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Legalize it? Voters in Missouri to consider recreational marijuana

If approved, adults over 21 years old could purchase and use cannabis as soon as December 2022.

COLUMBIA, Mo. — A campaign to legalize recreational marijuana in Missouri gathered enough signatures to make it on the November ballot, the secretary of state announced Tuesday.

If voters approve the constitutional amendment on marijuana, those age 21 and older could buy and grow it for personal consumption as early as this year.

Missouri voters approved medical marijuana use in 2018. Efforts to allow recreational marijuana use have failed to pass Missouri's Republican-led Legislature for years, prompting advocates to go to voters for approval instead.

RELATED: Ballot measure to allow Missouri voters to decide future of recreational cannabis

Recreational marijuana is already legal in 19 states, and legalization proposals are on the ballot this fall in South Dakota and Maryland. Supporters are also trying to get measures on the ballot in Arkansas, North Dakota and Oklahoma.

Backers of the Missouri ballot proposal are highlighting a provision that would erase past marijuana-related convictions for nonviolent offenders and those whose convictions didn’t include selling to minors or driving while high.

Local NAACP chapters, the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, criminal defense lawyers and other civil rights advocacy groups endorsed automatic expungement, and it could broaden support for the initiative among Republican criminal justice advocates. 

"We're talking about people who may still be on probation or parole or even had a conviction and did their time and paid their fine but yet it still comes up and is a hindrance in housing or employment," said Alan Zagier of Legal MO 2022. "Provide a fresh start and wipe the slate clean for really tens of thousands of Missourians who each year find themselves arrested for low level drug offenses."

Seven other states with legal recreational marijuana have also adopted automatic expungement policies.

"I don't believe that's something that should cause someone to go to jail and pay a sentence," said voter Madelaine Stasa.

Marijuana sales would be taxed at 6% under the Missouri measure. The tax is estimated to bring in more than $46 million during the first full year the amendment is in effect and close to $70 million the following year. Revenues would be earmarked for veterans’ homes, drug treatment programs and public defenders.

Cities and other municipalities could enact local sales taxes on recreational marijuana up to 3% or enact local bans on non-medical marijuana sales by a public vote.

While some voters are on board, others aren't sold.

"People these days either they drink or smoke and I don't see much difference in that in legalizing it. I think it does more harm to have something illegal and people getting in trouble." Ann Prstojevich said.

"More people do not need to be numb and out of it. We're trying to get people to be more with it not out of it right? We've already got enough to do deal with," Susan L. said.

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