There are just three weeks to go before Missouri voters head to the polls. And the campaign to legalize adult-use marijuana in the Show-Me State is getting big bucks from the medical marijuana industry, reports the Missouri Independent.
Legal Missouri 2022 — the political action committee supporting a Cannabis legalization proposal on the Nov. 8 ballot as Amendment 3 — has raised nearly $700,000 in large donations since Oct. 1.
The money came from companies in the medical marijuana industry. Amendment 3 gives these firms first dibs on any lucrative adult-use retail licenses issued by the state to grow and sell Cannabis.
$300K Came From Just Two Corporate Donations
The largest contribution was a $200,000 check from Springfield-based BD Health Ventures LLC. Regulators awarded two dispensary and three cultivation licenses to BD Health under Missouri’s medical marijuana program.
A $100,000 check came from Grassroots OpCo LLC. Regulators awarded Grassroots five dispensary licenses in Missouri, but these roots run deeper yet. Grassroots is part of a chain of at least 16 dispensaries across Missouri.
According to its July quarterly disclosure report with the Missouri Ethics Commission, Legal Missouri 2022 spent nearly $6 million getting Amendment 3 on the ballot.
Anti anti-legalization PAC called Save Our State is the chief opponent. Former lawmaker and longtime GOP strategist Scott Dieckhaus created Save Our State in early September solely to oppose Amendment 3.
Save Our State has not reported any contributions at all, since it launched.
Automatic Expungement of Nonviolent Offenses
Amendment 3 asks voters whether to amend the Missouri Constitution to allow legal Cannabis sales, consumption and manufacturing for adults 21 and older, with some caveats.
The amendment includes automatic expungement for certain people with nonviolent marijuana-related offenses on their record. People still incarcerated would have to petition the courts to be released and have their records expunged.
Amendment 3 would create a regulated market where, just like for medical Cannabis, the state would have the authority to cap the number of licenses it issues to grow and sell marijuana. Those with a current medical marijuana business license would be at the head of the line to get adult-use licenses.
Regulators Issued Minimum Medical Licenses In 2018
After Missouri voters approved medical marijuana in 2018, regulators decided to only issue the minimum number of licenses required. That’s 60 cultivation licenses, 192 dispensary licenses and 86 manufacturing licenses.
That short-sighted decision has stirred controversy ever since.
The Missouri House launched an investigation into the licensing process in early 2020. The probe was fueled by widespread reports of irregularities in how license applications were scored. Allegations that conflicts of interest within both the Missouri health department and a private company hired to score applications may have tainted the process.
Denied applicants filed hundreds of appeals. Rumors of FBI scrutiny of Missouri’s mariuana industry have been recurrent.
Regulators Industry Leaders Deny Wrongdoing
Both state regulators and industry leaders have long denied any wrongdoing in the marijuana licensing process. They defend the license caps, noting Missouri issued far more than most states. Regulators and industry figures claim that by capping licenses, the state ensures oversupply doesn’t fuel a black market.
What’s beyond argument is that in so doing, Missouri ensures huge profits for those lucky enough to have one of the much-coveted licenses.
Critics go farther than that. They say the limits have benefited connected insiders in the medical marijuana industry. They further aver that those same insiders now stand to reap huge financial rewards if Missourians vote to legalize adult marijuana use.
Missouri Must Issue At Least The Same Number Adult-Use Licenses As For Medical
Currently, 63 cultivation licenses, 204 dispensary licenses and 84 manufacturing licenses have been issued under Missouri’s medical marijuana program, reports The Kansas City Star.
At a minimum, Amendment 3 requires the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to issue the same number of licenses for the adult-use program as currently exist under the medical program.
But since the medical marijuana licensees can apply to convert their license to adult-use, the number of remaining licenses that state grants will almost certainly be limited.
The Missouri Department of Health and Human Services DHSS will decide how many licenses can be granted in total.