About Legal Mo 2022: Recreational Legalization of Weed is on Missouri's Ballot Nov 8th
Part 1: About Legal MO 2022 (written in May of 2022)
For those of you in long-time legal states, talk of legalization may seem novel. However, Missouri would be just the 20th state to legalize cannabis for recreational adult use. For many Americans, legal weed is still out of reach.
If Legal MO 2022 earns enough signatures, it would put adult-use cannabis on the ballot later this year. They have earned nearly double the required signatures, so placement on the ballot seems likely. You can read the full scope of the initiative here, but I’ll outline some features that jumped out to me below: Automatic expungement of non-violent cannabis offenses. Missouri would be just the 8th state to include automatic expungement as a part of adult-use legalization. 6% state tax revenue would go toward: admin costs and processing automatic expungements with extra funds being directed toward veterans’ healthcare, drug addiction treatment, and Missouri’s public defender system. New licenses will be selected via a lottery system. They also state that they are seeking to increase industry participation among populations who have been most harmed by the War on Drugs, but they don’t outline a plan to engage these communities. I was pleasantly surprised to see that automatic expungement is built into the initiative. But with only three of Missouri’s 192 medical dispensaries being Black-owned, I would have hoped to see more planning involved in allocating a portion of new licenses to BIPOC. Maybe those in charge suspected a model similar to New York’s would be a bridge too far for Missouri voters? Being a born and (basically) raised Missourian, I would imagine that’s the case.
I want to see full legalization in Missouri. I also want to see a focus on equity alongside legalization…this seems close but not quite there. I would love to hear from someone with more knowledge on this initiative—if you’re out there, please reply to this email to get in touch!
P.S. a basically-raised-Missourian in my case is someone who grew up just on the Kansas side of the state line. There is literally a State Line Road that Kansas Citians cross regularly
Part 2: Clarification on the language in Legal MO 2022 from Jessica Kelley, working in cannabis reform
Bud to Bud reader, Jessica Kelly, has been working on cannabis reform since 2015 with NORML KC and helped write the initiative. She sent over a clarification of the language in Legal MO 22 and her personal feelings on this step toward adult-use in Missouri.
Let’s start with the content—Jessica let us know that the petition language cannot use the term “BIPOC” or similar because “it would be struck down by the MO Supreme Court as unconstitutional.” They will be awarding a minimum of 144 new equity licenses; those seeking an equity license must meet at least one of the following criteria:
- Have a net worth of less than $250,000 and income below 250% of the federal poverty level for at least 3 of the previous 10 years.
- Have a valid service-connected disability card issued by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
- Have been arrested, prosecuted, or convicted of a non-violent marijuana offense, or be the parent, guardian, or spouse of such person.
- Live in a ZIP code or Census tract with high poverty, unemployment, marijuana imprisonment rates.
- Graduated from an unaccredited school district, or lives in a ZIP code with said district for at least three of the past five years. In addition, the $1,500 application fee will be refunded if a license is not awarded via the lottery system. We love to hear this—the medical cannabis license application fee in MO was exorbitant.
Other highlights include a ban on no-knock warrants for cannabis-related offenses, and civil penalties for those under 21. Jessica tells us that Colorado saw a sizable increase in arrests for the under 21 age group after adult use legalization, so this is Legal MO 22’s effort to keep that from happening.
Legal MO 22 also:
- Allows for the gifting of cannabis between adults 21+
- Expands caregiver cultivation—up to 6 patients and 24 flowering plants
- Medical patient cards will be valid for 3 years (currently 1 year)
- Patient cultivation card cost reduced to $50
- Reciprocity for out-of-state patients
- Nurse practitioners can certify patients
- Protects parents & guardians, who are consumers, from retaliation in family court
- Protects employees, tenants, and those on probation & parole
- Ensures that public resources, adoption, and organ transplants are not prohibited for consumers
- Outlines that the presence of THC in one’s system is not enough to constitute DUI**
Legal MO 22 has been endorsed by the ACLU, St. Louis City & County NAACP, Empower Missouri, Reale Justice Network, all of the Missouri NORML chapters, and the Missouri Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys. NAACP & NORML helped write the language.
Alright, buds, this looks pretty great! Assuming this makes it onto the ballot, I’ll be voting yes. Our source tells us that it will likely be on the November ballot. However, anti-cannabis Governor Parson could direct it to be put on the August ballot.
“Unfortunately, there’s been a lot of misinformation that has gone out about the campaign language. There’s a lot of (understandably) angry people because of how the state botched the 2018 medical marijuana facility scoring process where a lot of qualified applicants were shut out of licensing. Because the Legal MO 2022 language is also backed by many in the current industry, there’s a lot of bad feelings from denied applicants and those who saw it all play out.”
Jessica says she is an activist first and will, “be the first to acknowledge that the language isn’t perfect and doesn’t have everything I would want for our community in it. Politics in a red, prohibition state is just something else though, and it took a joint effort of collaboration with the industry in order to craft language that would make it on the ballot. It costs millions to pass a ballot IP in Missouri—even with a large volunteer base—because of how strict the requirements to qualify are.”
Jessica, “want[s] people to know that this is just the foundation to build from. This gets our foot in the door and secures the essential rights and protections for our community members. But the fight for equity in cannabis is not over and we still have much work to do. The only way to legalize, legitimize, and make cannabis equitable is to chip away at the decades of harm prohibition has caused. And it will take more than this ballot IP passing to get that done. I hate that drug policy reform is such a slow process, but each step toward progress makes a difference. I hope that the community can unite behind ending prohibition and agree to work forwards to adding even better language in the future.”
Thank you, Jessica Kelly, for taking the time to educate our WB team and our Bud to Bud readers on Legal MO 22. Balancing the political realities of operating in a red state with the policy reform and focus on equity our community needs is no small task. I really enjoyed reading Jessica’s insights into this process!
Legal MO 22 is going to be on the ballot November 8th. To those in Missouri, get out and vote on Tuesday.