Marijuana plants are photographed against a dark backdrop.
There's been confusion about what is actually inside the amendment to legalize weed in Missouri. So, The Beacon broke down what's inside.

Update (Nov. 9, 2022): Missouri on Tuesday became the 21st state to legalize recreational marijuana. The Beacon broke down Missouri’s next steps as the state begins the process of transitioning medical marijuana licenses to recreational licenses.

Update (Sept. 28, 2022): This story has been corrected to reflect that a person over 21 and without a medical card who smokes marijuana in a non-designated public area would be subject to a civil penalty and fine of up to $100.

Missouri could become the 20th state to allow legal weed market if Missourians vote “yes” on Amendment 3 on Nov. 8. 

The amendment would allow for legal recreational use, create a microbusiness program for those historically impacted by drug laws and outline new provisions for granting licenses in the state. It also modifies previous laws related to the sale and use of marijuana for medical purposes.

Some legal weed advocates have spoken out against Amendment 3, warning of language they say would do more harm than good, like citations for smoking marijuana in public or capping the legal amount of marijuana possession at 3 ounces. 

Supporters of the petition say it puts in place realistic regulations that are intended to prevent the potential expansion of a black market as the state wades further into the industry. 

The 38-page constitutional amendment, which Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft called “particularly lengthy” and encouraged Missourians to read, has been criticized as wordy and confusing.  

Gov. Mike Parson called the amendment a “disaster,” but shut down any potential for the subject to be considered in this fall’s special session, which is set to wrap this week. 

“I guarantee you this has been written probably by lawyers… and none of us in this state is going to be able to understand 450 pages of what it all means,” Parson told reporters last month, speaking hyperbolically. 

Because of the confusion surrounding the ballot question, The Beacon studied the amendment and provided some reader-friendly language in key sections to assist potential voters.

Section 1: Right to access medical marijuana

This section amends the state’s medical marijuana laws to allow for a recreational market to expand in Missouri. 

A patient or patient caregiver can have up to six flowering plants, six nonflowering plants, and six cannabis cuttings, or plants under 14 inches tall. 

Patient cards will be valid for three years under the amendment, as opposed to the current provisions, which allows cards to be valid for one year. 

Cards will cost $50 annually.

If a person licensed to smoke medical marijuana does so in a public place, they are subject to a civil penalty that cannot be more than $100. If someone over 21, who is not a medical patient, smokes marijuana in a public place that has not been designated as an approved area by the local government, they are subject to a civil penalty or fine up to $100, as the petition details in section 2.

Marijuana use cannot be used as a reason to fire someone if they have a medical card, unless it is being used on the job or the use affects the person’s ability to perform duties at their job. 

Medical marijuana patients from out of state may use their medical cards to purchase medical marijuana products in Missouri. 

Evidence of marijuana alone is not reason enough for a search or arrest warrant.  Only specific evidence indicating that the cannabis is outside of the legal parameters would allow for a search. 

Other lawful activity related to cannabis cannot be the basis for violation of parole or probation.

Registered patients cannot be prohibited from using legal weed as a condition of release if they are on probation or parole.

Medical marijuana use cannot be a factor in determining custodial or parental rights in the state’s family court system. 

Licensing of medical marijuana

The change would create a lottery system for determining which applicants are granted licenses for medical marijuana businesses. The state has come under scrutiny and faced hundreds of lawsuits over the process it has used to decide and award licenses to the  businesses since 2018. 

Some people with felony convictions would be barred from getting a license. If a person’s felony is from a cannabis offense or  nonviolent crime, or it has been more than five years since the person was convicted of a different felony offense, they would still be eligible to apply for a license. 

For dispensaries, cultivation facilities or marijuana product facilities, owners cannot own more than 10% of the state’s market, respectively.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is administratively in charge of the state’s medical marijuana program. 

DHSS would be allowed to restrict the number of licenses granted for cultivation facilities, manufacturing facilities and dispensaries, but may not grant additional licenses.

The Department of Health and Senior Services may not apply or enforce unduly burdensome rules, regulations or administrative penalties on any license or certificate holders, including patients. 

Public records

The amendment would make public all of the records related to both the recreational and medical markets legal weed markets in Missouri.

What happens in the case of federal legalization?

If federal laws are changed to allow the sale of marijuana products between states, all out-of-state products would be subject to the same testing standards as products in state. Also, all of the provisions relating to personal use, family court and medical marijuana licensing would stay in effect unless they are federally preempted.

Section 2: Marijuana legalization, regulation and taxation

Regulation of recreational marijuana

The Department of Health and Senior Services has the sole authority to grant or refuse licenses for legal weed operators in the state and can issue administrative penalties to businesses. It can also change any limits to the number of facilities to meet the demand in the state. 

