How quickly recreational marijuana could be ready for purchase if approved by Missouri voters

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — On Tuesday, Nov. 8, Missouri voters will decide whether marijuana should be legal for those 21 and older.

The Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) has no position on whether or not to pass Amendment 3 of the November vote, but would be required to bring the scheme into effect. But if voters approve the measure, how soon could Missourians be buying recreational marijuana, and how is the state preparing to roll out the program?

“We have no opinion on this whole thing,” said Lyndall Fraker, director of medical marijuana in Missouri. “All we want to do is administer the law.”

Next Tuesday, Missouri could join 19 other states in legalizing recreational marijuana. Four years ago, voters approved medical marijuana and sent tax revenues to veterans’ health services.

“We have committed almost $27 million to the Veterans Affairs Commission,” Fraker said.

Overall, the industry has generated more than $500 million in revenue since launching in October 2020. Fraker said there are about 204,000 licensed patients and 3,000 nurses in Missouri.

“The constitution says we should have at least 60 cultivation facilities, 86 manufacturing facilities, and 192 dispensaries, and at least two testing labs,” Fraker said. “We’re close, we’re over the 90th percentile there, but we’re over the minimum for pharmacies. We still have about 11 growers still working to open their doors.”

Amendment 3, which will appear on all national ballots, consists of the following language:

“Do you want to amend the Missouri Constitution to:

  • lift government bans on the purchase, possession, use, use, supply, manufacture and sale of marijuana for personal use by adults over the age of twenty-one;
  • require a personal cultivation registration card with prescribed limits;
  • Allow individuals with certain marijuana-related nonviolent crimes to request parole or parole and parole and have records deleted;
  • Setting up a lottery selection process for issuing licenses and certificates;
  • issue evenly distributed licenses to each congressional district; and
  • impose a 6% tax on the retail price of marijuana to benefit various programs?

Legal Missouri 22 is behind the initiative petition. Campaign manager John Payne previously said Legal Missouri 22 collected 400,000 signatures to put the question on the ballot. Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft’s office authenticated 215,000 of the signatures. If approved by the electorate, it would change the state’s constitution; similar to medical marijuana and Medicaid expansion.

“We’re trying to line up all of our ducks there,” Fraker said. “There is a lot of work updating the software and the IT systems that need to be in place to accommodate all the different types of licenses. We are definitely looking at the staffing that we need to manage and inspect and ensure compliance with.”

Fraker said the medical marijuana program under DHSS currently has about 57 employees. If Amendment 3 is passed next week, he expects that number to double.

“We have to expect it to pass. We don’t know, but we want to be ready when it does,” Fraker said.

If passed on Nov. 8, medical marijuana dispensaries, growers, and manufacturing licensees would initially be able to apply for a comprehensive license to sell both medical and recreational marijuana; thereafter a lottery system would be used for a further 144 micro-licences.

“That’s six licenses times the eight congressional districts, which will be 48 in three different ways, and within those, four dispensary licenses and two cultivation and manufacturing licenses will be issued,” Fraker said. “If you are a microcultivator, you cannot sell to any of the existing dispensaries, one of the comprehensive dispensaries, you can sell to the dispensary within that micro license category.”

Under the micro-license, Fraker said, the grow facilities can grow up to 250 plants. He said the window to apply for a microlicense will come at a later date if voters approve Amendment 3.

“Is there a difference between medical products and adult products?” Fraker said. “No, there is no difference, the only difference is at the point of sale.”

That’s because patients under the medical marijuana program are taxed at 4%, while the initiative’s petition states that recreational marijuana products would have a sales tax of 6%, earning the state an estimated $40 million would.

Under the amendment, 2% of the 6% sales tax goes to the Veterans, Health and Community Reinvestment Fund, then one-third of the remaining balance goes to the Missouri Veterans Commission, another third then goes to the Missouri State Public Defender program and the Remaining portion goes to DHSS to provide grants to improve education and resources for drug addiction treatment and overdose prevention.

Local municipalities are also allowed to tax recreational marijuana at up to 3%.

The referendum would allow people 21 and older to own up to three ounces of marijuana and have up to six flowering plants, six clones and six seedlings. It would also wipe out nonviolent crime.

Legal Missouri 22 said the vast majority of people who have committed nonviolent offenses receive simple possession citations or arrests for possession of less than 1 ounce. Allowing Missourians age 21 and older to own up to three ounces at a time would be the second-highest ownership limit in the country.

When could 21-year-olds and older Missourians buy recreational marijuana if voters approved it? Fraker believes it will be sometime in February 2023. He said the state has 30 days to publish rules and regulations, then dispensaries, grow facilities and manufacturers have 60 days to apply for their licenses.

“It would definitely be after February 8th,” Fraker said. “It will certainly be quicker, and you could say easier, because we already have a program that we had to set up in about five months.”

The referendum also includes revisions to the medical marijuana program.

“The extension period for patients ranges from one year to three years,” Fraker said. “Now they pay $25 for a year, it’ll be $25 for three years, so they only have to get their medical card every three years.”

The revisions would also allow nurses to certify a patient’s medical marijuana ID card instead of just a doctor’s.

Here is the link to the full version of the constitutional amendment legalizing recreational marijuana.

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