizing magic mushrooms on the ballot issue for this month’s midterms. It wasn’t enough, but they intend to try again next time
🍄 What the magic mushroom market in the US could look like
😶🌫️ Biden just took the first step toward legitimizing the cannabis industry
📘 John Fetterman flipping Pennsylvania blue is one for the books