KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Missourians have voted Tuesday in favor of legalizing the recreational use of marijuana.
The Associated Press called the race at 1:40 a.m. Wednesday with Missouri Amendment 3 garnering about 53% of voter support at that time.
Missouri’s legislators failed to pass recreational marijuana at least twice in the past, leading advocates to go to voters for approval instead. The group Legal Missouri 2022 led a petition drive to get the constitutional amendment on the ballot.
At a campaign party Tuesday night in St. Louis, Legal Missouri 2022 leaders called Amendment 3 a win and addressed supporters.
“How does it feel to make history?” campaign manager John Payne asked the crowded room.
Missouri is now the 20th state, as well as Washington D.C., to legalize marijuana in the United States. The move coming 10 years after Colorado was the first to do so. Four other states are also voting on marijuana legalization on Election Day.
The new amendment changes the state constitution to allow those 21 and older to possess up to 3 ounces of marijuana and have up to six flowering plants, six clones and six seedlings.
Missourians could legally buy recreational marijuana as soon as February 2023, according to the Department of Health and Senior Services.
Recreational marijuana products would have a 6% sales tax, estimated to bring in $40 million for the state. The funds would be split amongst veterans services, the Missouri State Public Defender program and for grants related to drug addiction prevention and treatment.
Medical marijuana dispensaries, cultivation facilities and manufacturing licensees will be given the first chance to apply for a comprehensive license to sell both medical and recreational marijuana. After that, a lottery system will be used for an additional 144 micro-licenses.
The amendment will also erase past marijuana-related convictions for nonviolent offenders and those whose conviction didn’t include selling to minors or driving while high.
In October, Democratic President Joe Biden announced he was pardoning thousands of people for federal marijuana possession convictions.
Justice Gatson, a spokesperson with Legal Missouri 2022, said sentencing for some minor marijuana offenses doesn’t often fit the crime.
But opponents of Amendment 3 have argued many of the states that have legalized marijuana are still dealing with the issues they expected to fix by making the change. Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd pointed to marijuana-related traffic fatalities, crimes and children in possession of the drug.
There are also voters who support legalizing marijuana, but don’t believe Amendment 3 was the right answer. They are unhappy about the possession limits and other restrictions included in the amendment.
Missouri’s decision on recreational use comes just four years after voters approved the medical use of marijuana in 2018.
Across the state line in Kansas, however, neither medical nor recreational marijuana use is legal. State lawmakers have failed to approve a medical marijuana bill multiple times. It is one of only three states that has not implemented any kind of public-use marijuana program.
In less than two years since Missouri’s stores opened, medical marijuana dispensaries have reported about $500 million in sales. Tax revenue on medical marijuana sales benefits veterans’ healthcare services, resulting in almost $27 million.
Missouri’s medical marijuana director Lyndall Fraker said there are about 204,000 patients and 3,000 caregivers that have medical marijuana licenses in Missouri.
The recreational marijuana amendment also includes revisions to the medical marijuana program.
“The patient renewal period goes from one year to three years,” Fraker said. “Now they are paying $25 for one year, it will be $25 for three years, so they will only have to have their doctor’s certification done every three years.”
The revisions also would allow nurse practitioners to certify a patient’s medical marijuana card instead of just a physician.