The Missouri Democratic party supports adult-use cannabis legalization, but it does not endorse Amendment 3, a legalization measure that will appear on the state’s November ballot.

That’s the position the party announced in a news release Sept. 19, according to a St. Louis Post-Dispatch report.

Democrats declined to take a position on the ballot measure due to concerns with its wording, which they said “may negatively impact minorities, people of color, and low-income earning Missourians,” the news outlet reported.

The party’s statement went on to say that “Democrats have concerns about the expungement provisions laid out in the amendment, as well as making it difficult for those who do not currently have a license to enter the industry,” according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

While Trudy Busch Valentine, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, and Alan Green, the Democratic candidate for state auditor, have indicated they will vote for Amendment 3, others in the party, including Missouri Rep. Ashley Bland Manlove, D-Kansas City, have expressed concerns about the measure.

Manlove, who worked with Rep. Ron Hicks, R-Defiance, on an adult-use legalization bill this year, previously spoke out against Amendment 3, saying, “Eighty percent of the licenses will go to persons who already have a medical license. So that means nobody else new gets into this industry, which is heart-wrenching since so many people I know—people who actually put blood money, like their settlements from car accidents, to try and get into the medical industry.”

The main point of contention in the measure is its proposal to expedite adult-use cannabis business licenses for those licensed in Missouri’s medical cannabis program, which has been criticized for its limited licenses and how state officials distributed them, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Others have said that the expungement provisions in Amendment 3 are not robust enough and would be complicated by the way Missouri handles drug conviction records, according to the news outlet.

Legal Missouri 2022, the group behind Amendment 3, submitted twice the signatures needed to qualify its initiative for the November ballot; campaign organizers needed roughly 171,500 signatures to get their measure before voters and turned in more than 385,000 in May.

The proposal would amend the Missouri Constitution to legalize cannabis for adults 21 and older; allow individuals convicted of nonviolent cannabis-related offenses to petition to be released from incarcerations and/or have their records automatically expunged; establish a lottery to award licenses, distributed equally to congressional districts; require a registration card for personal cultivation; and impose a 6% tax on cannabis sales, among other provisions.

The measure would also add, over time, a minimum of 144 new licensees to the existing 378 licensed medical cannabis businesses in the state: 18 in each of the state’s eight congressional districts, with at least six per district operating as dispensaries and the rest designated as wholesalers.

The proposal would also allow Missouri’s municipalities to opt out of adult-use retail operations through a public vote.

Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft certified Legal Missouri 2022’s initiative petition last month.

A lawsuit quickly followed, filed by Jefferson City resident Joy Sweeney with support from Protect Our Kids, a political action committee (PAC) formed by Luke Niforatos of Smart Approaches to Marijuana. The plaintiffs alleged that Legal Missouri 2022 had not gathered enough valid voter signatures to put the measure on the ballot, and that the measure violates Missouri law and the state’s constitution.

The Missouri Supreme Court declined to take the case Sept. 13 after Cole County Circuit Judge Cotton Walker dismissed the lawsuit, and after the Missouri Western District Court of Appeals ruled that Ashcroft correctly certified the initiative petition as sufficient, as well as correctly directed that the measure appear on the November ballot.

“Amendment 3 will pass because Missourians of all political persuasions want to see the Show Me State legalize marijuana and automatically expunge past, nonviolent cannabis offenses,” Legal Missouri 2022 Campaign Manager John Payne told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “This grassroots support is precisely why out of more than 90 ballot measures and referendums filed in Missouri this cycle, the campaign to legalize and expunge is the only one with enough support to make the ballot.”

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of Missouri lawmakers, in collaboration with activists, is calling on Gov. Mike Parsons to include adult-use cannabis legalization on the agenda for the Legislature’s special session, which kicked off Sept. 14 to allow legislators to debate Parson’s proposed $700 million tax cut plan.

RELATED: Missouri Lawmaker Urges Adult-Use Bill Over Citizen Initiative

“Rather than settle for an ill-suited and monopolistic program shoehorned into our [state] constitution, the Missouri General Assembly has a unique opportunity to consider legislation that would legalize cannabis in a truly free market fashion,” State Rep. Tony Lovasco, R-O’Fallon, told the News Tribune earlier this month.

Hicks’ legalization bill, House Bill 2704, was introduced in February and was cleared for a full House vote in April, but House Majority Leader Dean Plocher would not allow the bill to advance without further discussion on business licensing caps. (Hicks had advocated for unlimited licenses, arguing that the free market should determine how many businesses emerge in the adult-use industry.)

While it remains to be seen what, if any, steps lawmakers take toward legalization, as well as how Missourians vote on Amendment 3 on Election Day, a recent poll conducted by SurveyUSA revealed that 65% of the state’s voters are in favor of adult-use legalization.

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