Missouri prosecutors have come out against Amendment 3, an adult-use cannabis legalization measure that will go before voters in the November election.
The Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys have issued a position paper on the proposed constitutional amendment, calling it “nothing more than thirty pages of mischief,” according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The prosecutors claim in the position paper that if someone were charged or convicted of killing someone while driving under the influence of cannabis, “Amendment 3 attempts to prohibit our courts from stopping that driver’s continuing use of marijuana,” the news outlet reported.
The association went on to say that legalization should not be enshrined in the Missouri Constitution, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and that it is “bad government.”
“Think how often you have heard about a law that had a problem and had to be fixed or changed—it happens all the time,” the prosecutors said, according to the news outlet. “If any part of the law is invalid or does not do what it was supposed to do, our Legislature is powerless to fix it except to send the amendment back for an expensive statewide election.”
The association also cited issues with the civil penalties for cannabis offenses included in Amendment 3, saying the proposal “fails to protect our children from dealers in black market marijuana.” While the ballot measure would only legalize cannabis for adults 21 and older, “a dealer can give or sell to middle schoolers and face only a ’civil penalty’ of $100,” the prosecutors said, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Prosecutors also raised concerns about the measure’s restrictions on how Missouri’s municipalities can prohibit dispensaries within their jurisdictions, the news outlet reported.
John Payne, campaign manager for Legal Missouri 2022, the group behind Amendment 3, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that “both driving under the influence of marijuana and selling marijuana outside the regulatory system remain illegal,” and that those who sell cannabis to minors would still face felony drug charges under state law.
Payne added that cannabis legalization would “free up law enforcement to focus on serious crime” rather than making “tens of thousands of arrests and citations” each year for cannabis possession offenses.
The Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys is not the first group to come out publicly against Amendment 3; the state’s Democratic party announced earlier this month that it does not endorse the ballot measure due to concerns with its wording, which they argued “may negatively impact minorities, people of color, and low-income earning Missourians.”
Legal Missouri 2022 submitted more than 385,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office in May—twice the roughly 171,500 signatures required to qualify the group’s initiative for the November ballot.
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, which would be 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 business 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 sales through a public vote.
Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft certified Legal Missouri’s initiative petition last month, and while a lawsuit threatened to remove the measure from the ballot, the state Supreme Court declined to take the case Sept. 13, allowing Amendment 3 to appear before voters in November.