Missouri voters approve legalizing recreational marijuana

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) – On Tuesday, Missouri voters voted to pass Amendment 3, which will change Missouri’s constitution to legalize the recreational use of marijuana for people 21 and older.

With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Amendment 3 passed with 53 percent of voters saying yes to Amendment 3.

Beyond just the decriminalization of adult use of marijuana, this amendment is also creating a pathway for people with non-violent marijuana-related offenses to petition for release from prison or parole.

People with previous charges related to non-violent marijuana offenses will also be able to petition to have their records expunged.

According to the American Bar Association, an expungement has the court treat a criminal conviction as if it had never happened. This removes the crime from a person’s criminal record.

Not every marijuana criminal conviction will be up for expungement, however. Those whose convictions included a violet element, those who sold to people underage and those whose convictions included driving under the influence will not be able to petition for expungement.

Government entities estimate that the initial costs of the passing of the amendment will be $3.1 million, with annual costs of $5.5 million. The same government entities estimate the initial revenue associated with the passing of this amendment will be at least $7.9 million, with annual revenue of $40.8 million.

The annual cost for local governments is estimated to be around $35,000, with annual revenues of at least $13.9 million.

The new recreational marijuana sales tax will be set at 6%. This is lower than Illinois’ tax rate of 10% for marijuana products with a THC level of 35% or less and 25% for products with an adjusted THC level above 35%.

The amendment also allows local governments to add up to 3% in local sales tax.

The revenue from the sales tax on recreational marijuana sales is set to fund regulatory programs and the costs associated with expungements of marijuana-related convictions. Surplus revenue from this tax is set to be split equally among veterans’ services, drug addiction treatment and Missouri’s public defender system.

The amendment seeks to increase participation in the legal marijuana industry through small businesses. There will be a minimum of 144 new small businesses added to the current 378 businesses that are licensed.

The new license holders will be selected at random by a lottery system.

The passing of Amendment 3 will also make changes to Missouri’s medical marijuana program. Patient and caregiver ID cards will now only need to be renewed every three years instead of the prior yearly renewal. The cards will cost $25, and nurse practitioners will be added to the list of healthcare professionals who can issue medical cards.

This amendment also provides employment discrimination protection for people who use medical marijuana.

Beyond what is in the bill currently, some activist groups like the Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP) believe this amendment will take off some of the current strain on police departments around the state.

In a press release from LEAP in October, the executive director and retired Lt. Diane Goldenstein said:

“We have watched as marijuana arrests and convictions taxed the resources of our local police departments and caused real harm to neighborhoods. What people don’t see behind the scenes is that law enforcement has a duty to respond any time dispatch receives a call about these low-level marijuana offenses. They divert our attention from responding to and solving more serious crimes. These calls are a distraction and don’t serve the public interest.”

The amendment will be added to Missouri’s constitution on Dec. 8, and sellers will be able to start selling by late February.

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