Missouri voters approve Amendment 3, legalizing recreational marijuana
Two other issues on the ballot passed, including a measure creating a separate Missouri Department of the National Guard and one that forces Kansas City to increase funding for its police department. Two measures failed: one giving the treasury greater leeway in investing and the other prompting the state to hold a constitutional convention.
Missouri residents will soon be able to legally use marijuana recreationally in the state.
Voters approved Amendment 3, known as Legal Missouri 2022. The measure earned 53% in support. The decision on Amendment 3 comes four years after Missouri legalized the use of medical marijuana with 65% of the vote.
John Payne, campaign manager for Legal Missouri 2022, spoke on Tuesday during a celebratory watch party in Ballpark Village in St. Louis.
“So many times during this campaign, the whole thing hung in the balance. And we didn't know if we're gonna make it. But it was because of the people in this room and those celebrating across the state that we made it through,” Payne said.
Legal Missouri 2022 spent millions on the campaign to pass the amendment and had the support of Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas and the St. Louis NAACP.
But it also had vocal opponents, including Gov. Mike Parson, the Missouri NAACP and St. Louis Mayor Tishuara Jones.
Tanisha Patterson, who attended the watch party, said she believes the passage of recreational marijuana is something the state has needed for a long time.
“This means increased revenue, it means access to all patients, it means funding programs that need the funding. It means new growth, it means opportunity, it means innovation into an industry that's endless,” Patterson said.
Under the amendment, nonmedical users will be able to possess up to 3 ounces of marijuana, while medical patients could possess up to 6 ounces.
In addition to imposing possession limits, the measure allows fines to still be issued for smoking in public.
Amendment 3 also makes changes to Missouri’s cannabis business industry. John Payne, campaign manager for Legal Missouri 2022, said a minimum of 144 new licenses will be issued through the Department of Health and Senior Services.
A 6% tax rate will apply to nonmedical sales in the state. Missouri is expected to earn millions from legalizing recreational use. At least 2% of the revenue will go into the Veterans, Health and Community Reinvestment Fund. Beneficiaries of this fund include the Missouri Veterans Commission and the Missouri public defender system.
It also creates a microbusiness program in which dispensaries or wholesale facilities can interact with other microbusinesses. Critics of the program say it inadequately helps the populations that were most negatively affected by the war on drugs.
The amendment also includes expungement procedures for certain marijuana offenses. Someone currently on probation or parole for certain marijuana law violations would see their sentence automatically vacated and later expunged from their record.
Additionally, anyone incarcerated for certain marijuana offenses would be able to petition the court to vacate the sentence, as well as be immediately released from incarceration and see their records expunged.
Bonnie Boime, who came to the watch party but does not use marijuana, supported the amendment due to the language pertaining to criminal justice reform.
“It means that we'll be incarcerating fewer people, and that law enforcement can focus on real crime. And it will mean opportunities for people carrying convictions because they'll have the opportunity to expunge those convictions.”
The state judiciary has already included a funding request of around $4.5 million to go toward these new requirements for fiscal 2024.
Before the election, Payne said the expungement process is a reason voters should approve the amendment.
“That's going to affect hundreds of thousands of Missourians with nonviolent marijuana offenses, allowing them to have a fresh start,” Payne said.
However, Rep. Ashley Bland Manlove, D-Kansas City, who lobbied against Amendment 3, says the amendment picks and chooses whose charges are expunged and for those currently serving time, the appeal process won’t be universal.
“If you're serving right now, you have to still appeal to the court. And it's based off of judicial discretion, which we know does not work out for poor and melanated peoples,” Bland Manlove said.
The passage of Amendment 3 comes after Missouri lawmakers failed to pass legislation that would have legalized the recreational use of marijuana.
Payne said the legislature should have passed a law legalizing cannabis for adult use.
“I think that the legislature has had their chance to deal with this. And it's time that we allow the people to have a say,” Payne said.
Bland Manlove, who co-sponsored the Cannabis Freedom Act this past legislative session, said she understood the initiative petition was a consequence of the legislature not passing a bill.
“But that still doesn't mean it's right. And that still doesn't mean that I support it,” Bland Manlove said.
Because the language of Amendment 3 will be added to the state’s constitution, it will be harder to make any future modifications to the wording as opposed to a new state law.