JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri’s governor is criticizing a question on the November ballot that asks voters if marijuana should be legal for anyone 21 and older.
In 10 weeks, Missouri voters will decide if marijuana should be legal to buy, use and even grow. The referendum also asks if previous non-violent offenses should be erased. The Show-Me State could join 19 other states in legalizing marijuana.
“I think that thing is a disaster,” Gov. Mike Parson said earlier this week in Kansas City.
The governor bashing the constitutional amendment that is estimated to bring $40 million to the state in revenue and roughly $14 million for local governments.
“The governor is certainly entitled to his opinion on this subject, but this is a criminal justice reform that is long overdue in this state,” said John Payne, campaign manager for Legal Missouri 22.
The question will ask voters, “Do you want to amend the Missouri Constitution to:
- Remove state prohibitions on purchasing, possession, consuming, using, delivering, manufacturing, and selling marijuana for personal use for adults over the age of 21
- Require a registration card for personal cultivation with prescribed limits
- Allow persons with certain marijuana-related non-violent offenses to petition for release from incarceration or parole and probation and have records expunged
- Establish a lottery selection process to award licenses and certificates
- Issue equally distributed licenses to each congressional district
- Impose a six percent tax on the retail price of marijuana to benefit various programs
“At the state level, those [revenue] are going to be dedicated to vital government services such as drug abuse prevention programs, veterans’ health care services, and our bad underfunded public defenders system,” Payne said.
Payne said Legal Missouri 22 collected 400,000 signatures to put the question on the ballot. Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft’s office certified 215,000 of the signatures. If approved by voters, it would amend the state’s constitution, similar to medical marijuana and Medicaid expansion.
“There are some drawbacks to putting it in the constitution because it is more inflexible, but if it has to get done and we’re afraid that the legislature isn’t to be trusted on it, then that’s the way we have to go,” Payne said.
The referendum would allow those 21 and older to possess up to three ounces of marijuana and have up to six flowering plants, six clones, and six seedlings. It also would expunge non-violent offenses.
“We think the expungement element is one of the most critical parts of this because there are tens of thousands, probably hundreds of thousands of Missourians who are walking around with either a conviction on their record or maybe just an arrest,” Payne said.
Payne said the vast majority of people who have a non-violent offense are getting simple possession citations or arrests for possession of less than 35 grams. Allowing Missourians 21 and older to possess up to three ounces at a time would be the second highest possession limit in the country, but Gov. Parson thinks otherwise. He said the referendum is not a “good way to do business.”
“I think even people that support that issue will probably be hesitant when it comes to this, but I think that thing could be a real trap,” Parson said. “I think if you’re going to do it, do something where people can understand it and make sure if they are going to go to the box, they know what they are voting for.”
The governor said he believes there are too many lawyers involved in this initiative petition. Payne said the total amendment is 39 pages, the first 15 are about medical marijuana since the petition extends how long a patient’s medical marijuana card is good for one year to three.
“We’re not super worried about what the politicians think, if we were, we wouldn’t have done it this way,” Payne said. “We’re worried about what the voters of the state think, and we know they are with us.”
With no maximum limit when it comes to licenses to sell marijuana, Payne said Missouri will have per capita, one of the largest numbers of licenses in the country. He said there is a minimum of 144 new licenses under the referendum.
“Those are primarily targeted at communities that traditionally have been harmed by the probation of marijuana, Payne said. “Areas that have a high rate of arrests or conviction of marijuana offenses.”
Back in 2018, Missouri voters approved medical marijuana through a constitutional amendment. The election is on November 8.