Missouri legislators have delayed suggested changes to the ballot initiative process to allow ample time for people to place recreational cannabis amendments on the November elections. Although the new legislation still has to win passage in the Missouri Senate, the postponement will delay its implementation until January 2023. Initially, the new law would have gone into effect 30 days after people voted in its favor.
Putting off the commissioning of the new regulation appeared to be the most contentious discussion of the debate last week, despite not being among the principal elements of the proposed bill.
The Missouri House of Representatives approved a new ordinance last Thursday, which would require people to get a two-thirds vote to make constitutional amendments. Lawmakers passed the legislation on a mostly party-based 98-53 vote. If it successfully gets through the senate, it would change the current law that only requires a majority vote to modify state laws.
Furthermore, once the new law is effective, it will increase the number of signatures needed to constitutionalize the ballot. Currently, petitioners need the signatures of at least eight percent of people who cast votes for governor in the previous general election. The proposed bill will increase the required number of signatures to 10 percent of voters in six of the eight districts in the state.
If the bill passes the Missouri Senate, legislators will place it in either the August or November polls for voters to decide.
The two new requirements for constitutional amendments were the main provisions of the bill approved during the session last week. Still, most of the discussion during the debate surrounded a change that would delay the bill’s implementation.
Republican state Representative Adam Schwadron expressed that postponing the execution of the new ordinance was at the request of those seeking to add a recreational marijuana amendment on the November ballot. His remarks were about the joint resolution to place a constitutional amendment on cannabis legalization that Representative Shamed Dogan had pre-filed late last year.
Dogan’s resolution plan would allow adults 21 and older to purchase, possess, and cultivate cannabis for personal use. It would also impose a 12 percent tax on recreational marijuana and four percent on medical cannabis. Moreover, the amendments would bar law enforcement from using state and federal resources to enforce federal cannabis prohibition. More importantly, it shall supersede any conflicting city, county, or state ordinance concerning cannabis regulations.
However, a handful of the GOP members lashed out at the state’s cannabis industry over the prospective constitutional amendment. They cited that its success would allow current medical marijuana business licensees to have the first shot at the new adult-use permits, which are seemingly more lucrative. This rekindled corruption accusations that legislators had previously lobbed about how the state allocated licenses for medical marijuana businesses.
The cannabis industry undoubtedly has immense prospects and business opportunities. For this reason, it’s not surprising that the medical cannabis sector instantly became huge in Missouri following the passing of a constitutional amendment that allowed it in 2018. However, competition for licenses became intense when the state limited the number it would issue.
After widespread reports of irregularities and more than 850 appeals over rejected medical marijuana licenses, the Missouri House launched an inquiry into the licensing process. Moreover, conflicts of interest between the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) and a private company hired to score applications may have tainted the license allocation procedure.
Even so, the DHSS denied any wrongdoing in the licensing process, pointing out that the state has issued considerably more licenses than other jurisdictions in the country. The state regulator also defended the decision to cap the number of cannabis business permits, explaining that it will ensure oversupply doesn’t fuel a black market.
An illicit marijuana industry can easily overshadow the legal market, causing a nightmare for law enforcement and harming the chances of progress in the future.
Currently, activists have placed several petitions to put recreational cannabis legalization on the ballot this year. For this reason, Representative Dan Shaul feels that it would not be fair to implement the suggested bill with these petitions still pending. Shaul, who also chairs the House elections committee, expressed that enacting the proposed law will force the sponsors of the pending petitions to wipe the slate clean.
Therefore, the change on the implementation date will ensure that bong tokers will soon partake cannabis with no fear of prosecution. Without this change, petitioners would have had to go back to the drawing board for a better strategy. This drawback could be detrimental to having a legal recreational cannabis market in the state soon.