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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri voters will head to the polls in nine weeks to decide if marijuana should be legal to buy, use and grow for anyone 21 and older. 

Under state law, lawmakers are required to hold a forum after the secretary of state certifies a ballot question but before voters get to decide. Besides legalizing marijuana, the initiative petition on the November ballot will also ask if previous non-violent offenses should be erased. One judge who spoke at the meeting Tuesday is hesitant about recreational marijuana. 

“The worry is that whatever the person might have been addicted to when he or she came into the judicial system and winds up on drug court later, what they will do is they will just transfer their use from methamphetamines and fentanyl to marijuana for the duration of the time they are supervised,” said Wright County Circuit Judge Craig Carter.”

Carter was one of a handful that testified at Tuesday’s Joint Committee on Legislative Research meeting. Others that spoke were in favor of referendum, saying it would help the free up state’s judicial system. 

“The single most important thing Amendment three does is it’s going to stop the great majority of the 20,0000 plus arrests that happen every year in the state of Missouri,” said attorney Dan Viet. “It places a tremendous burden on our courts, on our law enforcement, on our prosecutors, on our jails, on the probation officers. Resources which are wasted.”

Voters will decide if the Show-Me State should join 19 other states in legalizing marijuana. Last month, Gov. Mike Parson criticized the ballot question. 

“I think that thing is a disaster,” Gov. Mike Parson said in August while at an event 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 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

John Payne is the campaign manager for Legal Missouri 22. He said in an interview last month the campaign 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. 

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. 

Payne said the vast majority of people who have a non-violent offense are getting simple possession citations or arrests for possession of fewer than 35 grams. It allows 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.”

Retired attorney Steve Faber told the committee the expungement provision is an important piece of the amendment because he knows of many Missourians who have minor marijuana offenses who can’t get jobs. 

“The number of families that have been negatively impacted and then you get out of prison. You’ve got this on your record and you can’t get a job that is going to feed your family,” Faber said. “To me, that is one of the most important parts of this initiative.”

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. 

A spokeswoman for Parson said Tuesday the governor does “not plan to expand the call for a special session to include legalizing marijuana.” A group of bipartisan lawmakers asked Parson to allow them a chance consider legislation that would legalize cannabis in a “free market fashion.”

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. 

Back in 2018, Missouri voters approved medical marijuana through a constitutional amendment. The election is on November 8. 

Here’s the link to the full version of the constitutional amendment to legalize recreational marijuana: