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Full legalization of marijuana will be on Missouri ballot in November

Missouri voters will decide in November if recreational marijuana use will become legal in the state.

The news validates the warnings given by opponents of the 2018 vote that legalized medical marijuana. At the time, critics said it was a ploy for the future full legalization of recreational use.

Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft announced on Tuesday that enough signatures had been gathered to put the issue on the ballot. If voters approve the constitutional amendment on marijuana, Missourians ages 21 and older could buy and grow it for personal consumption as early as this year

“We look forward to engaging with voters across the state in the coming weeks and months,” John Payne, LegalMo22 campaign manager, says. “Missourians are more than ready to end the senseless and costly prohibition of marijuana.”

Missouri voters approved medical marijuana use in 2018. Efforts to allow recreational marijuana use have failed to pass Missouri’s Republican-led Legislature for years, prompting advocates to go to voters for approval instead. Recreational marijuana already is legal in 19 states, and legalization proposals are on the ballot this fall in South Dakota and Maryland. Supporters are also trying to get measures on the ballot in Arkansas, North Dakota and Oklahoma.

Backers of the Missouri ballot proposal are highlighting a provision that would erase past marijuana-related convictions for nonviolent offenders and those whose conviction didn’t include selling to minors or driving while high.

Local NAACP chapters, the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, criminal defense lawyers and other civil rights advocacy groups endorsed automatic expungement, and it could broaden support for the initiative among Republican criminal-justice advocates. Seven other states with legal recreational marijuana also have adopted automatic expungement policies.

Marijuana sales would be taxed at 6 percent under the Missouri measure. The tax is estimated to bring in more than $46 million during the first full year the amendment is in effect and close to $70 million the following year. Revenues would be earmarked for veterans’ homes, drug treatment programs and public defenders. But like the revenue from gambling that is supposed to go to schools, it most often is a wash, with schools or other entities seeing little benefit.

Cities and other municipalities could enact local sales taxes on recreational marijuana up to 3 percent or enact local bans on non-medical marijuana sales by a public vote.

Critics say voters should look closely at Colorado and other states where drug abuse skyrocketed after recreational marijuana was approved. Colorodo state and city governments now spend millions more dealing with increased homelessness, auto accidents and other ramifications from legal pot.

–Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice