Missouri became the latest state to legalize recreational marijuana Tuesday night.
Legal Missouri 2022 claimed victory for Amendment 3 around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, but the race had not officially been called by the Associated Press until early Wednesday morning. With 100% precincts, the amendment passed with 53% of the vote.
The amendment to the Missouri Constitution legalizes the purchase, possession, consumption, use, delivery, manufacture, and sale of marijuana for personal use for adults over the age of 21. It would allow for personal possession up to three ounces.
It prohibits marijuana facilities from selling cannabis-infused products shaped or packaged as candy that may be attractive to children.
The amendment also allows individuals with certain marijuana-related offenses to petition for release from prison or parole and probation and have their records expunged.
A 6% tax on the retail price will be enacted.
Across the state, various groups have shown support and opposition.
Legal Missouri 2022, the campaign registered in support of Amendment 3, raised $5.6 million. The top donors to the PAC were New Approach Advocacy Fund, BD Health Ventures LLC, Good Day Farm Missouri LLC, New Growth Horizon LLC, Green Four Ventures LLC and Organic Remedies MO Inc.
Missouri NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) has six chapters across the state that have each endorsed the passage of Amendment 3.
Mid-Missouri NORML, central Missouri’s chapter, hosted an election night watch party at the Grand Cru restaurant in Columbia Tuesday night.
Dan Viets is a local attorney who’s secretary of NORML at the national level and vice president of the Mid-Missouri NORML chapter. KOMU 8 News spoke to him Tuesday ahead of results about his 50 years in the organization and about what the amendment will mean for Missouri.
Viets said the legalization of marijuana will stop criminalization of “victimless crimes.”
“What’s important is that we stop arresting more than 20,000 of our fellow citizens every year, for victimless behavior,” Viets said. “Marijuana does not need to be treated like a crime. People who use marijuana responsibly should not be treated like criminals. Specifically that our law enforcement officers can spend less time on pointless marijuana investigations and more time investigating violent crime and other types of serious crime.”
Viets said within a year, all past misdemeanors and many felony offenses will be expunged from public records.
But Missouri NAACP President Nimrod Chapel Jr. says Amendment 3 is the “quintessential bait and switch.”
“It says we’re going to expunge criminal records, but it’s got no mechanism to actually make that happen,” Chapel said.
Chapel said because the legislature still has to act to make those expungements happen, they cannot be automatic. He said the bill was worded to make it sound like the expungements are a guarantee while they are not.
Viets said his work with NORML won’t be over now that recreational marijuana is legal in Missouri.
“There’s still going to be a job for NORML,” he said. “We will continue to advocate for the rights of cannabis consumers. We work with the industry when we can, but our primary purpose is to advocate for the interest of cannabis consumers."
In addition, Viets said the 6% tax increase won’t be the only revenue earned from the amendment.
“The amendment also allows local governments to impose an additional 3% tax that they can spend as they wish,” he said.
Along with the Missouri NAACP, Missouri Republicans, Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys and the Missouri Marijuana Legalization Movement urged voters to vote against Amendment 3. Missouri Democrats also refused to endorse the amendment.
Chapel said the NAACP’s biggest reason for standing against Amendment 3 was because of the way the licenses are given out. Licenses will be given equal to the number of existing medical dispensaries, and the medical dispensaries would also get the first chance to apply for their recreational licenses.
Tim Gilio and Ben Hartley, two founders of the Missouri Marijuana Legalization Movement, say they’ve been fighting to end marijuana prohibition for years, but they still don’t support Amendment 3.
“It’s a restrictive industry they’re creating,” Hartley said. “They’re cutting out small businesses.”
There are currently seven dispensaries in Columbia, and it’s possible they will sell recreational marijuana. The dispensaries that already exist will have the first crack at selling marijuana, which Viets said should happen sometime in February.
“When one guy can get several licenses, and you’ve only got 60 cultivation facilities, you’ve got a small group of people owning the entire industry in Missouri,” Gilio said.
In 2018, medical marijuana was legalized in Missouri when voters approved Amendment 2. The amendment legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes, taxed marijuana sales at 4% and required tax revenue to be spent on healthcare services for veterans.
Before Tuesday, possession of 10 grams or less of cannabis is decriminalized and punishable by a fine only.
Marijuana legalization measures appeared on the 2022 ballot in Missouri, Arkansas, Maryland, North Dakota and South Dakota. Arkansas and North and South Dakota did not pass the measures.
Before Amendment 3 passed, 19 states and Washington, D.C. legalized the possession and personal use of marijuana for recreational purposes.
- In 11 states and in D.C., the ballot initiative process was used to legalize marijuana.
- In one state, the legislature referred a measure to the ballot for voter approval.
- In seven states, bills to legalize marijuana were enacted into law.
Possession of up to 3 ounces of marijuana will be legal, a month from the election, on Dec. 8. Viets said people could start cultivating, or growing their own marijuana before sales begin, with up to 18 plants per person.