2022 marijuana-focused election updates, analysis & highlights

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MJBizDaily reporters and editors are providing live coverage of the 2022 midterm election, focusing on legalization ballot measures in five states as well as key federal races that could affect marijuana reform.

Scroll down for updates our staff has filed about the states voting on marijuana-related proposals as well as potentially pivotal U.S. congressional races. Click here for the current results tally on key state initiatives.

You can also get insights on state ballot initiatives and all marijuana-related election matters at MJBizCon, including post-election analysis and how your fellow operators are preparing now for a legalization shift.

(All entries are in Eastern time.)

10:41 p.m. (Ohio)

Republican J.D. Vance looks likely to win a Senate seat in Ohio, leading Rep. Tim Ryan, a Democrat, in the race to take the seat to be vacated by Republican Sen. Rob Portman, who is retiring.

That means neither party picks up a seat, but legalization advocates haven’t won a friend, either.

On the campaign trail, Vance said legalization should be left to the states, but he also echoed other acolytes of Donald Trump in linking cannabis use to violent crime.

– Chris Roberts

9:38 p.m. (National)

Industry trade groups optimistic

Leaders of several marijuana industry trade groups went into the conclusion of balloting Tuesday optimistic and with all eyes on the conservative-leaning state initiatives and the broader impact to the legalization movement those votes might have:

Aaron Smith, executive director of  the National Cannabis Industry Association

“When you see these deep red states possibly moving toward reform, that’s just going to make a huge political shift,” he said.

Missouri, in particular, Smith pointed out, would help to shift the national conversation in favor of federal marijuana reform.

Another vote he’s tracking that could impact the cannabis market is the Colorado vote to legalize psilocybin.

Proposition 122 would allow personal use of psilocybin mushrooms and some other psychedelic substances but would ban sales except in licensed “healing centers.”

“There’s potential down the road for a dovetailing of the two industries,” Smith said.

Image of a voter choosing between Yes and No on a marijuana legalization ballot

Kaliko Castille, president of the Minority Cannabis Business Association

Castille is watching another red state – Arkansas – saying many people of color there could help “stem the tide of prohibition.”

He also mentioned that Maryland and Missouri have areas with strong minority populations, so those are both significant from a diversity perspective.

Andrew Freedman, executive director of the Coalition for Cannabis Policy, Education and Regulation

Freedman said legalizing marijuana in states that lean more politically conservative could lead to broader reform down the road.

He pointed out that Colorado Republicans could be more inclined to support federal marijuana policy than other Republicans because they have legal MJ businesses in their own backyard “and they see what works and what doesn’t work, and they have constituents who are interested in it.”

“As Republicans decide to become champions on this issue, and own this issue, that’s really what’s going to end up changing the dynamic on the federal level,” Freedman added.

Saphira Galoob, executive director of the National Cannabis Roundtable

Galoob feels confident that no matter what happens, banking reform will happen this year.

“We feel confident that we’re going to get some meaningful legislation between now and the end of the year,” Galoob said.

“There is the political will, and there is a way forward. There’s a political way.”

Khadijah Tribble, CEO of the U.S. Cannabis Council

Tribble believes that when the U.S. Senate decides to take up the SAFE Banking Act is more a question of political will than political elections.

“What Leader Schumer and other senators need to realize is that no matter what happens on Tuesday, cannabis reform is good politics when it comes to the diverse and entrepreneurial communities they serve,” she added.

“We’re confident that meaningful reform is on the way for our industry – regardless of which party is in power.”

– Bart Schaneman

9:22 p.m. (National)

Vibe shift on cannabis

If you’re noticed something different this election cycle about partisan messaging around marijuana, you’re not alone.

After seeing right-wing media try to pin blame cannabis for the mass shooting at an Uvalde, Texas, elementary school as well as Republican Senate candidate Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania try to hit his opponent, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, on the issue of legalization, observers are noting an ascendant “law and order” Republican wing of the Grand Old Party.

“It’s the story of a Trump-controlled Republican party not inclined to be libertarian” on issues such as marijuana legalization embraced by some conservatives, said Douglas Berman, a law professor at Ohio State University.

