Mo. Democrats stance on Amendment 3 raises concerns of hurting minorities, low-income earning Missourians

Published: Sep. 19, 2022 at 9:37 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - A push to legalize recreational marijuana has seen a major supporter take a step back.

Missouri Democrats released their positions and opinions ahead of the November election on Monday. Democrats say they support the legalization of recreational marijuana but are not taking a stance on Amendment 3.

At the corner of South Vandeventer and Hunt in South City sits Luxury Leaf, St. Louis’ only black-owned medicinal marijuana dispensary. General Manager Mike Williams expressed concern over the roadblocks he believes minorities face getting into dispensing recreational marijuana.

“Especially when you’re in an industry where 4% of us make up the legal side,” Williams explained. “But when you look at how many are incarcerated, it’s an astronomical number.”

In a statement, The Missouri Democratic Party said Amendment 3 “May negatively impact minorities, people of color, and low-income earning Missourians,” adding that “Democrats have concerns about the expungement provisions laid out in the amendment, as well as making it difficult for those who do not currently have a license to enter the industry.”

“Amendment 3 will pass because Missourians of all political persuasions want to see the Show Me State legalize marijuana and automatically expunge past, nonviolent cannabis offenses,” Legal Missouri 2022 campaign Manager John Payne said. “This grassroots support is precisely why out of more than 90 ballot measures and referendums filed this in Missouri this cycle, the campaign to legalize and expunge is the only one with enough support to make the ballot.”

Luxury Leaf offers 40-50 strains of medicinal marijuana for sale. It took a year to acquire that medical license for the dispensary, it is a ticket to the fast lane to get a recreational license if Amendment 3 passes in November. Williams said it should only take two months to obtain the license because he already sells medical cannabis. For those with less than $250,000 in the capital, micro-licenses would be available to create more equity in the marijuana industry. Not everyone agrees with the micro license idea.

“To me, it seems weird because I’m not sure if they want to make it where micro-licensed dispensaries have to buy from micro-licensed cultivators, which to me is like another ploy to keep a lot of people on the outside,” Williams shared.

As far as tax rates, medicinal marijuana would remain at a 4% state tax. Recreational-use cannabis would have a 6% state tax and an optional 3% local tax.

“A low enough tax rate that it gets rid of the illicit market, and makes us more competitive compared to Illinois which has a tax rate as much as 30% depending on what type of product it is,” Payne said.

If approved, Amendment 3 would allow for possession, consumption, purchase, and cultivation of marijuana for anyone 21-years-old or older.

The law would also automatically expunge records for people with non-violent cannabis offenses. That does not apply to those convicted of distributing marijuana to minors or driving under the influence. If the amendment passes, the possession limit will be three ounces.

“[That is] nearly three times the amount allowed in Illinois and would be tied with NY for second highest possession limit in the country,” Payne explained. “Anything up to twice the possession limit would be punishable by an infraction, similar to a littering ticket. The amendment prescribes only maximum penalties, so any local government could create ordinances that allow for no punishment at all, similar to what Saint Louis City does with possession of small amount of marijuana currently.”

Opponents said it’s an effort to control the flow of cannabis in Missouri.

Advocates said that’s counterproductive to expunging previous convictions.

“Anything that can be tweaked, we can amend that as the process goes on,” Williams shared. “But anything to get people out of jail now is what I’m about.”

For anyone wanting to read the full legal text of the amendment, click here.