With more than 1 million votes in favor of the measure, the fate of adult use marijuana in Missouri has been determined.
On Tuesday, voters approved Amendment 3, the initiative petition measure backed by Legal Missouri 2022 that legalizes marijuana possession for adults over age 21 in Missouri.
While the Amendment did not receive the same overwhelming support seen by Amendment 2, now Article XIV, in 2018, voters across the state – especially in the state’s most heavily populated cities pushed legalization passed the legislature through an initiative petition, allowing Missourians the chance to vote and delivering Missouri as the 21st adult use state in the country.
Earlier on Tuesday, citizens in Maryland approved an adult use measure as well, making it the 20th state to legalize recreational weed; Arkansas, North Dakota, and South Dakota all voted down legalization efforts.
Legalization in Missouri goes beyond simply allowing Missourians and visitors to the state to purchase and possess marijuana, the new law brings about significant criminal justice reform, fuels small businesses, and provides protections for Missouri’s medical marijuana patients in court and on the job site.
Those convicted of non-violent marijuana charges involving possession of less than three pounds of marijuana will have their records automatically expunged. There are a few caveats, anyone involved in the distribution or provision of marijuana to a minor, or convicted of driving under the influence of marijuana would not receive automatic expungement.
Additionally, under Missouri’s new law, those currently serving sentences or under active supervision as part of probation or parole may petition the court to vacate their sentence, order their immediate release, and expunge their record.
Along with legalizing marijuana, Missouri’s new law creates a subdivision of the legal cannabis market targeted specifically at creating access to legal marijuana business opportunities for many of those most affected by the failed war on drugs.
A minimum of 144 new microbusinesses will be created as a result of the passage of Amendment 3. The licenses, awarded by a lottery program, require an applicant to meet one of qualify an the following criteria to receive a license. Applicants must:
(a) Have a net worth of less than $250,000 and have had an income below two hundred and fifty percent of the federal poverty level, or successor level, as set forth in the applicable calendar year’s federal poverty income guidelines published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or its successor agency, for at least three of the ten calendar years prior to applying for a marijuana microbusiness facility license; or
(b) Have a valid service-connected disability card issued by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, or successor agency; or
(c) Be a person who has been, or a person whose parent, guardian or spouse has been arrested for, prosecuted for, or convicted of a non-violent marijuana offense, except for a conviction involving provision of marijuana to a minor, or a conviction of driving under the influence of marijuana. The arrest, charge, or conviction must have occurred at least one year prior to the effective date of this section; or
(d) Reside in a ZIP code or census track area where:
(i) Thirty percent or more of the population lives below the federal poverty level; or
(ii) The rate of unemployment is fifty percent higher than the state average rate of unemployment; or
(iii) The historic rate of incarceration for marijuana-related offenses is fifty percent higher than the rate for the entire state; or
(e) Graduated from a school district that was unaccredited, or had a similar successor designation, at the time of graduation, or has lived in a zip code containing an unaccredited school district, or similar successor designation, for three of the past five years.
The creation of the microbusiness category allows for a much lower entry point into Missouri’s cannabis industry. Additionally, it effectively creates a craft cannabis market exclusive only to small businesses and craft growers. It eliminates the battle for shelf space seen in current dispensaries and allows for small-scale, mom-and-pop operations to thrive without having to compete with corporate cannabis. For those that succeed, there is opportunity for growth. Half of all new comprehensive facility licenses awarded must be reserved for microbusinesses that have successfully operated for more than one year.
In addition to microbusiness licenses, Amuicipalities will now have the ability to allow and licenses consumption lounges – creating a new industry and more opportunity for entrepreneurship, while also allowing cannabis tourists and out-of-state participants in Missouri’s recreational marijuana space to partake safely.
In addition to the aspects of criminal justice reform outlined by expungement, medical marijuana use can no longer be used as a disqualifying factor in considering an applicant for employment. Employees with a valid medical marijuana card would also be safe from termination based solely upon a positive result for THC during a drug test.
With legalization, Missouri courts will treat marijuana similarly to alcohol with regard to family court, a qualified medical marijuana patient can not have that status be used to restrict custodial or parental rights to minor children, and cannot have marijuana use be the sole reason for separation or restriction from a child.
While landlords and property owners will still be able to restrict or limit legal marijuana consumption on their property, they are prohibited from restricting their tenants’ legal marijuana possession and consumption by means other than smoking.
While there’s nothing preventing any entity from expediting the processes outlined below, the Department of Health and Senior Services and the Section for Medical Marijuana Regulation as well as local courts are constitutionally bound to hit certain deadlines. The effective date of Amendment 3 is December 8, meaning all timelines start from that point.
On December 8, marijuana possession of 3 ounces or less, will officially be legal for anyone age 21 and over.
On December 8, any existing medical marijuana facility licensee may request its license be converted to a comprehensive facility license. The department must process those requests within sixty days. Unless the Department comes out quickly and issues emergency rules to push the conversion of existing medical licenses, expect it to be February before adults are able to purchase marijuana from a legal dispensary without a Missouri medical card.
Within 60 days of December 8, the Department shall appoint a chief equity officer.
Within 180 days, the Department must complete and make available the public license application forms and application instructions for marijuana microbusiness facilities.
Within 275 days, the Department must begin accepting applications for microbusinesses.
On December 8. any person currently on probation or parole for a marijuana law violation that would now be legal, shall have their sentence automatically vacated by the sentencing court. That court shall order the immediate termination of supervision by the department of corrections and the expungement of all government records of the case.
Within six months, all misdemeanor marijuana offenses for anyone who has already completed their sentence must be expunged.
Within twelve months, all felony marijuana offenses for anyone who has already completed their sentence must be expunged.
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