“It’s useful for them to wrap marijuana reform into a kind of law-and-order message.”

In the South, Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas has linked blue-state support for legalization with an alleged rise in crime.

Stiffening resistance from Trump-sympathizing Republicans could also be what slows legalization’s winning roll as well as fuel a “resurgent prohibitionist conversation,” Berman said.

And while Joe Biden took more action on marijuana than any president since Richard Nixon when he initiated the rescheduling process last month, Biden also sent a strong signal that MJ reform is more of an issue for Democrats than Republicans.

“I’m going off the assumption that if Republicans take control of the Senate, nothing of any consequence gets done for the next two years,” Berman said.

– Chris Roberts
Where marijuana is legal in the United States

8:15 p.m. (Arkansas)

Arkansas adult-use measure encounters motley group of opponents

The passage of Issue 4 in Arkansas faces a tough test, as a rare alliance of political and religious conservatives joined some progressive cannabis advocates in denouncing the measure.

The initiative would legalize marijuana possession for adults 21 and older and establish the first adult-use cannabis market in a deeply red state in the South.

Image of Arkansas state flag

MJBizDaily projects sales would total $350 million to $400 million in the first year and $575 million-$650 million by year four.

The law would also repeal residency requirements, opening up the industry to multistate operators mostly shut out of Arkansas' its medical program.

Other particulars of the legislation include:

  • No allowance for home growing.
  • No social equity provisions.
  • Recreational sales could launch March 8, 2023, at the state’s existing 40 licensed medical marijuana dispensaries.
  • Adult-use sales would be subject to a 16% state tax.
  • Existing MMJ dispensaries would receive an additional adult-use sales license, for a total of 80 sales licenses when the market launches.
  • Another 40 retail licenses would be awarded to new entrants via a lottery no later than July 2023.

Meanwhile, the state’s existing eight licensed cultivators would get first dibs at supplying adult-use retailers.

In addition:

  • A maximum of 12 new cultivation licenses would be issued, also via a lottery, no later than November 2023.
  • These so-called Tier 2 licenses would be capped at no more than 250 plants.
  • By contrast, the state’s original eight cultivators would not be subject to a plant count.

Through September - according to the most recent campaign finance data available - supporters raised $4.8 million, with most of the funding coming from the medical cannabis industry.

- Chris Casacchia

7:47 p.m. (National)

Big Tech, China more likely focus than marijuana for House GOP

Should Republicans retake the House of Representatives, prominent - and controversial - national figures such as Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, who antagonized Democrats and defended President Donald Trump during impeachment proceedings, will likely be appointed to chair powerful committees.

According to a preelection analysis from Miami-based law firm Holland & Knight, however, rather than anything related to cannabis policy, these committees will likely spend most of their time:

  • Investigating the Biden administration.
  • Taking a stronger and more bellicose stance on China.
  • Pursuing other conservative bugaboos such as Big Tech and "woke capitalism."

“It is difficult to overstate the degree to which the People's Republic of China (PRC) will be a primary focus of oversight in the 118th Congress,” the firm wrote.

Image of Ed Perlmutter
Ed Perlmutter

“It is also difficult to overstate the animosity Republican voters have toward social media platforms.”

One thing is certain: Banking reform will lose its most vocal advocate, as SAFE Banking Act sponsor Rep. Ed Perlmutter of Colorado is retiring.

The most likely incoming Republican chair of the relevant House Financial Services committee is Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, according to Holland & Knight.

Ad he’ll most likely be more interested in China matters and reversing recent U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission efforts around so-called ESG (environmental, social, governance) reporting than cannabis.

- Chris Roberts

7:10 p.m. (North Dakota)

North Dakota measure would create small adult-use market

North Dakota residents will vote on only two statewide questions, one of which stands to create an adult-use marijuana market.

Statutory Measure 2 would empower regulators to develop a recreational marijuana program by Oct. 1, 2023.

Image of North Dakota state flagUnder the measure, the state could award up to seven cannabis manufacturing licenses and as many as eight retail licenses.

According to ballot language, a manufacturing license would allow the owners to cultivate marijuana as well as use the plant to extract and process other cannabis products, including concentrates.

