Missouri voters will have the chance to legalize cannabis use for adults with this week’s announcement from state officials that a proposed initiative to legalize recreational marijuana has qualified for the ballot for the November general election. Missouri Secretary of State John R. Ashcroft announced Tuesday that petitions submitted to put the ballot measure known as Initiative 2022-59 had received the required number of signatures from registered voters. Referring to the 38-page length of the initiative, Ashcroft suggested that voters take care when deciding its fate in this fall’s election.
“I encourage Missourians to study and educate themselves on any ballot initiative,” Ashcroft said in a statement from the secretary of state’s office. “Initiative 2022-059 that voters will see on the November ballot is particularly lengthy and should be given careful consideration.”
If passed, the initiative constitutional amendment would amend the Missouri Constitution to legalize the possession and use of marijuana for those 21 and older, allowing adults to purchase up to three ounces of marijuana at a time. The measure also allows adults who obtain a registration card to cultivate marijuana at home, with a cap of six mature marijuana plants, six immature plants and six clones.
The ballot measure levies a tax of 6% on sales of recreational marijuana, with some revenue dedicated to implementing provisions for the automatic expungement of convictions for past marijuana-related offenses. Additional funds generated by taxes on recreational marijuana would be used for substance abuse programs, health care for veterans and Missouri’s public defender system.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services would be tasked with regulating recreational marijuana in the state. The initiative includes provisions requiring the agency to issue at least 144 licenses for cannabis microbusinesses, with priority given to low-income applicants and those harmed by the long history of marijuana prohibition.
John Payne, campaign manager for Legal Missouri 2022, one of the groups supporting the initiative, said the effort to qualify the cannabis legalization measure for the November election was a collaborative achievement.
“Our statewide coalition of activists, business owners, medical marijuana patients and criminal justice reform advocates has worked tirelessly to reach this point, and deserves all the credit,” said Payne, who led the successful effort to legalize medical marijuana in Missouri four years ago. “Our campaign volunteers collected 100,000 signatures, on top of paid signature collection. That outpouring of grassroots support among Missourians who want to legalize, tax and regulate cannabis made all the difference.”
Some Cannabis Activists Oppose Legalization Initiative
But not all cannabis activists support the initiative spearheaded by Legal Missouri 2022. Lobbyist Eapen Thampy, the founder of cannabis and criminal justice reform group Great State Strategies, said that his organization opposes the ballot measure because it includes criminal penalties for some marijuana activities including smoking cannabis in unapproved public spaces.
“We oppose this initiative because it would create constitutional criminal penalties for marijuana possession and use and furthermore excludes those with felony marijuana charges from automatic expungement or release from prison,” Thampy said in a statement quoted by the Kansas City Star. “Their licensing scheme is racist and offensive: instead of opening up the free market they create a second class, Jim Crow licensing structure that will be easily rigged by the major industry players.”
Tim Gilio, founder of the Missouri Marijuana Legalization Movement, said he is concerned that the ballot question gives the state’s medical cannabis industry the first opportunity to obtain adult-use cannabis licenses, potentially giving the existing industry too much control over recreational marijuana. He said his group plans to campaign against the initiative, also noting the criminal penalties included in the measure.
“Here we are still putting people in jail over dime bags while these rich men are making millions of dollars under these dispensaries and grow facilities,” Gilio said.
If the measure succeeds at the polls in the November general election, medical marijuana companies would be allowed to apply to sell recreational marijuana on December 8, with regulators required to approve new licenses within 60 days. If voters approve the initiative, Payne expects legal sales of recreational marijuana to begin in Missouri early next year.