By Tyler Schneider
In May, the Missouri House Committee approved a Republican-led joint resolution that put the choice of legalizing recreational marijuana use for adults on the Nov. 8 ballot. If voters give Amendment 3 a ‘yes’ vote, Missourians will have agreed to “remove state prohibitions on purchasing, possessing, consuming, using, delivering, manufacturing, and selling marijuana for personal use for adults over the age of twenty-one,” according to the official ballot.
Medicinal marijuana has been legal in the Show Me State since 2018, with official sales to patients beginning in Oct. 2020. Missouri joins Arkansas, Maryland, North Dakota and South Dakota in its 2022 bid to let voters decide if their respective states will join the 19 others who have already legalized recreational marijuana for adult use in the United States (37 states have some form of legal medical marijuana system).
Amendment 3 would also set in motion the expungement process for those who have a marijuana conviction on their record. Based on a 39-page petition that passed through the House in 2021, the changes would permit “persons with certain marijuana-related non-violent offenses to petition for release from incarceration or parole and probation and have records expunged.”
The plan calls for auto-expungement by 2024 for those who meet the requirements. One provision from the petition calls for recreational marijuana tax revenues to first be channeled towards the cost of expungement before funds go towards other state projects. The potential cost of actually accomplishing this is still up in the air, however, as Missouri currently does not have any central hub where criminal records are shared throughout the entire state.
Legalizing it is one question (on which two-thirds of Missourians tend to support), but how to go about doing that is another entirely. While at least two-thirds of Missourians support legalizing recreational marijuana, some lawmakers have expressed concern with how equitably business licenses will be granted this time around after the 2019 medical marijuana licensing process seemed to be skewed to favor applicants in certain areas of the state rather than others.
To combat some of these concerns, Amendment 3 would:
- Establish a lottery selection process to award licenses and certificates.
- Issue (24) equally distributed licenses to each congressional district.
- Impose a six percent tax on the retail price of marijuana to benefit various programs.
- Require the state to issue licenses to at least 144 “microbusinesses,” that would be majority owned by social-equity applicants.
There are several rather unique elements about Missouri’s bid here as well. One provision will allow registered adults to grow up to 18 cannabis plants in their own residences, and give up to three ounces to someone else of legal age. Another would allow municipal governments to ban the sale of recreational marijuana within their jurisdiction so long as 60 percent of area voters agree to do so.
A key division for many legislators and activists revolves around whether or not the state should be able to cap the licenses granted, as opposed to letting “the free market” dictate how many medical marijuana businesses can open up shop. Further, Missouri is taking an intriguing step in requiring that both sides of the industry—dispensaries and wholesalers—work together in a somewhat insular system that could either strengthen or weaken Missouri’s entry into an industry that surpassed $30 billion domestically this year.
Regardless, the economic opportunities that accompany such a move will be enticing and lucrative. According to the ballot language, “state governmental entities estimate initial costs of $3.1 million, initial revenues of at least $7.9 million, annual costs of $5.5 million, and annual revenues of at least $40.8 million,” while “local governments are estimated to have annual costs of at least $35,000 and annual revenues of at least $13.8 million.”