True to North Dakota’s libertarian ethos, the statute would promote independent ownership: Ballot language states that individuals or businesses may not hold ownership stakes in more than one manufacturing operation or four stores - or two stores within 20 miles of one another.

That said, the campaign was buoyed by financial donations from inside the industry, with companies including:

  • Curaleaf Holdings, a Massachusetts-based multistate operator that operates three North Dakota MMJ dispensaries.
  • GR Holdings OH-ND, which was incorporated in 2018 by Curaleaf CEO Matt Darin.
  • Pure Dakota and Strive Life, two medical marijuana businesses operating in the state.

Cannabis advocacy organizations such as the Marijuana Policy Project and New Approach Advocacy Fund also contributed to the campaign.

North Dakota voters rejected an adult-use statute in 2018, but the state’s functional MMJ might have changed opinions about the matter.

According to MJBizDaily projections, an adult-use market could generate as much as $100 million during its first year of operation and up to $285 million in its fourth year.

The measure would also allow individuals 21 and older to grow up to three cannabis plants at home and possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana.

- Kate Lavin

6:48 p.m. (National)

Lame-duck hopes overblown - or a good bet?  

Though markets jumped at the idea of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer passing some version of the SAFE Banking Act during a lame-duck session of Congress, most experts consulted by MJBizDaily were doubtful.

“I honestly think the midterm elections won’t change a single thing about cannabis regulation,” said Marc Hauser, president of Hauser Advisory, a California-based strategic consulting firm.

Keep in mind Senate math.

The magic number to get anything done in Washington DC is 60 - as in the 60 votes needed in the Senate under the notorious cloture rule.

Image of Chuck Schumer
Chuck Schumer

And Schumer doesn’t have 60 votes now, observers say, and this election won’t change that.

If the Republicans win the Senate, and Sen. Mitch McConnell reclaims control of that chamber, the situation is even more dire, Hauser said.

“Recall that McConnell has used the Democrats' trying to attach SAFE Banking to appropriations in the past as a weapon against them,” Hauser said.

“I see no reason, political or otherwise, why that would change, either during the lame-duck session or in the new Congress.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, trade-group executives are more bullish.

Saphira Galoob, executive director of the National Cannabis Roundtable, feels confident that no matter what happens on Election Day, banking reform will pass this year.

“We feel confident that we’re going to get some meaningful legislation between now and the end of the year,” Galoob said.

“There is the political will, and there is a way forward. There’s a political way.”

Meanwhile, some even see a possible silver lining from a Republican victory in Congress.

“If either chamber flips, it will add a fair amount of urgency to passing something incremental in the lame duck,” NORML political director Morgan Fox said.

“If Democrats maintain control, I still think that there's going to be a big push to get something passed in the lame duck, but there will be a little bit less of the “sword of Damocles” hanging over the proceedings,” Fox said.

- Chris Roberts and Bart Schaneman

6:15 p.m. (Maryland)

Maryland voters appear set to OK adult use

If the polls are correct, Maryland voters are poised to approve the commercial cultivation and sale of recreational marijuana and the creation of a market expected to generate as much as $1 billion in sales within a few years.

Maryland's constitutional amendment, Question 4, would make it legal for adults 21 and older to use and possess recreational marijuana starting in July 2023.

State lawmakers would next establish a legal framework to govern a new recreational marijuana market that MJBizDaily projects would generate sales of $550 million-$600 million in the first year and $900 million-$1 billion by year four.

However, retail sales likely wouldn't start until 2024 or 2025.

If passed, Question 4 means:

  • The Maryland constitution will be amended to include that adults 21 and older can use and possess marijuana.
  • Maryland legislators will begin working on adult-use marijuana tax, distribution and licensing laws.
  • Criminal records for now-legal activities would be automatically expunged.
  • Research studies on cannabis use and the industry would be required.
  • The Cannabis Business Assistance Fund and the Cannabis Public Health Fund would be established.

Image of Maryland state flagA Washington Post-University of Maryland poll of 810 registered voters in September showed 73% support legalizing “the use of cannabis” for adults 21 years of age and older by next July.

