Both sides weigh in on Amendment 3 and who benefits from the billion-dollar industry it looks to create in Missouri

Published: Nov. 2, 2022 at 10:29 PM CDT

ST. LOUIS (KMOV) -- Inside BeLeaf Medical by the Lemp Mansion, the hum of fans fills the air as the company works to create conditions to grow 20 unique strains of medicinal marijuana.

“What you do is you take a full 30,000 square foot facility,” BeLeaf Medical CEO Jason Nelson explained. “You segment it out, so you get nice rotational production.”

Nelson said his operation costs roughly $80 million or more. He’s paying big loans to be in business. He said he is paying $500,000 a month just on the loans. If Amendment 3 Passes, he sees his customer base skyrocketing.

“We are operating with 30 employees,” Nelson shared. “We will double that to 60 if Amendment 3 passes in the next 30 to 60 days so you’re talking about jobs in time for the holidays.”

He believes Amendment 3 encourages competition.

He said Missouri’s 350 currently licensed facilities could be eligible to supply recreational marijuana. Plus, 144 new licenses would be up for grabs. Advocates say they target low-income and minority owners to increase diversity in the industry. Also, Amendment 3 would allow people to grow at home, under certain guidelines to maintain public health safety.

“We got a 100,000 feet facility running in KC,” Greenlight Medical Marijuana Dispensary partner Tom Bommarito shared. “Another 150,000 up and running and another 100,000 we will get up and running but we are waiting on the vote.”

Bommarito’s family is known for car retail. But four years ago, he said he found a partner with growing experience to tackle the budding marijuana industry.

But some believe Amendment 3 could only benefit those already in the game.

“There will be mistakes and unintended consequences and there is not going to be anybody willing to spend $3 million to put it back on the ballot to fix it,” Executive Director of Save Our State Coalition Scott Dieckhaus said.

Diceckhaus said recreational marijuana should be passed through the state capitol.

John Payne with Legal MO 2022 said this amendment is the result of trying that.

“The fact is the political class of this state has shown an unwillingness and inability to address this issue,” Payne shared. “If we passed this by simple statute they would probably repeal or gut it so a constitutional amendment is really how this has to be done.”

Another concern for Scott Dieckhaus is the expungement piece of Amendment 3.

“Those who have served their time, paid their penalty, who are no longer incarcerated, would have their record expunged for free by tax money of Amendment 3, if passed,” Dieckhaus shared. “Those incarcerated would have to pay an attorney, file in the court, those are people with no access to income. That seems to me [to be] done backward.”

That’s not exactly the case. If you take a look at pages 36-38 of Amendment 3, it states an individual can petition a court to vacate the sentence. Further down, it states public defenders will help individuals file.

News 4 spoke with attorney Drew Baebler, whose firm is based out of Crestwood. He said what’s important is the mentioned, “Pro se,” in that section. That means the incarcerated individual would not have representation before the judge, but the state’s public defender’s office would assist with providing documentation and filling out that paperwork without cost.

Anticipating passage, Jason Nelson has set aside operational space. But if Amendment 3 fails, tens of thousands of square footage will sit idol, forcing Nelson to “weather the storm” financially and hope the feds make a move.

“What that looks like is a state program that continues as is,” Nelson explained. “No new licenses, no automatic expungements, the risk to public safety, and the loss of those tax dollars to across the river in Illinois for four to eight years.”

If Amendment 3 passes on November 8, it will be added to the state’s constitution a month later on December 8. That’s when medical license holders would be able to apply to sell recreationally.

Some area dispensaries tell News 4 they are prepared to apply that day so they can start selling by late February at the latest.

Meanwhile, there is a watch party for Amendment 3 supporters on election night at Ballpark Village. Those festivities begin at 7:30 P.M.