Second adult-use ballot petition goes up for review in Missouri

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Enactment of a person enjoying recreational cannabis in Missouri.

A coalition led by Missouri cannabis company operators submitted paperwork last week to add an initiative question to the 2022 November ballot that would legalize production, sale and consumption of adult-use cannabis in the state. The petition, submitted by “Legal Missouri 2022”, contains language that would expunge nonviolent marijuana-related offenses and creates social equity-oriented microbusiness licenses, but also automatically grants adult-use licenses to all medical facilities, while delaying the creation of new licenses by nine months after enactment.

Petition organizers, which includes the campaign manager of 2018’s successful medical cannabis legalization initiative, are confident their initiative will easily beat another proposed adult-use initiative from Fair Access Missouri.

[Read the proposed initiative.]

“We had three [opposing initiatives] last time and we were the only one that passed. We’ve navigated that before. I couldn’t even list the number of petitions filed in 2018. Only three made the ballot,” said John Payne, the campaign manager of Legal Missouri 2022, who also led the campaign that passed Article XIV in 2018. “I don’t think there will be multiple initiatives reaching the ballot. It’s a tough road. We wish everyone luck.”

Getting signatures to put the draft initiative on the ballot should cost about $2 million, Payne told Grown In. But once that’s done, getting it passed could cost significantly more, he said.

Payne, when describing the drafted ballot initiative, which must first undergo a 45-day review process by the Missouri Secretary of State and Attorney General, emphasized clauses that expunged criminal records of marijuana offenses as well as support for his organization from Kansas City NORML and the St. Louis City NAACP.

But the proposed language also includes a number of items Missouri cannabis companies have been jonesing for, including a provision that provides a state tax deduction for any federal taxes paid as a result of the 280E federal tax provision, protection for attorneys from disciplinary action for counseling cannabis businesses, a requirement that all cannabis products sold in Missouri be cultivated or manufactured in the state, regardless of changes in federal law, a provision that bars multiple caregivers from sharing grow space, and an allowance for individuals to grow up to six plants at their home, but only if they obtain an annual $100 a year permit.

The Legal Missouri 2022 petition also creates 144 new microbusiness licenses, which would be targeted at lower-income Missouri residents, military veterans, or family of or individuals arrested for cannabis-related crimes. But these new licenses would not be awarded until at least nine months after enactment of the initiative, a provision that has become a major issue in Illinois, as existing cannabis companies were given a wide head-start over social equity licensees, allowing them time to dominate the market.

As with any other provisions passed as part of the proposed initiative, all would be enshrined in the state constitution, and only changeable through a new ballot initiative, or by three-quarters vote in both the Missouri House and Senate.

Payne expects for Legal Missouri 2022 to begin obtaining signatures to get on the ballot in November. He’ll need to turn in just over 160,000 signatures by May 3, 2022, according to the Missouri Secretary of State’s office.