The fight against cannabis prohibition is still ongoing in many facets of American society. Despite the fact that 9 out of ten adults support the legalization of medical marijuana and a majority of voters now support adult use, in many states – including Missouri, small amounts of marijuana can still result in arrest or jail time.
As support for cannabis legalization grows, we have watched states roll out their own versions of what legalization looks like.
For decades, I have been an advocate for the legalization of marijuana. I have traveled from state to state over my 14-year career in the industry, chasing the new market that may mend the mistakes of the previous one and provide the ideal environment for prosperity.
Each of these markets has had its strengths and weaknesses, and each piece of legislation has had its own pros and cons as well.
In Colorado, for example, the directive after legalization was to shut down home grows where possible. Police raids throughout the Denver area plagued personal and small-time legal growers. Colorado had a vibrant medical marijuana market prior to legalization, with competition pushed by allowing reasonably sized caregiver grows. Missouri’s Amendment 3 strengthens the abilities of caregivers and home cultivators and reinforces their right to operate without interference from law enforcement.
“Law enforcement agencies investigating possible illegal marijuana grow and sales operations would be required, before seeking a search warrant, to first check with the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) whether their target is licensed by the state as a home cultivator, patient or caregiver. Specifically, “Evidence of marijuana alone, without specific evidence indicating that the marijuana is outside of what is lawful for medical or adult use, cannot be the basis for a search of a patient or non-patient, including their home, vehicle or other property.” This is specifically important due to the fact that this new amendment would strengthen each adult’s rights against illegal search and seizure and would strengthen Missourians’ overall rights under the 4th Amendment.
Amendment 3 is Missouri’s first real opportunity to legalize recreational cannabis. In light of this momentous circumstance, I chose to dive into the amendment and do the best I could to understand the benefits that I, and many of my friends and family, would receive if this legislation were to pass. I have viewed the bill as a means to an end to prohibition.
I have been most interested in affordable licensing that would allow new companies to enter the market and the expungement of marijuana-related offenses. Amendment 3 would address both of these issues.
To start, I examined the similarities and differences between the current laws and what is proposed under Amendment 3.
Under Amendment 3, Missouri would allow anyone over the age of 21 to purchase and carry up to 3 ounces of marijuana without penalty.
Currently, only a current medical marijuana card holder is allowed to legally possess marijuana, an average Missourian over the age of 21 is prohibited from carrying or possessing marijuana without penalty. Every day residents continue to face harassment and arrest for simple marijuana possession in Missouri. Amendment 3 would automatically expunge the records for those convicted of possession offenses of less than 3 lbs, while any person serving a sentence for a marijuana-related offense could petition to be released.
I feel it’s important to consider people serving sentences for marijuana offenses or people with marijuana-related offenses on their record and the impact the passage of Amendment 3 would have on their lives.
After considering the impact on the individuals labeled criminals due to the enforcement of prohibitionist laws and a failed war on drugs, I wondered what other legal impacts the amendment would have on families. I found my answer, under current law, there are no protections for marijuana patients or consumers. Parents that are medical marijuana patients may have their medicinal use used against them in family court matters, applicants can be denied work or fired from their current positions, and tenants and renters can be barred from using or possessing medical marijuana in their homes or businesses.
Amendment 3 would mandate that marijuana be treated similarly to alcohol with regard to family court, a qualified medical marijuana patient can’t have that status be used to restrict custodial or parental rights to minor children. Missourians who possess a medical marijuana card cannot have that use be the reason they are denied work, and allows them to safely use outside of work without the threat of termination from a failed drug test. And while landlords will still be able to restrict or limit legal marijuana consumption on their property, they would also be prohibited from banning their tenants’ legal marijuana possession and consumption by means other than smoking.
How does this amendment measure up to other states?
The possession limit of 3 ounces is among the highest in the nation as compared to any of the other legal states. Many other states only allow adults to possess 1 ounce at a time.
The parental protection components of Amendment 3 are absent from nearly every other legal state.
The tax rate of 6% on adult use marijuana would be among the lowest of all other states, with the average tax in other states at about 15% and Washington having the highest recorded tax rate at 37%.
Under Amendment 3, anyone over the age of 21 would be able to obtain a license to cultivate marijuana for themselves, with all adults able to cultivate 6 flowering plants – one of the highest allowances of all other legal states. This would allow individuals to produce cannabis for themselves in addition to having access to it from dispensaries.
Amendment 3 is not without its critics. There has been vocal opposition from a number of perspectives and sources. From grass roots organizations to politicians, failed applicants for medical licenses to advocates, the opposition has made for strange bedfellow.
The push against legalization playing out in the media and online echoes the same talking points, “this amendment isn’t right for Missouri,” or “Missouri deserves better.”
Not to point out the obvious, but, all other pieces of marijuana legislation in Missouri have failed, with Amendment 2 – now Article XIV being the lone exception. Amendment 2 was another initiative petition that went to a vote of the people after watching medical marijuana struggle and fail time and time again for years.
There is no guarantee that any other piece of marijuana-related legislation will make it as far as Amendment 3 has.
It has taken decades of fighting and pushing for Missourians to finally have marijuana legalization we can actually vote on.
“No Marijuana Penalties in our constitution,” is stated time and time again by those who oppose Amendment 3. While I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment of this statement, I believe it is an extremely unrealistic expectation to have literally no marijuana penalties, in fact, no other legal state or country has unlimited possession and use without penalties.
It’s important that our version of legalization goes further than other states, I think Amendment 3 does that.
The Amendment addresses many major issues with the previous medical laws and adds a microbusiness program which will allow for a craft cannabis market unimpeded by the bigger companies. Small companies entering the industry without having to compete with big brands greatly improves the exposure of these newer,smaller brands.
For those who are speaking out against the so-called “big business monopoly” the answer is not a “NO” vote on the ballot, it’s a vote with your dollar to support those small microbusiness shops instead of corporate dispensaries.
What perceived harm comes from a “Yes” vote to legalize recreational marijuana in Missouri?
The harm if the amendment doesn’t pass is obvious.
People will continue to be beaten down by oppressive drug laws.
Existing operators remain the only legal businesses allowed to participate in any Missouri Marijuana market.
People will continue to be incarcerated for marijuana offenses.
Children will continue to be taken from their parents due to marijuana use.
When compared to its contemporaries, Amendment 3 far exceeds the expectations one would normally have for potential legalization.
From the three-ounce daily purchase limit to the number of plants adults are allowed to cultivate; the invention of an exclusive craft market through microbusinesses, the inclusion of automatic expungement of criminal records for those convicted of simple possession and the ability to petition for early release for those who are on probation or parole or who remain incarcerated, the list of positives and the progress created by the passage of Amendment 3 goes on and on.
Legalization would right so many wrongs in Missouri and carve a path forward into a booming recreational marijuana industry.
I believe in the legalization of recreational marijuana. I think this amendment provides a tremendous opportunity to catch up to the other states that have moved on legalization in the decade before Missouri.
I’m tired of waiting, I want my home state to provide the opportunities in the industry that I have spent more than a decade trying to follow in other states. It’s time that we take some of our freedoms back.
I urge the end of prohibition.
From there we must continue to move the needle until we have the exact marijuana laws that we want.
Patrick Waibel is a 3 time US Cannabis Cup Winning cultivator and consultant. Waibel’s experience in craft cultivation and the cannabis market makes him one of the most trusted contributors in the Missouri cannabis industry.