Missouri activists form campaign to oppose marijuana ballot initiative, urge governor to put reform on special session agenda

Missouri activists announced on Thursday that they have launched a campaign to oppose a marijuana legalization initiative that will be on the November ballot, calling on the governor to give lawmakers a chance to enact reform during next extraordinary session.

The “No to Amendment 3 – Missouri Deserves Better” campaign is backed by lawmakers, Missouri’s former lieutenant governor, legalization advocates, and the state chapter director of Americans for Prosperity, among others.

The coalition has two main goals: 1) to urge voters to reject a cannabis legalization initiative that has already been certified for the November ballot and 2) to convince Gov. Mike Parson (R) to allow lawmakers to pass reform marijuana in a special session scheduled to begin September 6.

Specifically, Missouri deserves better wants the legislature to approve a legalization bill from Rep. Ron Hicks (R), which advanced through the committee process earlier this year but never reached the House floor before. the adjournment of the ordinary session.

Lawyers and lawmakers are generally divided on the best path forward for legalization in the Show-Me State.

Legal Missouri 2022, which is behind the cannabis measure that state officials recently certified for ballot placement, insisted they crafted the proposed constitutional amendment to in a way that would provide a level playing field for the industry while promoting fairness through delistings, for example.

The initiative is endorsed by a number of advocacy organizations, including the ACLU of Missouri and the six active Missouri NORML chapters.

Adolphus Pruitt, president of the NAACP of St. Louis, also said in a statement shared with Marijuana Moment that the organization is “proud to support” the ballot initiative because of its “vital and far-reaching criminal justice reforms.” and expanded economic opportunities for communities that have been hurt by marijuana prohibition.

Still, the organizers faced their fair share of rejection regarding certain provisions.

Rep. Ashley Bland Manlove (D), who chairs the state’s Legislative Black Caucus, said Tuesday she was forming her own group called the Impactful Canna Reform Coalition (ICRC) that will work to educate voters about what ‘they see as shortcomings of the certified. voting proposal.

She argued that the initiative lacked comprehensive provisions to make the cannabis market fair, added unnecessary penalties for certain offenses and did not address racial disparities in the criminalization of cannabis, although she admitted that it would be probably approved by the voters.

“Don’t let the monster of capitalism exploit you for temporary good,” Manlove told Marijuana Moment in a phone interview Wednesday. “I expected this initiative petition to pass, but the purpose of the ICRC is simply to let people know what it contains.”

Rep. Tony Lovasco (R), who sponsored a bill this session to provide critically ill patients with access to psychedelics, is also against the Legal Missouri 2022 initiative.

“The Missouri Constitution is an inappropriate place for any kind of regulation of possession or use of marijuana or the criminal charges proposed by Amendment 3,” he said in a press release issued Thursday by No. On Amendment 3. “Rather than settle for an ill-fitting and monopolistic agenda enshrined in our Constitution, the Missouri General Assembly has a unique opportunity to consider legislation that would legalize cannabis in a truly free manner.

“I urge Governor Parson to expand the upcoming special session so the legislature can properly implement these important reforms,” he said.

He separately Told Riverfront Times that if voters approve Amendment 3 in November, he intends to introduce legislation to put another constitutional amendment on the ballot in the next election, or sooner if a special election is called , this would correct what he sees as its shortcomings.

“There are a lot of problems with [the certified measure], and it’s going to be in the Constitution — I don’t agree with that,” Lovasco said. “The Constitution should be reserved for the restriction of governments. The statutes should really be where the regulations or restrictions on people come from.

Rep. Wiley Price (D) argued that “Amendment 3 will corner the market for those already in position and continue a long tradition of predatory behavior on minority and poor communities.”

“Worse, this proposal will continue to punish Missourians for possession and enshrine those penalties in our Constitution,” he said in the opposition group’s press release. “It’s extremely tone deaf in an era of criminal justice reform on this particular issue.”

In the run-up to state certification of the Legal Missouri 2022 ballot initiative, there were doubts that activists had garnered enough signatures in key congressional districts to qualify.

But soon after the secretary of state’s office verified the signatures, an anti-legalization resident filed a lawsuit in the state Supreme Court, backed by the Colorado-based Protect Our Kids PAC. , arguing that the measure violates the state Constitution and should be removed. of the ballot.

The lawsuit says the initiative “makes multiple substantive changes to the Missouri Constitution that will impact all citizens of Missouri,” and it does so not only by legalizing cannabis, but also by imposing licensing requirements. and facilitating radiation, for example.

Because the measure is multifaceted and does not merely propose changing the Constitution to end the ban, the suit says it violates this single subject rule and should be struck down.

A decision on that case could come as early as next week, as the current deadline for Cole County Circuit Court Judge Cotton Walker to issue a ruling is September 13.

Former Missouri Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder (R) supports the Missouri deserves better effort, and he said that “The Amendment 3 campaign is raising and spending millions of dollars to urge Missourians to pass a proposal that would never survive the deliberative and transparent process of the Missouri General Assembly.”

“Conservatives will be outraged by the way this proposal attempts to subvert the will of the people,” he said.

Americans for Prosperity Missouri director Jeremy Cady added that the legislature “should act to end prohibition on marijuana and do so in a way that upholds free market principles.”

Here is what the Legal Missouri 2022 initiative would accomplish:

Adults 21 and older could purchase and possess up to three ounces of cannabis.

They could also grow up to six flowering marijuana plants, six immature plants, and six clones if they get a registration card.

The initiative would impose a 6% tax on recreational cannabis sales and use the revenue to facilitate automatic debarments for people with certain non-violent marijuana-related offenses on their records.

The remaining revenue would go to veterans’ health care, drug treatment and the state’s public defender system.

The Department of Health and Senior Services would be responsible for regulating the program and issuing licenses to cannabis businesses.

Regulators would be required to issue at least 144 micro-business licenses through a lottery system, with priority given to low-income applicants and people who have been disproportionately affected by drug criminalization.

Existing medical marijuana dispensaries would also be the first to begin serving adult consumers with dual licenses.

Regulators could create rules regarding advertising, but they could not be stricter than existing restrictions on the marketing of alcohol.

Public consumption, driving under the influence of cannabis and the use of marijuana by minors would be explicitly prohibited.

A seed-to-sale tracking system would be established for the marijuana market.

Local jurisdictions could refuse to allow micro businesses or cannabis retailers to operate in their area if voters approve the ban on the ballot.

The measure would further codify job protections for medical cannabis patients.

Medical marijuana cards would be valid for three years at a time, instead of one. And caregivers could serve double the number of patients.

A strong majority of Missouri voters, including a plurality of Republicans, support legalizing marijuana for adult use, according to a recent poll.

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Missouri health officials are already taking steps to prepare for voter approval of the legalization measure, and they are accepting public input on best practices for implementation.

John Payne, director of the Legal Missouri 2022 campaign, previously led a successful ballot effort to legalize medical cannabis in the Show-Me state in 2018.

Proponents of the Hicks bill have argued that the lack of specific language in the initiative prohibiting a licensing cap means the emerging market will not be competitive. Some have also expressed concerns about the provisions of the measure aimed at giving medical cannabis dispensaries a head start in serving the adult consumer market.

Another Republican state lawmaker, Rep. Jason Chipman (right), filed a joint resolution this session that would have allowed voters to demand additional oversight over how medical cannabis tax revenues are distributed to veterans.

A different campaign, Fair Access Missouri, separately explored several citizen initiatives this year in hopes of getting at least one on the ballot, but ultimately did not submit signatures for any of the measures.

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Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.

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