Missouri activists last week filed a ballot initiative to legalize cannabis for adults in the state and now must collect 175,000 signatures to put the issue to voters during next year’s midterm elections.
The proposed constitutional amendment includes a 6% retail tax, reports Ganjapreneur. It also includes the option for local governments to collect their own 3% tax on sales. The move comes three years after Missouri voters approved medical marijuana.
Legal Missouri 2022 filed and is sponsoring the initiative. The organization’s campaign manager, John Payne, said there is “widespread support among Missouri voters to regulate, tax and legalize marijuana.” The push would make Missouri the 20th state to legalize Cannabis for adult use.
The citizens’ ballot initiative with the Missouri Secretary of State’s office would allow residents aged 21 and older to possess, grow and use marijuana. The proposed six-percent retail tax would likely generate millions of dollars in state revenue annually.
Focus On Criminal Justice Reform
Organizers are proud of the measure’s focus on criminal justice reform. Missourians with low-level marijuana offenses would have their Cannabis records expunged. Advocates plan to begin collecting 175,000 signatures needed to qualify for the November 2022 ballot.
Small businesses get an exclusive shot at one new category of marijuana licenses reserved for them. This category would, over time, add a minimum of 144 licensed facilities to the existing 378 licensed and certified Cannabis businesses in the state.
There would be 18 facilities in each of the state’s eight congressional districts. At least six per district would operate as dispensaries and the remainder would be designated as wholesale facilities. The latter is a new category that allows operators to both cultivate the plant and manufacture Cannabis products.
A lottery would select the new license holders at random.
“We are very proud of the strong patient, consumer, and community protections included in the petition,” said Jamie Kacz, executive director of NORML KC. “Cannabis reform is about more than establishing a safe and legal market. It is about righting the many wrongs prohibition has caused to our communities, especially to communities of color.”
“Opening up the medical cannabis industry to more women, veterans, people of color, drug war casualties, those with disabilities, and residents of job-starved neighborhoods is long overdue,” said Adolphus Pruitt, president of the St Louis City NAACP. “Increasing social equity in this sector is right for Missouri, just as it’s right for the rest of our country.”
Funds derived from cannabis taxes would go to veterans’ healthcare, drug addiction treatment, and the state’s public defender system.
Automatic Expungement Provision Included
The proposal also includes a provision to automatically expunge low-level cannabis crimes. Among the 37 states that have legalized medical marijuana, and 19 to authorize adult use, just seven have such a process.
This expungement program doesn’t include violent offenders. It also excludes those whose offenses involved distribution to a minor or operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of Cannabis. Those types of cases would require to be adjudication through a petition to the court.
“We enthusiastically support this ballot initiative,” said John Bowman, president of the St. Louis County NAACP. Bowman called it “the single largest criminal justice reform undertaken in Missouri and long overdue.”
Half Of All Drug Arrests In Missouri Are For Cannabis
From 2010 through 2018, cannabis possession arrests accounted for 50% of all drug arrests in Missouri, the campaign said in the press release. This places the Show Me state just outside the nation’s top 10 for the highest cannabis possession arrest rates.
Medical cannabis sales in Missouri only began last October and have reached more than $91.36 million, according to a Center Square report.
The measure is competing against separate proposals from other groups, reports Marijuana Moment. But, after all, it was this team behind Legal Missouri 2022 that passed medical Cannabis in 2018.
A copy of the petition is here.