ST. LOUIS – Medical marijuana dispensaries are coming out in favor of recreational use in Missouri. Voters will decide in November whether to join 19 other states in doing so, including Illinois.
Still, approval may not be a slam dunk.
It is a state constitutional amendment. If voters approve the November 8 referendum, it will make it legal for anyone 21 and over to buy, use, and even grow their own marijuana for personal use. It will require registration cards to grow your own. It will expunge non-violent marijuana offenses from criminal records, set up a lottery for licenses to sell it, and establish a 6% state sales tax generating yearly state revenues, estimated at more than $40 million.
“I’ll be voting ‘yes,’” said Jack Maddox, director of retail for SWADE Cannabis, which has five medical marijuana dispensaries in the St. Louis area.
“Hopefully, in December, if this passes in November, we can apply for what’s called a combined license,” he said. “We go from serving 200,000 state-wide ‘med’ patients to about 1.5 million to 2 million ‘21 and up’ people … we’re a company of 150 (employees). We’ll probably double that.”
“(We) definitely won’t be in favor,” said Jamie Morris, executive director of the Missouri Catholic Conference, an advocacy arm of Missouri’s Roman Catholic archdiocese and dioceses.
The group did not take a stance against medical marijuana, which passed in 2018 with the first legal medical sales in Missouri coming less than two years in 2020.
The Missouri Catholic Conference, along with medical groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Missouri State Medical Association, did oppose an attempt to legalize recreational use in the state legislature earlier this year. What was sold to the public as a medical-only proposition seems to have quickly morphed into an argument that it should be legal for fun and relaxation.
“(Recreational legalization) sends a message … ‘It’s ok. It’s not that big of an issue.’ It’s more socially acceptable. So, what we’re finding is … is that there are states where we are seeing increased usage among youth. They’re seeing problems with law enforcement as far as traffic stops,” Morris said.
There are concerns police cannot as easily test for impaired driving under the influence of marijuana as with alcohol. There are no uniform legal blood-THC levels as there are blood alcohol levels.
Morris also pointed to concerns about the impact of more marijuana usage on a workforce currently crippled by a labor shortage.
“Our view is pretty simple on it. Just not a great thing to open the door to in our state,” Morris said.
He expects a statement on the issue from Missouri’s Catholic bishops in the coming weeks.
“We always advocate for safe responsible use,” Haddox said.
Voters decide in less than 12 weeks.