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Missouri Legalizes Recreational Marijuana

by Jo Ellen Nott

On November 8, 2022, voters in Missouri passed a ballot initiative legalizing cannabis for recreational use after having approved marijuana for medical use four years earlier. Amendment 3, or Legal Missouri 2022, passed with 53% voter support. The medical marijuana initiative passed with 65% of the vote in 2018.

Amendment 3 amends the Missouri constitution to “remove state prohibitions on purchasing, possessing, consuming, using, delivering, manufacturing, and selling marijuana for personal use” by adults 21 or older. The initiative also “allow[s] persons with certain marijuana-related non-violent offenses to petition for release from incarceration or parole and probation and have records expunged.”

Amendment 3 permits public possession of up to three ounces and home cultivation of up to six flowering plants. It allows adults to share up to three ounces “without consideration.” It will still be illegal to consume cannabis in public or to drive “under the influence of marijuana.”

“Convictions will not be allowed to be based ‘solely’ on the presence of THC or THC metabolites in the driver’s blood.”

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services will license and regulate commercial production and distribution. Regulators can limit the number of retail licenses after a congressional district has 24 medical and recreational dispensaries. “A lottery selection process” will be used to grant licenses and will favor current medical marijuana providers. Recreational weed sales will be subject to a six percent tax, plus local taxes up to three percent.

Opponents of Amendment 3 were Republican Governor Mike Parson, St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones (D), Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft (R), the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, and the Missouri Catholic Conference, the Missouri Constitutional Conservatives PAC, and the Missouri NAACP. The most spurious criticism came from the Missouri Constitutional Conservatives PAC who claimed the amendment “would put critical race theory in the Missouri Constitution through the creation of a chief equity officer.” The Missouri NAACP sees the equity provisions of Amendment 3 as inadequate.

Supporters of marijuana reform criticized Amendment 3’s limits on competition. State Representative Ashley Bland-Manlove (D) from Jackson County noted that “80 percent of the licenses will go to persons who already have a medical license," which "means nobody else new gets into this industry.” Others noted that entrepreneurs from minority communities will not have full access to commercial licensing opportunities.

Representative Ron Hicks (R) from St. Charles County declared “Missourians don’t want their Constitution used to sustain monopolies in the marijuana market, and they don’t want criminal or civil penalties in the Constitution.” Hicks had introduced the Marijuana Freedom Act in September 2022 with more liberal provisions as an alternative to Amendment 3.

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