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Missouri is poised to become the 20th state to legalize adult-use cannabis after activists in the Show Me State submitted more than double the signatures needed to bring the initiative to a vote in November. 

If approved, Amendment 3 will legalize possession of up to three ounces of cannabis and the sale of cannabis for personal use to adults over the age of 21. It would also allow people convicted of non-violent marijuana offenses to petition for expungement. 

In November 2008, 65% of Missouri voters voted to legalize medical marijuana, paving the way for Amendment 3. 

But the latest legalization initiative is not without its detractors. 

On August 19th, a Jefferson City resident filed a lawsuit claiming that the legalization campaign did not collect enough signatures to put the proposal on the ballot and violated the single-subject rule for constitutional amendments. The case drew the support of the national anti-drug group Protect Our Kids, whose CEO called the referendum “a scam.”

Joy Sweeney, the resident who filed the lawsuit, is a staff member of the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA). 

Legalization - but not by any means 

According to the Kansas City Beacon, some legalization supporters don’t believe Amendment 3 does enough to help people convicted of criminal offenses involving cannabis. Under Amendment 3, people incarcerated or in a halfway house for cannabis-related misdemeanors or Class E or D felonies would have to petition the court to vacate their sentences or order their release. 

Incarcerated people will only have their requests granted “absent good cause for denial.”

“That’s a very broad phrase. And if what we’ve dealt with thus far in the legal system is any indication of how that could go, a lot of people could end up back in prison,” Real Legalization MO founder Ben Hartley told the Kansas City Beacon. 

​​“The campaign will say ‘automatic expungement,’ and everybody jumps for joy…But again, the devil is in the details. Those are very important things,” Hartley told the Kansas City Beacon.

“A state-sanctioned monopoly”

A recent Kansas City Star article stated that critics of the new amendment “say the measure would effectively enshrine a state-sanctioned monopoly market into the Missouri Constitution, giving existing industry players an unfair advantage in what will be an early scramble for customers and their cash.”

In the article, Republican State Representative Ron Hicks says that the bill's supporters “are trying to freeze an industry and keep it to themselves.”

Supporters of the bill state that favoring already existing operators will mean a smoother transition to a legal recreational cannabis market.

Missouri State Representative Ashley Bland Manlove told Kansas City’s KCTV that the initiative would provide an unfair advantage to already established medical cannabis businesses. 

“80% of the licenses will go to people already in it. We would like an open market, which would give everybody an opportunity to participate in the market, which will also even out the prices of the products,” Manlove said. 

Medical marijuana companies are some of the biggest supporters of Legal MO 2022, the campaign to get Amendment 3 on the November ballot. According to the campaign's July finance report, this includes medical cannabis dispensary operators Agri-Genesis, which contributed $100,000, and Heya Missouri Holdings, which contributed $70,000.

Under the amendment, 80% of the initial licenses for adult-use cannabis companies will go to businesses already licensed for the state’s medical cannabis program. Like in other states, this stipulation means there is less delay in the launch of retail cannabis sales. It also means that already established companies will have a head start on potential competitors.  

Andrew Livingston, the Director of Economics and Research at the cannabis law firm Vicente Sederberg LLP told Rootwurks that “one of the main benefits of ballot initiative processes is that they are able to incorporate the input, experience, and knowledge of existing [cannabis] operators and create a more seamless transition to an adult-use cannabis market that harnesses the existing licensees’ built infrastructure.” 

Livingston added that the amendment “ensures that Missouri will have something of a head start and a new gateway to the center of the country that provides consumers with access to cannabis, and Missouri has a thriving and vibrant medical cannabis market that will only grow stronger.”

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Ben Hartman, Content Manager

Ben Hartman is a cannabis writing and marketing professional with over 15 years of experience in journalism and digital content creation. Ben was formerly the senior writer and research and analysis lead for The Cannigma.

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