Marijuana in Missouri: What’s in the amendment up for public vote?

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Published: Aug. 9, 2022 at 9:44 PM CDT
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - In three months, voters in Missouri will decide whether cannabis should be legal without a medical card.

If what’s on the ballot as Amendment 3 passes, Missouri will be the 20th state to legalize marijuana for adult use without a medical card. But, one piece of the amendment does something no other states’ efforts have.

Amendment 3 is not just about what would become legal but also about what would happen to people with certain marijuana-related convictions in the past. It would automatically expunge those criminal records.

Some states, Missouri included, allow people to ask a court to have past marijuana convictions expunged, but Kansas City cannabis law attorney Drew Goodwin of Joseph, Hollander & Craft says that’s something many people cannot afford to embark on.

“You have to file a petition and initiate legal proceedings. For a lot of people, that requires a lawyer and lawyers require money. So, you have these convictions that go unaddressed,” said Goodwin. “The fact that this is automatic and will be submitted to the voters to be approved as an automatic expungement is truly unique.”

The group behind the petition drive to get the measure on the ballot, known as Legal Missouri 2022, says tax revenue from adult cannabis sales will pay for all the court costs associated.

“It’s no cost to these people. They will have those expungements paid for and they won’t have to do anything to make that happen,” said Legal Missouri 2022 Campaign Manager John Payne.

Exceptions include violent offenders and convictions for distribution to a minor or driving under the influence. Those things would remain against the law even if the amendment passes.

Another thing that would remain illegal is consuming cannabis products in public. The legal age for possessing, purchasing, consuming and cultivating would be set at 21.

The upside to Missouri not being first was the chance to learn from other states’ mistakes. One example is determining tax rates.

The tax rate would remain at 4% for medical card holders. For non-medical purchase, it goes up to a 6% state tax and an optional local tax of up to 3%.

“I think it’s a low enough tax rate that it gets rid of the illicit market and makes us one of the most competitive states in terms of this. So, for instance, a lot lower than Illinois, which can have a tax rate of over 30% depending on the type of product that it is,” said Payne.

The local tax revenue could be spent at that governing authority’s discretion.

The state tax revenue would first cover the expungement costs then go toward the following three programs:

  • Drug abuse prevention services
  • Missouri veteran’s health care services
  • Missouri’s public defender program

Goodwin said the amendment would allow every existing medical marijuana business license holder to convert their license to adult use.

“They can do that within 60 days of the effective date of this section,” Goodwin explained. “So, by early February, you can expect virtually every medical marijuana dispensary to attempt to be an adult use dispensary.”

The amendment does allow localities to opt out of adult-use retail sales but only by a public vote during a presidential election year, he said. The opt-out provision applies only to adult-use sales, not to medical marijuana sales.

Of note to Kansas residents: Although the amendment would allow a resident of any state to buy in Missouri, it would still be illegal to transport a Missouri purchase across state lines.

The initiative will be on the ballot on Nov. 8.

Previous coverage:

Missouri will vote on personal use, decriminalization of marijuana in November