ST. LOUIS – Missouri voters approved making recreational marijuana legal in the state for those 21 and older.

Five states across the country asked voters if recreational marijuana should be legal – Missouri being one of those. Just a few hours ago, the race was called. After hours of waiting for results which for a long time were quite close, Amendment 3 received 53% of voter support. 

It was just before midnight when Amendment 3 supporters popped the champagne and toasted to a successful campaign. Legal Missouri 22 was behind the ballot question asking if those 21 and older should be allowed to buy, use, and grow recreational marijuana. It would also expunge previous non-violent offenses.

During a victory speech, Legal Missouri 22 Campaign Manager John Payne explained that part of the referendum is to help thousands of Missourians.

“How does it feel to make history?” Payne said. “This is the most important criminal justice reform that has ever been passed by the voters of Missouri. We’re going to put an end to 20,000 arrests every year. We’re going to expunge hundreds of thousands of records for non-violent marijuana offenders.”

Recreational cannabis would be taxed at 6% by the state, and local governments can add another 3% tax, while medical marijuana will continue to be taxed at 4%. It also would allow an additional 144 new small marijuana businesses to open.

Proponents successfully petitioned to have the amendment added to the November ballot after earning signatures from enough residents in six of the state’s eight Congressional districts. Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft certified the petition on Aug. 9.

The Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association, the ACLU of Missouri, Missouri NORML, and the Missouri Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers had endorsed the amendment. Governor Mike Parson vociferously opposed the legalization effort, along with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and the Missouri NAACP. They said Amendment 3 doesn’t belong in the constitution, and it doesn’t decriminalize marijuana. 

Since it’s been approved by voters, the state health department said it could be Feb. 2023 before recreational cannabis is available for purchase.

Missouri was one of five states with marijuana legalization on the ballot (Arkansas, Maryland, North Dakota, and South Dakota being the others).

A little over a month before the election, a Nexstar/Emerson College/The Hill poll found 48% of Missourians supported legalization, with 35% opposed, and 17% undecided.

It’s been a years-long push for full legalization of cannabis in the United States. Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize recreational marijuana use in Dec. 2012.

In the decade since, 19 states, as well as the District of Columbia, the Virgin Islands, the territory of Guam, and the commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, have legalized the drug for personal use. Each state or jurisdiction has its own laws on transportation and cultivation.

A majority of the American public seems to support legalization of marijuana as well. An April 2021 survey by the Pew Research Center reported 60% of all respondents believe medical and recreational marijuana use should be legal. In 1969, approximately 84% of those surveyed were against legalizing weed. A Nov. 2021 Gallup poll showed 68% support for total legalization.

Last month, President Joe Biden announced pardons for all federal convictions of simple marijuana possession, and urged governors to do the same at the state level. The president also directed the Health and Human Services Secretary and Attorney General to examine downgrading cannabis from a Schedule I narcotic to a Schedule II controlled substance.