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Missouri Activists Launch Campaign to Oppose Legalization Ballot Initiative, Opting to Approach Reform Thr

A new campaign has launched in Missouri that seeks to convince voters to oppose a marijuana legalization proposal on the November ballot, and instead calls for a special legislative session for lawmakers to enact the reform.

The ‘No On Amendment 3 – Missouri Deserves Better’ campaign has the backing of multiple lawmakers, Missouri’s former lieutenant governor, and various proponents of cannabis legalization.

The group states its objectives as twofold:

  • To encourage voters to reject the proposal to legalize cannabis that will appear on the upcoming ballot.
  • To persuade Gov. Mike Parson (R) to call for a special session whereby lawmakers will focus on passing the reform through the legislature instead of a ballot-approved constitutional amendment.

In particular, Missouri Deserves Better are in favor of a bill to legalize cannabis that was filed by Rep. Ron Hicks (R). After passing a House committee, it failed to make it to the floor for a full vote before the session came to an end.

The qualified ballot initiative has the backing of the ACLU and NORML chapters in Missouri, but while the group behind the proposal – Legal Missouri 2022 – claims the proposed constitutional amendment would establish a framework for equity in the legal cannabis industry, some advocates are not entirely convinced.

Rep. Wiley Price (D), chair of Missouri’s Legislative Black Caucus, said Legal Missouri’s proposal lacks provisions to ensure minority participation in the industry and still risks perpetuating racial disparities through the inclusion of various penalties for certain offenses.

“Amendment 3 will corner the market for those already in position and continue a long tradition of predatory behavior on minority and poor communities,” he said.

“Worse, this proposal will continue to punish Missourians for possession, and would put these penalties in our Constitution,” he said in the opposition group’s press release. “This is extremely tone deaf in a time of criminal justice reform on this particular issue.”

Rep. Tony Lovasco (R), meanwhile, takes issue with approving of the reform by amending the constitution, rather than separate legislation.

“The Missouri Constitution is an inappropriate place for any kind of marijuana possession or use regulation or criminal charges proposed by Amendment 3,” Lovansco said in a press release. “Rather than settle for an ill-suited and monopolistic program shoehorned into our Constitution, the Missouri General Assembly has a unique opportunity to consider legislation that would legalize cannabis in a truly free market fashion.”

There were doubts that Legal Missouri 2022 had collected enough signatures in time to qualify the proposed constitutional amendment for the ballot but no sooner had the secretary of state confirmed its qualification for the ballot, it became subject to a lawsuit.

The plaintiff filed the lawsuit at the state Supreme Court with the backing of the Protect Our Kids PAC on the basis that the measure violates Missouri’s single-subject rule for proposed amendments to the constitution. As well as legalizing marijuana, Legal Missouri 2022’s proposal details licensing requirements and imposes obligations for facilitating expungements of certain cannabis-related convictions.

This will sound familiar to voters in South Dakota who had the result of the 2020 marijuana legalization ballot overturned by the state Supreme Court for violating the single-subject rule. That same year, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that a proposed medical marijuana legalization question be struck from the ballot ahead of the vote on the basis of a single-subject violation.

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