Missouri could be next to legalize recreational marijuana in 2022. A new bill would put marijuana legalization on the ballot for Missouri, entirely scraping off the current medical marijuana program and replacing it with a system that would serve both patients and adult consumers. 

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The proposal was introduced last Tuesday at the state’s House of Representatives, ahead of the next session. As it goes, not only would the House have to approve the legislation, but the Senate as well before it goes on the ballot where voters will decide its future. 

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“I believe in free markets” Dogan told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Tuesday, “and I want to regulate marijuana as closely as possible to the regulations we have on alcohol, tobacco and other products.”

The Smarter and Safer Missouri Act, also known as the proposed constitutional amendment HJR 20, would make weed legal for adults 21 or older and set up a commercial cannabis market, where sales would be taxed at 12 percent – a reasonable percene, considering other state taxes on marijuana. 

However, Missouri’s legal adult-use marijuana program would not require special licensing, beyond that which applies for cultivating, harvesting, processing, manufacturing, packaging, distributing, transferring and displaying product, as stated in the joint resolution. 

The Smarter and Safer Missouri Act also allows for private marijuana cultivation for personal or medical use. The amendment does not establish if there are any limits on the amount of plants people may possess or other related restrictions. 

Advocates for marijuana legalization in the state tried to qualify a citizen-initiated legalization measure for the election this past November. However, efforts simmered as the COVID-19 pandemic made social-distancing measures the new normal and the measure needed signatures to qualify.

They might attempt to qualify for a 2022 measure, in competition with the Smarter and Safer Missouri Act.  

Most states focused tax revenue investment on social equity programs. Under SSMA, tax revenue from weed would be put into a new state fund that goes towards the Missouri Veterans Commission, state infrastructure projects and drug treatment programs. 

The measure would require all courts in Missouri to expunge all civil and criminal records of “non-violent, marijuana-only offenses that are no longer illegal” within 60 days after the amendment passes. 

Law enforcement officers would also have to release anyone incarcerated for similar offenses immediately. 

The proposal is an effort in criminal justice reform, but also is problematic to the already-existing medical marijuana program in Missouri. Voters approved of medical marijuana back in 2018.

Applicants have sued against the current system, as there’s a non-transparent scoring system for obtaining medical marijuana licenses. The matter sparked controversy among lawmakers and pushed for a new resolution that includes legalizing recreational pot.  

The first legal sales of medical weed in the state began just last October and licensing is in early ses. Only 20 dispensaries are approved to operate as of December 23, even though the medical marijuana program is supposed give up to 196 dispensary licenses.

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In manufacturing, only one company is allowed to produce cannabis-infused products under the state law. 

Criticism of the existing limits on licensing and bias on the licensing process risen in the last few weeks. It’s reported that unfair competition and disadvaned minority applicants are the biggest issues.

It’s also said that a lot of the money from marijuana tax revenue – apparently millions – gone to cover legal fees instead of the veteran programs in Missouri, as it was intended from the beginning. 

Lawmakers claim they’ve met constitutional deadlines, despite court challenges and procedural obstacles.

The new plan would completely erase the 2018 amendment, which includes the licensing process and the 196 limit on licenses. 

Under the new plan, medical marijuana would still be legal, but there’s barely any mention on how it would be differently regulated from adult-use weed. 

A medical marijuana section in the amendment says the drug “shall be available to patients, who have a physician’s recommendation for its use” and that patients “shall be afforded the same rights and privileges afforded to any patient treated through conventional therapeutic means, regardless of whether the person is under the care of a physician.”

Medical marijuana would only carry a four percent tax, just as it currently does. 

The proposal states that Missouri police agencies or state money from assisting with federal marijuana prohibition enforcement efforts, will protect gun owners’ right to “bear arms and ban civil asset forfeiture for marijuana offenses”. 

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