Legalized adult-use marijuana is just a matter of voter choice now that Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft (R) has certified Legal Missouri 2022’s ballot Initiative 2022-059.
Only 180,000 valid signatures were needed to place the measure on November’s ballot, however more than 400,000 signatures were collected.
“We appreciate very much the fact that people involved in the medical marijuana industry helped to finance the signature gathering,” said Dan Viets, a Columbia attorney who defends marijuana cases and serves as the Missouri State Coordinator for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). “About a hundred thousand of those signatures were gathered by volunteers but many of them were also gathered by paid petitioners.”
In addition to legalizing the recreational purchase and use of 3 ounces of marijuana by adults at least 21 years old, Initiative 2022-059 will also mandate the automatic expungement of non-violent marijuana offenses.
“We will stop arresting more than 20,000 of our fellow citizens every year, prosecuting them and giving them criminal records that make their lives much more difficult when they haven't harmed anyone,” Viets told the St. Louis Record. “It will also undo a great deal of the damage that marijuana prohibition has inflicted in recent decades.”
If approved by voters in November, recreational cannabis sales will be taxed at 6% and the revenue will be used to fund expungements as well as healthcare for military veterans, substance misuse treatment, and the public defender office statewide, according to media reports.
Under automatic expungement, defendants do not have to apply, pay a court fee or pay an attorney.
“Within just a few months everybody who has been arrested for misdemeanor marijuana, possession, or paraphernalia possession will have that record expunged and everybody with a felony of up to three pounds will also automatically have that arrest and conviction expunged from all public records,” Viets said.
The Missouri auditor has estimated that the tax imposed on legalized recreational cannabis will gather some $40 million a year in revenue.
“Initially, that money is going to go to pay for expungement,” Viets added. “The expungement of hundreds of thousands of records is going to be a big job and we expect the local circuit clerks to sort through the records of marijuana cases and determine which ones are eligible to be expunged. That service will be paid for out of the tax revenue on adult marijuana sales.”
The initiative would also codify employment protections for Missourians who are medical cannabis patients.