A campaign seeking to legalize recreational marijuana in Missouri was successful in its efforts to get the issue on the November ballot.
Legal Missouri 2022, the group behind the initiative petition, and Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft’s office separately announced the news Aug. 9. The general election is scheduled Nov. 8. If passed by voters, Missouri would become the 20th state to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Maryland and South Dakota also have legalization proposals on their November ballots, while supporters of the issue in Arkansas, Oklahoma and North Dakota are still trying to get the issue before voters this year.
The state certified 214,535 voter signatures as valid across its eight congressional districts after the petition was signed by more than 400,000 supporters, according to a news release from Legal Missouri 2022.
John Payne, campaign manager for Legal Missouri 2022, said the minimum signatures required for inclusion was 184,720. Slated to be listed on the ballot as Amendment 3, the proposed constitutional amendment seeks to legalize the purchase, possession, consumption and cultivation of marijuana for adults 21 and older for personal use.
“It’s amazing to start to see it come to fruition,” Payne said.
“I didn’t have a whole lot of time to reflect on it before the interview requests started coming in,” he said Aug. 9, hours after the announcement from the secretary of state’s office. “But it’s a very good feeling.”
Amendment 3 would levy a 6% retail sales tax and allow local governments to assess an additional local sales tax of up to 3%. According to state officials, the retail sales tax would generate estimated annual revenue of at least $40.8 million. An optional local sales tax could bring in at least $13.8 million for local governments.
Additionally, the initiative would automatically expunge the criminal records of Missourians with nonviolent marijuana-related offenses. However, Payne said the automatic expungement provision doesn’t apply to those whose offenses involve distribution to a minor or operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana.
Missouri residents approved medical marijuana legalization in November 2018 through Amendment 2. The program, which began generating sales in October 2020, is under the purview of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. If approved by voters, the adult-use program also would be overseen by MDHSS, said Lyndall Fraker, the department’s director of medical marijuana.
“The good thing for us is we’ve been down this path before, and we started the previous program with nothing,” Fraker said. “Here, we have a structure built, a team built and believe we can take what we have now and work with it to move forward.”
Medical marijuana sales now average $30 million a month in Missouri, according to MDHSS data. In July, the state surpassed $33 million, a new monthly record, bringing cumulative sales for the program to $426.3 million since October 2020.
Mark Hendren, president of Humansville-based Flora Farms LLC, said he’s hopeful that if Amendment 3 passes, it will lead to sales from neighboring states that don’t have legal recreational marijuana. That includes Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Kentucky and Tennessee.
Flora Farms is a vertically integrated company in the medical marijuana industry that operates cultivation and manufacturing facilities along with dispensaries. Hendren said the company was waiting to see if the initiative would make the ballot before expanding its Humansville cultivation facility, which currently has 120,000 square feet under roof among two buildings.
“Our plans now are to start moving forward,” he said of adding an 80,000-square-foot structure in Humansville to accommodate growth. “The lead time on some of the expensive items such as HVAC and electrical work, we’ve been getting timelines put together in anticipation of this decision.”
The pad for the preengineered building is already poured and the concrete and plumbing is on-site, Hendren said, estimating project costs could exceed $14 million. The building should be operational by early 2023, he said, pending any possible delays with the supply chain.
The Legal Missouri initiative would create a new category of cannabis licenses reserved for small businesses, gradually adding 144 licensed facilities to the roughly 350 licensed and certified cannabis businesses in the state. There would be 18 in each of the state’s eight congressional districts, with at least six per district operating as dispensaries and the remainder as wholesale facilities.
It would be a new licensing category allowing operators to both cultivate the plant and manufacture cannabis products, according to Legal Missouri officials. The new license holders would be selected through a lottery. Payne said the first 48 licenses would be made available in fall 2023, if passed.
While Legal Missouri was successful in getting the issue on the ballot, Payne acknowledged the work is far from done. He said the effort to educate voters over the next three months is just beginning.
“We’re going to communicate to voters and tell them what’s in this,” he said. “We should have a very solid majority that will vote yes.”
Data generated by SurveyUSA last month showed an interest in state respondents to legalize the drug for adult use. Roughly 2,400 Missouri adults were polled online in late July with 62% saying they were in favor of marijuana legalization. Another 26% said it should remain against the law, while 12% were unsure.
“I encourage Missourians to study and educate themselves on any ballot initiative,” Secretary of State Ashcroft said in a news release. “Initiative 2022-059 that voters will see on the November ballot is particularly lengthy and should be given careful consideration.”
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