Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, the elected official overseeing the state’s election, publicly announced his opposition to an adult-use cannabis ballot measure last week.

The state’s chief elections officer told KSDK News that he will vote “no” on Legal Missouri 2022’s proposed constitutional amendment, listed as Amendment 3 on the statewide ballot, in part because he believes there’s a problem with the dichotomy between state and federal cannabis laws, and also because he thinks the current proposal would make too many changes to the state constitution.

“I don’t think that this amendment is good for the state,” Ashcroft said in an Oct. 26 interview with the NBC affiliate. “It’s way too much to put in our constitution. If you think that marijuana should be decriminalized under state law, the amendment should say something to the effect of, ‘The recreational use of marijuana in the state of Missouri is not unconstitutional and may be regulated by general statute.’”

The 39-page proposal, if passed, not only would allow Missourians 21 and older to possess, consume, purchase and cultivate cannabis, but it would allow individuals convicted of nonviolent cannabis-related offenses to petition to be released from incarceration and/or have their records automatically expunged.

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In addition, the ballot measure includes provisions to establish a lottery to award new licenses distributed equally among eight congressional districts; to require a registration card for personal cultivation; to impose a 6% tax on cannabis sales to fund various programs like veterans’ services and drug addiction treatment; to strengthen the state’s medical cannabis program; and to allow for municipal opt-outs on adult-use sales, among other policy intentions.

While Missouri state legislators had an adult-use legalization bill on the table earlier this year, that legislation was held up by Republican House Majority Leader Dean Plocher over the absence of licensing caps.

That inaction by state lawmakers came as petitioners from Legal Missouri 2022 were busy gathering signatures for their proposal, which was submitted and made public in August 2021.

Ashcroft was asked to address his party’s sideline stance on the issue during the 2022 legislative session, which ended in May, but he sidestepped the question during his interview with KSDK News.

“My understanding is that the Legislature was working on it,” he said, “and there are at least serious allegations that the people behind this amendment wrote this amendment as a way to enrich themselves, and they put a lot of money into stopping any sort of statutory reform.”

While Ashcroft said those allegations are credible, he also said he doesn’t know that they’re true.

While the secretary of state is casting a no vote on Amendment 3, he signed off on certifying the 214,535 valid signatures Legal Missouri 2022 gathered for the petition in August. Ashcroft also expressed support for the Missouri Supreme Court deciding to not take on a challenge to the measure, essentially allowing it to appear on the ballot, in September.

“I represent the people of Missouri,” Ashcroft said in a Sept. 13 press release. “Regardless of how I personally feel about a ballot measure, my job is to follow the law, and that’s what I did.” 

Despite personal opposition from political leaders like Ashcroft, Republican Gov. Mike Parson and Democratic state Rep. Ashley Bland Manlove, Amendment 3 is still leading in support with a plurality of likely voters in an Emerson College Polling/The Hill survey released Nov. 1.

Pollsters, who conducted the survey Oct. 26-28 among 1,000 likely voters, found that 47% plan to vote in support of Amendment 3, while 39% plan to vote against it and 14% remain undecided.

Those numbers remain fairly steady with a previous Emerson College poll from late September, when 48% of likely voters said they supported the amendment, 35% said they opposed it and 17% were unsure.

Legal Missouri 2022 Campaign Manager John Payne said in an Oct. 19 news release that he remained confident that Amendment 3 will pass on Nov. 8.

“Missouri voters are overwhelming in favor of legalizing marijuana and that is why it’s on the ballot this fall,” he said. “We are excited to show Missourians all the ways this could move our state forward in safety, fairness and a way to help our veterans that has never been there before.”

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