A Republican Missouri lawmaker is again making a push to place marijuana legalization on the ballot. But some activists aren’t waiting on the legislature to take action to refer the issue to voters, with one campaign officially launching signature gathering on Wednesday for a separate reform initiative.
Rep. Shamed Dogan (R) on Wednesday pre-filed his joint resolution to place a constitutional amendment on legalization on the 2022 ballot. He introduced a similar proposal last year, but it did not advance.
Under the lawmaker’s plan, adults 21 and older could purchase, possess and cultivate cannabis for personal use. It does not specify allowable amounts.
A 12 percent tax would be imposed on adult-use marijuana sales, while medical cannabis products would be subject to a four percent tax. Revenue would go to a new “Smarter and Safer Missouri Fund” to support veterans services, infrastructure programs like expanding broadband access and drug treatment programs.
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The resolution, which also proposes to eliminate and replace the constitutional amendment that established Missouri’s medical cannabis program, states that the reform is in the “interest of the efficient use of law enforcement resources, enhancing revenue for public purposes, and individual freedom.”
Legalization should be enacted so that “legitimate, taxpaying business people, not criminal actors, conduct sales of marijuana,” it continues. “Marijuana sold in this state shall be subject to testing, labeling, and regulation to ensure that consumers are informed and protected.”
If enacted, no police or state funds could be used to assist in the enforcement of federal cannabis prohibition. And the state could no longer allow asset or civil forfeiture for citizens of age who conduct marijuana activities made lawful under the measure.
“Missouri’s law enforcement and its courts shall protect marijuana users and such users’ property without discrimination and with every effort afforded to every citizen of Missouri and our nation,” it continues. There would also be a process to clear the records of people with non-violent marijuana convictions.
Employers would explicitly be allowed to maintain drug-free workplace policies under the measure.
It also says that the “use or possession of marijuana shall in no way impede on a person’s legal right to possess a firearm.”
The resolution also says that the state legalization law “shall supersede any conflicting city, county, or state statutory, local charter, ordinance, or resolution.”
There are some advocates who want to see the legislature take the lead on establishing a regulated marijuana market, but others remain skeptical that will actually happen in the state’s GOP-controlled House and Senate. That’s why there are currently two separate campaigns working to get legalization initiatives on the state’s 2022 ballot.
Legal Missouri 2022 kicked off its campaign on Wednesday, with plans to deploy hundreds of signature gatherers at major cities throughout the state.
“A similar bill from the same sponsor didn’t even receive a committee hearing last year, so if Missouri is going to legalize cannabis, it will have to be done through the citizen-led imitative petition process,” campaign director John Payne told Marijuana Moment, referring to the Dogan resolution. “That’s why Legal Missouri 2022 has built such a broad coalition and will successfully place this question before Missouri voters in 2022.“
“Signature by signature, our statewide coalition of activists, entrepreneurs, cannabis patients and criminal justice reform advocates hears the same message from Missouri voters: it’s past time to end the senseless and costly prohibition of marijuana,” he said separately in a press release.
The group’s measure would also let adults 21 and older buy and cultivate cannabis. A six percent tax would be imposed on marijuana products, with the resulting revenue supporting automatic expungements for prior cannabis convictions, veterans healthcare, substance misuse treatment and the state’s public defender system.
“Criminal justice reform is a centerpiece of our campaign, which aims to provide a fresh start to tens of thousands of state residents whose criminal records would be wiped clean of low-level marijuana offenses through automatic expungement,” Payne said.
New Approach Missouri, which successfully got a medical cannabis initiative passed by voters in 2018, announced its plans to put the reform proposal on the ballot through its new campaign committee Legal Missouri 2022 earlier this summer.
The organization tried to place the issue of legalization before voters last year, but the COVID-19 pandemic derailed that effort.
Despite the health crisis, activists managed to collect 80,000 raw signatures within months, though they needed 160,199 valid signatures to qualify.
A separate campaign, Fair Access Missouri, is separately exploring multiple citizen initiatives with the hopes of getting at least one on the ballot next year. Three of the four would create a system of legalized cannabis sales for adults 21 and older, while another would simply amend the state’s existing medical marijuana program.
Aside from recreational marijuana legalization, three of the proposed initiatives would amend the state’s medical cannabis program. Among other changes, they would remove licensing caps, repeal the application scoring system, reduce patient fees and allow patients to access a one-year supply instead of 90 day.
Free Access Missouri, which has ties to the Missouri Cannabis Industry Association (MCIA), does seem to be living up to its name based on the measures, which contain provisions that appear to specifically promote industry participation by proposing a system without licensing limits.
For 2022, proposals to amend the state Constitution will need 171,592 valid signatures from registered voters.
Photo courtesy of WeedPornDaily.