It should come as no surprise that Missouri cannabis activists see the ballot measure as the quickest route to legalization of recreational marijuana. Voters gave the state its legal medicinal system in 2018, with a total of 66 percent voting to allow patient access to the green.
They may get a chance to vote on adult use cannabis in November. A group called Missourians for a New Approach, which is built of a host of activist organizations that were also involved in the successful 2018 ballot measure, has announced plans to let voters decide this year on recreational cannabis.
New Jersey, South Dakota, and Mississippi have all already approved cannabis ballot measures that will go before voters this year.
But if their measure is to get off the ground, Missouri activists will need to act fast. Since the initiative would represent a change to the state’s constitution, it will need 160,000 signatures by the middle of May to qualify for the Missouri’s November ballot.
“There is widespread support among Missouri voters to regulate, tax and legalize marijuana,” said the measure’s campaign manager John Payne. “The status quo has allowed an unsafe and unregulated black market to thrive in Missouri, while wasting law enforcement resources that would be better spent fighting serious and violent crimes.”
Three different constitutional amendments have been submitted by the campaign’s attorney Bradley Ketcher. All would allow individuals 21 years and older to grow up to three cannabis plants, and possess up to one ounce of flower on their person. People with past cannabis-related offenses would have to apply to the court system to have their sentences reduced, or their convictions expunged.
All cannabis products would need to be produced within state lines pending federal legalization, and for the first year of the industry, at least a year of residency within Missouri would be required to apply for a cannabis business permit. Local governments would eventually need to put continued prohibition to a vote if they hope to keep the recreational industry out of their jurisdiction.
People who have a felony conviction would face some restrictions on owning a cannabis business as well, with some exceptions provided for those whose offenses are more than five years old, and non-violent or cannabis-related.
Should one of the plans pass muster with Missouri voters, the state could enjoy a financial windfall. Fiscal analysis of the proposal estimates a state-wide recreational cannabis industry could earn the government between $86 million and $155 million by 2025, plus $17 million to $27 million for local governments. To cover expenses, there will be an estimated start-up cost of $21 million and then an annual price tag of $6 million for the program.
As policymakers and voters ponder the question of legalizing adult use marijuana, the state’s medical cannabis program is slowly but surely getting off the ground. The number of registered users has been so high as to surprise experts, and recipients of the first round of dispensary licenses are due to be announced by the end of February.