According to Ballotpedia, SunMed Growers, Trulieve Cannabis, Curio Wellness, Green Thumb Industries and the Marijuana Policy Projected (MPP) donated to the Yes on 4 campaign. which is led by former Baltimore Ravens player and marijuana advocate Eugene Monroe.

Existing medical cannabis companies would be vying for adult-use licenses.

MPP senior policy analyst Olivia Naugle told MJBizDaily that the organization will be advocating for an unlimited number of licenses.

“MPP will be advocating for not capping licenses to ensure lots of opportunity in the industry or having set aside licenses for social equity and/or a head start if there are caps, having low barriers to entry, and ensuring a bulk of the tax revenue is reinvested into the communities most impacted by prohibition,” Naugle told MJBizDaily via email.

- Kate Robertson

5:41 p.m. (National)

All eyes on McConnell

If the Senate flips to Republican control, many observers feel that any kind of marijuana reform will stop dead in its tracks.

That’s because there aren’t nearly enough Republicans in the Senate to reach the 60 votes needed to pass a reform bill.

Perhaps even more significantly, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, one of the Senate’s biggest anti-marijuana zealots, would become Senate Majority Leader and likely not even allow marijuana reform bills to come to the Senate floor for full floor votes.

Image of Mitch McConnell
Mitch McConnell

“If the Senate flips to Republicans and Mitch McConnell remains their caucus leader, that slams the door shut on reform efforts,” said Justin Strekal, founder and director of the BOWL PAC, a marijuana reform political action committee.

As Senate leader in the past, McConnell showed “absolutely no interest whatsoever in accomplishing even the most modest of reforms,” Strekal said, while there aren’t enough pro-cannabis Republicans in the Senate now to get him to change his views.

If there were enough Senate Republicans to join Senate Democrats to pass a reform bill, it still probably wouldn’t happen because McConnell wouldn’t allow a bill to reach the Senate floor for a vote.

“Whether or not there would be 60 yes votes on any package doesn't matter if the majority leader refuses to have that bill come up for a vote. And I am hard-pressed to see a Senate Leader McConnell doing that,” Strekal said.

Morgan Fox, political director for NORML, agreed.

“If the Senate flips and Mitch McConnell once again becomes Senate Majority Leader, it will be very difficult to get anything through the Senate, even if it passes with the support of a majority of Republicans in the House,” Fox said.

If Democrats retain the Senate but Republicans take the House of Representatives, cannabis reform would be more difficult than it is now with both congressional chambers under Democratic control, but it would not be impossible like if the Senate was controlled by Republicans, observers said.

“I think that a flip in the House would not be quite as bad as a flip in the Senate, because in the House, generally, you have a younger demographic of representatives, and there seems to be a lot more willingness from the GOP in that chamber to move the ball forward and vote in favor of cannabis policy reform measures, whether it be research or safe banking, etc.,” Fox said.

Strekal agreed. “If the House flips, it narrows the likelihood of accomplishing reform, but in the event of a Republican House and a Democratic Senate, you can still see some kind of a compromise,” Strekal said.

- Omar Sacirbey

5:01 p.m. (Missouri)

Outlook mixed for Missouri recreational marijuana amendment

Missouri voters will decide whether to expand the state’s existing medical marijuana market to include adult-use cannabis.

The outcome is up in the air.

Amendment 3 - which would go into effect 30 days after the election, if successful - would legalize the cultivation and sales of recreational marijuana through an amendment to the state constitution.

Regulators would have 300 days from the law’s effective date to allocate 32 microbusiness wholesale cultivation licenses and 16 microbusiness retailer licenses to applicants from the following groups:

  • Low-income state residents.
  • Residents of high-poverty Missouri communities.
  • Disabled war veterans.
  • Individuals convicted of nonviolent marijuana offenses.

Image of the Missouri state flagOver the following 18 months, regulators could award up to 96 additional microbusiness licenses.

First-year sales of an adult-use marijuana market could reach up to $550 million, according to MJBizDaily estimates, with fourth-year sales projected between $800 million and $900 million.

The state would benefit from a 6% retail sales tax on marijuana sales, and local governments could implement an optional 3% local tax.

But despite wide support for marijuana legalization, the ballot measure has faced challenges from unlikely foes.

