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Missouri Lawmakers Want Weed Legalization Added to Upcoming Special Session

Bipartisan coalition of cannabis advocates and state legislators is calling for Missouri Governor Mike Parson’s inclusion in the special legislative session later in the month. They also revealed the start of an opposition campaign to legalize adult use cannabis. Amendment 3 will appear on the Missouri state ballot in November’s general election.

The state legislature of Missouri will meet at Jefferson City’s Capitol on September 14th to consider a $700,000,000 tax reduction proposal by Parson. But cannabis activists and legislators including Republican state Representative Tony Lovasco are calling on the governor to add discussions for a marijuana legalization plan that could be passed before the electorate votes on Amendment 3, which is supported by the state’s medical marijuana industry.

“Rather than settle for an ill-suited and monopolistic program shoehorned into our (state) constitution, the Missouri General Assembly has a unique opportunity to consider legislation that would legalize cannabis in a truly free market fashion,” Lovasco said.

Although a bill was considered by the Missouri state legislature to legalize recreational marijuana in the state earlier in the year, it failed due to intense lobbying pressure from established medical cannabis industry. The medical cannabis lobby supported Amendment 3. This would have given current medical marijuana licensees access to recreational marijuana licenses. It also put a limit on how many marijuana businesses can be operated in Missouri.

State officials announced on August 9 that Amendment 3 had qualified for the ballot for this fall’s general election. Opponents of legalizing marijuana filed a lawsuit on August 19 to stop the ballot from being placed on the November ballot.

It remains to be determined if Parson will allow the request to add adult-use cannabis legalization on the legislative agenda. The governor has received significant campaign funding from the medical marijuana industry and has publicly opposed the recreational marijuana legalization amendment, saying that it is a “disaster” that will mostly benefit “corporations behind marijuana.”

Missouri Amendment 3 is Opposed by the Group

Advocates for including marijuana legalization talks in the special legislative session repeated Parson’s complaints about Amendment 3. State Representative Wiley Price, a Democrat, said that the proposal would “corner the market for those already in position and continue a long tradition of predatory behavior on minority and poor communities.”

The opponents of Amendment 3 point out that it includes provisions that criminalize certain marijuana-related activities. The proposal is a constitutional amend, so any future changes will not be easy.

“We oppose any effort to put criminal or civil penalties for marijuana in the Missouri Constitution,” said Jeremy Cady, director of Americans for Prosperity Missouri. “The General Assembly should act to end marijuana prohibition and do so in a manner that adheres to free market principles.”

“It can be changed, but it’s going to be very, very hard, so the people who put this in place, will have full control over whether something changes again,” added cannabis activist Timothy Gilio.

John Payne was the Campaign Manager for Legal Missouri 2022. This group is fighting for Amendment 3. He also criticised Eapen Thampy who is a lobbyist and helping to organize opposition. He said if voters approve Amendment 3, it would “ruin [Thampy’s] business model of lobbying for failed marijuana legalization efforts year after year.”

“In November, we will become the 20th state to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana and the first state to vote for automatic expungement of past, non-violent marijuana offenses,” Payne said. “Amendment 3 will allow law enforcement to focus on serious and violent crime, while bringing millions in new revenues to Missourians.”