The nationwide push to legalize marijuana gained momentum Tuesday with victories in Arizona and New Jersey, and Louisiana voters affirmed an anti-abortion amendment, as scores of hot-button ballot measures were decided across the country.
A total of 120 proposed state laws and constitutional amendments were on the ballot in 32 states. They touched on an array of issues that have roiled politics in recent years — voting rights, racial inequalities, taxes and education, to name a few.
But none directly dealt with the dominant theme of 2020 — the coronavirus pandemic. That’s because the process to put measures on the ballot began, in most cases, before the virus surged to the forefront.
The Democratic-led New Jersey Legislature decided last December to place a measure on the ballot asking voters whether they should legalize marijuana for adults age 21 and older. Voter approval Tuesday means the Legislature now will have to pass another measure setting up the new marijuana marketplace.
“This victory will undoubtedly have a rippling effect in the Northeast and add to the increasing pressure in neighboring states to take action on marijuana legalization,” said Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, which has backed various state-level marijuana campaigns.
The Arizona measure also legalizes marijuana for adults age 21 and older and allows people convicted of certain marijuana crimes to seek expungement of their records. Passage signaled a change of attitudes, after voters there narrowly defeated a legal pot proposal in 2016.
Recreational marijuana measures also were ahead in the polls in Montana and narrowly leading in South Dakota. Medical marijuana initiatives were leading in Mississippi and South Dakota.
A decade ago, recreational…