The Missouri NAACP opposes the amendment, saying that the microbusiness licenses give disadvantaged groups "very limited" access to the full market.

Additionally, unlicensed businesses and individuals found to be in possession of more than 3 ounces of marijuana would still be subject to criminal charges for possession under the amendment.

The Missouri Democratic Party declined to endorse the amendment, arguing that the measure favors existing medical marijuana operators and would keep new entrants from accessing the industry.

- Kate Lavin

4:26 p.m. (National)

Redistricting, history favor GOP in control of Congress

Will a Republican-controlled Congress bow to bipartisan support among Americans and advance President Joe Biden’s historic marijuana rescheduling process, or will Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy use their control of the legislative branch to harass the president, undo his agenda - and stall out MJ reform?

Some version of this question is what many cannabis analysts are asking, as a Republican takeover of both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives is the likeliest outcome of the 2022 midterm elections, according to a FiveThirtyEight prediction.

Image of U.S. Capitol buildingIt won’t take much for Republicans to win back Congress: The Democrats hold a slim eight-seat majority in the 117th Congress, with three of those seats empty because of resignations and the death of one legislator in office.

This means the Republicans need to win only five seats from the Democrats to take over the House, and FiveThirtyEight gives them an 84% chance to do so.

The balance of power is most precarious in the Senate, where Republicans already hold half the 100 seats.

Though the party out of power in the White House traditionally makes gains in the midterms, additional elements are creating more uncertainty.

As the nonpartisan Cook Political Report pointed out, recent 10-year redistricting efforts mean some seats are brand new.

It means state lawmakers can redraw districts to favor their party, as Republicans did in Florida, so that three formerly solid Democratic seats are now solidly Republican, FiveThirtyEight pointed out.

Across the country, Republicans have a slight edge in polling in congressional races.

According to RealClearPolitics, Republicans generally lead Democrats, 48% to 45.5%.

To maintain their precarious status quo in the Senate, Democrats would need to successfully defend recent pickups such as the Georgia seat where Sen. Raphael Warnock trails challenger Herschel Walker by 0.6 to 1 percentage points, according to RealClearPolitics and FiveThirtyEight, respectively.

Should the Republicans win, presumptive new House Speaker Kevin McCarthy already has a bold agenda ready to go, with border security, inflation and a presumed rise in crime top of his list, as he told CNN.

What that means for marijuana is less certain, though McCarthy already promised to restore controversial Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia to her committee assignments. Greene recently trashed marijuana and legalization.

- Chris Roberts

4 p.m. (National)

Here are the races, state ballot initiatives and issues the MJBizDaily team will monitor and report on this Election Day.

  • Will Arkansas voters legalize adult-use marijuana? The outcome in Arkansas is up in the air. An unusual alliance of political and religious conservatives have joined some progressive cannabis advocates in opposing Issue 4.
  • Will Maryland voters legalize adult use? Among the five states where marijuana legalization is on the ballot, Maryland's voters appear the most likely to give the green light.
  • Will Missouri legalize adult use? As in Arkansas, the outcome in Missouri is too close to call. Amendment 3 has run into a buzz saw of opposition from critics who say the ballot initiative would exclude minorities and give dozens of existing medical marijuana operators in the state a head start over smaller businesses and new entrants.
  • Will North Dakota legalize adult use? North Dakota’s legalization initiative has big stakes: proving legalization is a truly bipartisan issue in a deep red state, and influencing attitudes in the U.S. Senate. Limited polling data suggests legalization advocates face an uphill battle.
  • Will South Dakota legalize possession and home cultivation? In 2020, South Dakota voters approved a measure to permit the commercial cultivation and sale of adult-use marijuana. A state-sponsored lawsuit spiked that measure, however. This time around, Measure 27 would merely allow adults to possess and use cannabis, with the “industry” limited to whatever adults could manage to grow at home.
  • Will the U.S. House and/or Senate flip to the Republicans? If the GOP grabs one or both house of Congress, many question marks will surface. Would a Republican-controlled Congress help advance President Joe Biden’s historic cannabis rescheduling process, or would Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy use their control of the legislative branch to harass the president, undo his agenda - and stall out cannabis reform?

- MJBizDaily Staff