Voters in Missouri passed a ballot initiative legalizing recreational marijuana.
What the initiative is and what it will do:
- Legalize adult-use marijuana: Allows Missourians 21 years and older to possess, purchase, consume and cultivate marijuana.
- Automatic expungement: Allows Missourians with nonviolent marijuana-related offenses to automatically expunge their criminal records (Similar programs in other states typically require those seeking to vacate convictions to first petition the courts, adding time and expenses).
- Boost state tax revenues: Levies 6% state tax on retail sales of marijuana. Beyond covering administrative expenses and the costs to process automatic expungements, any remaining surplus will be split equally between veterans’ healthcare, drug addiction treatment, and Missouri’s underfunded public defender system.
- Local taxes: Allows local governments to assess local sales taxes of up to 3%. State officials project additional annual revenue of at least $40.8 million and additional local government revenues of at least $13.8 million.
- New business licenses: Seeks to broaden industry participation by small business owners and among disadvantaged populations, including those with limited capital, residents of high-poverty communities, service-disabled veterans, and those previously convicted of non-violent marijuana offenses.
- Lottery: All new license holders will be selected at random, by lottery.
- Strengthens Missouri medical marijuana program: Extends amount of time that medical marijuana patient and caregiver ID cards are valid from one to three years while keeping that cost low ($25). And the current $100 fee for Missourians who choose to grow medical marijuana at home will be reduced by half, with the expiration period also extended from one to three years.
- Local control: Allows local communities to opt-out of adult-use retail marijuana sales through a vote of the people.
- 150K and counting: Builds on the success of Missouri’s medical cannabis program, which in October 2021 had registered nearly 150,000 patients and caregivers, far surpassing initial estimates.
- Sales-to-date: The state has tallied more than $136 million in medical cannabis sales from late October 2020, when dispensaries first opened, through September 2021.
- New licenses: Adds a minimum of 144 new small businesses to the existing 382 licensed and certified cannabis businesses in the state.
- Statewide access: To ensure statewide access, 18 of these new businesses will be added in each of the state’s eight congressional districts over time. At least six of those new businesses in each district must operate as dispensaries.
- New category: The remainder will be designated as wholesale facilities, a new category that allows operators to both cultivate the plant and manufacture cannabis products such as edibles, vape cartridges, topicals, and concentrates.
- Eligibility: This new group of business license holders would have to meet at least one of the following requirements:
- Have a net worth of less than $250,000 and income below 250% of the federal poverty level for at least 3 of the previous 10 years;
- Have a valid service-connected disability card issued by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs;
- Have been arrested, prosecuted, or convicted of a non-violent marijuana offense, or be the parent, guardian, or spouse of such a person;
- Live in a ZIP code or Census tract with high poverty, unemployment, marijuana imprisonment rates;
- Graduated from an unaccredited school district, or lives in a ZIP code with such a district for at least three of the past five years.
- Reduce illicit market: Existing license holders would have the opportunity to convert their medical-only facilities to businesses serving both medical patients and adult consumers, which will immediately reduce sales on the illicit market.
- Nurses: Adds nurse-practitioners to the category of healthcare professionals who can issue medical cannabis recommendations to patients.
- Expungement limits: Violent offenders and those whose offenses involved distribution to a minor or operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana would be ineligible for expungement.
Advocates for the bill, known as Legal Missouri 2022, have spent months lobbying voters to approve Amendment 3 against opposition from both cannabis reform advocates and prohibitionists.
Polls released in September and early November by Emerson College and The Hill found that a plurality of very likely Missouri voters supported the marijuana legalization initiative, but also showed significant shares of voters were still undecided on the measure.
In September, SurveyUSA found 62 percent of Missouri likely voters were “certain to vote yes” on Amendment 3. The firm is also behind the latest survey on the initiative, finding that the race was only slightly tightening as Election Day approached, with 61 percent of likely Missouri voters saying they were “certain” to approve it.
Governor Mike Parson (R) has stated that he would not include marijuana legalization in the special session that will address tax relief and agricultural concerns. Hicks, however, stated in a press release, “it is my goal that legislative action on my Marijuana Freedom Act will inspire the governor to support passage of this legislation.”
The Missouri NAACP, the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, the Missouri Catholic Conference, the Missouri Sheriff’s United, the Missouri Hospital Association, the Missouri Farm Bureau, the Missouri Baptist Convention, and Pro-Choice Missouri were all opposed to the legalization ballot measure.
However, there were some Democrats in the state government who voted in favor of the legalization initiative. Trudy Busch Valentine, a Democrat running for Senate in Florida, tweeted her support for the initiative in September, listing the initiative’s potential tax income and other benefits as reasons.
Stay up-to date with the latest cannabis news by subscribing to NECANN.