Initiative hopes to stop criminalizing marijuana in 2022 election

Local News

SPRINGFIELD, Mo.- The group Legal Missouri 2022 filed a proposal last week with the secretary of state’s office to make it legal for adults 21 and up to buy and own marijuana.

One of the initiative’s main goals is to provide a clean slate for those currently incarcerated for minor marijuana-related offenses.

“There’s about 20,000 arrests that happen every year in the state of Missouri simply for cannabis possession. That’s entirely unjust,” said John Payne, the campaign manager for Legal Missouri 2022.

Payne says adults who use cannabis don’t pose any threat to anybody, as long as they’re not driving or something like that.

“For simple possession, people shouldn’t be getting arrested for it,” says Payne.

John Bowman, the president of the NAACP in St. Louis County, says marijuana offenses unfairly impact minorities.

“Black and brown people incarcerated 10 to 30% more times than other races,” says Bowman.

Payne says if the initiative passes, those who have a misdemeanor or low-level felony with anything lower than 3 pounds of marijuana would be released.

“It doesn’t make sense that those people that committed that offense perhaps years ago are going to have to walk around with that on their record,” says Payne.

Bowman adds the cannabis industry can play a key role in racial equality.

“This is an opportunity for the cannabis industry to play a key role in many areas. We need to open up this industry, where people of color, minorities, have an opportunity to share in the economic growth of this industry,” says Bowman.

The legislation will levy state taxes of 6% on retail sales and allow local governments to assess local sales tax of up to 3%.

The secretary of states office has 45 days since the initiative was filed to review the language.

“At the end of that period, they say, the petition is approved for circulation. Then at that point, we can go out and start gathering signatures. We have to gather a number that’s equivalent to 8% of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election in six of the eight congressional districts in the state,” says Payne.

Those signatures have to be turned in six months before the election, and if the signature threshold is reached, then it goes on the ballot in November 2022.

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