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Group pushes to legalize recreational marijuana use in Missouri

Missouri could become the new Colorado if a newly filed ballot measure legalizing recreational use of marijuana passes. Legal Missouri 2022, a statewide coalition, filed the initiative seeking to legalize recreational marijuana use. It also expunges criminal records for those with previous marijuana offenses.

Marijuana possession accounted for nearly half of all drug-related arrests between 2010 and 2018 with almost 21,000 arrests reported in 2018, according to the coalition.

“Missouri shouldn’t legalize marijuana without automatically expunging thousands of criminal records for marijuana offenses that will soon be legal,” said John Bowman, president of the St. Louis County NAACP. “We enthusiastically support this ballot initiative, which will be the single largest criminal justice reform undertaken in Missouri and long overdue.”

The petition would allow all Missourians over the age of 21 to purchase, possess, cultivate and use marijuana recreationally. A 6 percent sales tax would be collected and fund automatic expungements, with the remainder split between health care for veterans, the state’s public defender system and drug addiction treatment. Local governments also would be able to assess their own sales tax up to 3 percent.

Another provision would create a new category of license aimed at small businesses, a move the group said would bolster disadvantaged communities and add around 144 new businesses across the state.

“There’s widespread support among Missouri voters to regulate, tax and legalize marijuana,” alleges John Payne, Legal Missouri 2022’s campaign manager. “The status quo has allowed an unsafe, illegal market to thrive in Missouri while preventing law enforcement from truly prioritizing the fight against violent crime. Now is the time for Missouri to join the 19 other states to have successfully regulated and taxed adult-use marijuana, bringing millions in new funding for vital state services.”

However, Fair Access Missouri, a group recently approved to circulate its own cannabis legalization language after multiple revisions, warned the 38-page petition was likely “trying to pull a fast one on voters.”

“Hidden in the fine print is another shady scheme from the people who gave us our current mess — except this time, they’re trying to give themselves a constitutionally protected monopoly on a statewide adult-use cannabis market,” according to the group. “We all know Missourians are ready to legalize marijuana. It’s common sense,” they claim. “The question is whether we will have an artificially closed market that can’t be fixed or whether we will have an open market that empowers consumers and encourages entrepreneurship.”

According to the National Institutes of Health, “Cannabis legalization has led to significant health consequences, particularly to EDs and hospitals in Colorado. The most concerning include psychosis, suicide, and other substance abuse. There are deleterious effects on the brain and some of these may not be reversible with abstinence. Other significant health effects include increases in fatal motor vehicle collisions, adverse effects on cardiovascular and pulmonary systems, inadvertent pediatric exposures, cannabis contaminants exposing users to infectious agents, heavy metals, and pesticides, and hash-oil burn injuries due to preparation of concentrates. Finally, cannabis dispensary workers not trained in medicine are giving medical advice that could be harmful to patients.”

Car crashes are up in states that have legalized recreational marijuana, according to new research reported by CBS News. “Two studies, conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Highway Loss Data Institute, found an uptick in collision claims in four states following the start of retail sales of recreational marijuana.”

–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice