There are a variety of routes Missourians are taking to legalize recreational marijuana — from signed petitions to proposed legislation. The newest effort comes from a Kansas City couple working to get adult-use cannabis on the 2022 ballot.
Husband and Wife Dispensary Owners Kickstart Petition for Cannabis Constitutional Amendment
Bianca and Rob Sullivan, owners of the Fresh Green medical marijuana dispensary in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, already have a lot on their plate. In addition to opening the first medical cannabis facility in the Kansas City area, the couple are seasoned lawyers – having handled cases from coast to coast and held membership in groups like the Board of Governors for the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys.
Bianca commented that running a dispensary is more than a full-time job on it’s own. She continued, “it’s a lot, it’s just 24 hours a day, that’s all we do,” but she and her husband are gearing up to take on a whole lot more work. The couple are helping draft a ballot initiative to get an adult-use cannabis constitutional amendment in front of voters in 2022.
Rob Sullivan explained that, “we’re all for the full legalization of marijuana — that nobody goes to jail for and it’s not a crime.” He continued regarding the petition that, “once you have a certain amount of signatures… per a certain amount of districts, you can get it on the ballot.”
“As a business owner it’s great because you can expand your business and you can expand your client base, your customer base,” Bianca added. While the pair is confident that the inclusion of recreational weed would benefit their business, they’re also hopeful of the benefits it’ll pack for medical patients. Rob is assured that a fully-legal market would lower overall costs due to new competition, explaining, “the bigger and the wider you make the market, the wider you make the population . . . capitalism gets to work. The more products and better quality products . . . it’s better competition. You’re gonna make better products and you got a better price.”
The Sullivan’s efforts come alongside a series of plans to legalize recreational cannabis. After COVID-19 snuffed out Missouri activists’ campaign to get adult-use marijuana on the 2020 ballot, movements are bouncing back for the upcoming election cycle. In addition to ballot initiatives, there’s currently a bill in the Missouri House of Representatives aimed at legalizing marijuana.
Despite these pushes toward progress, Rob Sullivan is steadfast in his belief that a constitutional amendment is the direction to go. He asserted, “the constitution trumps the laws that the legislature makes ‘cause the people spoke.”
Missouri Lawmakers Push to Legalize Recreational Cannabis
State Rep. Peter Merideth (D) has been outspoken about Missouri’s need for cannabis law reform and the alleged corruption of the state’s current medical marijuana licensing process. Merideth said, “Even if there wasn’t corruption, the appearance of corruption is so problematic. The fact that they’re so set on keeping this cap suggests to me it’s because they’re trying to benefit certain players in the industry.”
The “cap” Rep. Meredith is referring to is the limiting of licenses to cultivate, test, and distribute cannabis within Missouri’s medical marijuana program. In 2020, Merideth proposed a bill that addressed the specifics of that operation, in addition to tackling the legalization of recreational cannabis. According to a December 2020 radio appearance, his bill would tax marijuana similarly to cigarettes, and the program would be carried out by the Bureau of Tobacco and Firearms.
Many leaders of local municipalities have also voiced their support of a legislative shift on the subject, including Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas. He’s argued how undeniable the tax revenue could be for both the state and local communities — it was recently reported that Michigan’s local governments recently split $10 million in marijuana tax revenue.
“I’ll just say it this way: It’s a hell of a lot better for us to have tax revenues from marijuana rather than spending tax revenues to try to continue a somewhat unhelpful, unsuccessful drug war against marijuana,” KC Mayor Lucas commented. But despite scattered support for the cause, there wasn’t enough of an organized push behind Rep. Peter Merideth’s proposal, and the bill wasn’t voted on. Still there are new pushes – from across the political aisle – that are making waves in the Missouri House.
In early January it was reported that Shamed Dogan – a Republican representative of Ballwin, MO – had filed a bill to legalize adult-use cannabis in the Show Me State. In addition to permitting use of the plant for adults aged 21 and up, it would work to introduce reparative measures within criminal justice.
Rep. Dogan explained that his bill, “expunges the records of people who’ve been convicted of nonviolent marijuana offenses and has anyone who’s incarcerated for nonviolent marijuana offense be released from prison.”
The Ballwin representative also plans to address the licensing issues within the medical marijuana program. Dogan argued that, “One of the issues with the medical amendment that we passed was that the authority to regulate was given to the state, and there’s a lot of controversy around that now . . . What I’m trying to do is reduce the amount of regulation on the industry.”
Defending the need for cannabis law reform and the aim of his bill, Rep. Dogan said, “We spend more time and more law enforcement resources going after marijuana smokers than all the other drugs combined. Ten percent of the arrests in the state of Missouri right now are from marijuana possession,” he continued. “I think alcohol prohibition taught us that trying to prohibit something this way, the way we’ve gone about marijuana prohibition, it backfires.”
In 2018, Missouri legalized the medical use of marijuana with 66% of the vote. Lyndall Fraker, the Director of Missouri’s medical marijuana program, has recently discussed how he feels medical cannabis is just a jumping-off point toward full legalization.
“We’ve already heard that they are going to try and work and get it on the ballot. But I don’t think the Legislature will do it. I think it will have to be a petition. It’s going to be on the ballot in 2022. I’m very confident in that, but I don’t know what that language will look like,” Fraker said.
While the details are up in the air, it’s seeming very likely that Missourians will be voting on legal cannabis in 2022.
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