Missouri has legalized marijuana. It joins 20 other states and the District of Columbia in allowing adult recreational use of marijuana.
Starting December 8, 2022, adults 21 and older may use marijuana recreationally in Missouri. Missouri is amending its constitution to make this change. 53% of Missourians voted for the amendment.
- Recreational use. From December 8, 2022 onward, it will not be unlawful to purchase, possess, consume, use, etc., three ounces or less of “dried, unprocessed marijuana, or its equivalent.” Three ounces is about 85 grams. For context, the New York Times reported on a study listing the typical weight of marijuana in a joint at 0.66g.
- Some things are still illegal. The amendment does not allow using marijuana in public or at work, driving under the influence of marijuana, or the use of marijuana by people younger than 21. Also, having too much marijuana will still carry penalties. For example, having more than three ounces but not more than six ounces is a civil infraction carrying a fine.
- License lottery. The amendment gives Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services (the “Department”) authority to establish a lottery for licenses. The lottery will select comprehensive license facilities (such as cultivation, dispensary, or marijuana-infused products manufacturing facilities), certificate holders, and marijuana microbusiness licenses.
- Number of licenses available. The amendment requires the Department to issue the same number of comprehensive licenses as there are existing medical marijuana licenses under Article XIV, Section 1 of the Missouri Constitution. It also allows the Department to issue more licenses to meet demand for marijuana in the state.
- Lottery eligibility. To be eligible to join the license lottery, in general, an owner cannot have pleaded guilty to, or have been found guilty of, a felony.
- Applicant plans. Every applicant for a comprehensive license must submit a voluntary plan promoting and encouraging “participation in the regulated marijuana industry by people from communities that have been disproportionately impacted by marijuana prohibition.”
Beyond legalizing recreational use, the amendment pursues equitable goals starting December 8, 2022, covering:
- Enforcement of applicant plans. The Department may enforce applicants’ plans promoting and encouraging “participation in the regulated marijuana industry by people from communities that have been disproportionately impacted by marijuana prohibition” if the applicant becomes licensed.
- Court petitions for vacating a sentence, release from jail or probation, and expungement. People in jail or on probation who would have not been guilty, or guilty of a lesser offense, if this amendment was in effect at the time of their sentencing “may petition the sentencing court to vacate the sentence, order immediate release from incarceration and other supervision by the department of corrections, and the expungement of all government records of the case.” The amendment tells courts to grant expungement requests “absent good cause for denial.” It also orders the state public defender to “prepare and make readily available and accessible a pleading form that may be filed pro se for this purpose.” Further, it says the “circuit courts of this state shall also make readily available and accessible this pleading form.”
- Recreational use not being a basis to detain, search, or arrest. The amendment says the acts relating to recreational use (purchasing, possessing, consuming, using, etc.) shall not “be a basis to detain, search, or arrest, or otherwise deny any right of privilege, or to seize or forfeit assets under state law or the laws of any local government.”
- Missouri’s “Veterans, Health, and Community Reinvestment Fund.” The amendment establishes this new fund. Missouri will tax the retail sale of non-medical marijuana sold to consumers at 6%. After keeping part of that revenue with the state, the remainder will fund the “Veterans, Health, and Community Reinvestment Fund.” The fund will first cover state administrative costs relating to enforcement of this amendment. Then, it gets distributed in thirds to:
- 1. The Missouri veterans commission and allied state agencies, “exclusively for health care and other services for military veterans and their dependent families”;
- 2. The Department to provide grants to agencies and non-profits to (1) increase access to drug addiction treatment, (2) support overdose prevention education, and (3) support job placement, housing, and counseling “for those with substance use disorders. Agencies and organizations serving populations with the highest rates of drug-related overdose shall be prioritized to receive the grants”; and
- 3. The Missouri public defender system, with any money from this fund being used “only for legal assistance for low-income Missourians.”
Missouri joins Maryland and New Jersey as the only three states to legalize recreational cannabis use by amending their constitutions.