The department will also develop any applications, certifications or licenses related to operating a marijuana business, as well as programs to track marijuana plants from when they are seeds to when they are sold. 

DHSS will also set the standards for how products should be transported between manufacturers and dispensaries. 

The DHSS will create a lottery process to select which applicants will receive licenses, except in the case of already established medical marijuana operations, which the state will grandfather into the legal program. 

The state’s recreational program will also create microbusiness dispensaries or wholesale facilities, which can do business only with other microbusinesses in the state’s program.  The department can restrict the number of microbusiness licenses issued, and will begin issuing the licenses six at a time. 

A microbusiness is defined as a group where the majority of owners: 

  • Have a net worth less than $250,000 or an income below 250% of the federal poverty level. 
  • Are a veteran with a disability. 
  • Are a person or a person whose spouse, parent or guardian was arrested, prosecuted or convicted of a nonviolent marijuana offense, except for selling to a minor or driving under the influence of marijuana. The person may also reside in a ZIP code or census tract where 30% or more live below the federal poverty level, the rate of unemployment is 50% higher than the average state level or the historic rate of incarceration related to marijuana offenses is 50% higher than the state average. 

Microbusiness owners cannot own another comprehensive marijuana facility, but they can apply for other licenses and transition their operations out of the state’s microbusiness program and into the larger market, which would free up microbusiness licenses for other applicants. 

Businesses can apply for one or more licenses to operate comprehensive cultivation facilities, dispensaries or manufacturing facilities. Licenses are valid for three years and have renewal fees ranging from $10,000 to $25,000, depending on the facility; nonrefundable application fees range from $7,000 to $12,000. 

For the first year and a half of the recreational program, the department will only issue licenses to medical marijuana facilities converting their licenses into permits to operate comprehensive businesses. 

An applicant who is denied a license can appeal that decision. No elected official is allowed to interfere with the DHSS licensure process. The department will take measures to make applications anonymous. 

The department cannot set a limit below 3 ounces on how much marijuana can be purchased in a single transaction.

Taxation of recreational marijuana

A 6% tax rate will apply to nonmedical marijuana sales in the state. At least 2% of the revenue made will be put into a “Veterans, Health and Community Reinvestment Fund” created by the state treasury. The fund will pay for DHSS operating expenses related to the state’s recreational program. It will also be paid out to agencies for the purposes of carrying out the expungement provisions in the amendment. 

The remaining balance will be split in thirds between the state’s veterans commission, grants to increase drug addiction treatment, and the public defender system for legal assistance to low-income Missourians.

Local governments can apply their own sales tax of up to 3 percent.

Personal use of recreational marijuana

Missourians 21 and over can obtain personal cultivation cards, which will allow up to six flowering plants, six nonflowering plants (plants over 14 inches) and six clone plants (plants under 14 inches). The cards are valid for one year and would have an annual fee of $150. 

Local law enforcement would need to check with DHSS to see if a person has a registration card. Evidence of marijuana alone would not be a basis for a search. Any lawful marijuana activity cannot be a basis for violation of probation or parole.

Missourians would be able to purchase, consume, process, transport or deliver 3 ounces or less of dried, unprocessed marijuana.

Anything in excess of 3 ounces would be kept in a locked area that is not publicly visible, otherwise Missourians would be subject to a civil penalty, up to a $250 fine and would have their marijuana confiscated.

Expungement of nonviolent marijuana offenses

Any person who is currently incarcerated due to a marijuana offense that was a misdemeanor, or class E or D felony that involved 3 pounds or less of marijuana is able to petition the sentencing court to vacate the sentence and order expungement of the records. The expungement should be granted, absent good cause for denial. 

The amendment does not state what defines good cause for denial, leaving the sentencing courts to make individual decisions. 

Within 90 days of the amendment going into effect, sentencing courts across the state would issue adjudications for cases involving misdemeanor marijuana offenses. 

Within 180 days, courts would complete adjudication for cases involving class E felony marijuana offenses. Within 270 days, sentencing courts would issue adjudications for class D felonies involving 3 pounds or less of marijuana. 

There is no process outlined for adjudication of cases involving more than 3 pounds of marijuana. 

Any person on probation or parole for marijuana misdemeanors, class E or D felonies involving 3 pounds or less of marijuana, would have their sentences automatically vacated by the sentencing court with all government records expunged, absent good cause for denial.

Within six months of the amendment going into effect, circuit courts across the state shall order the expungement of misdemeanor marijuana offenses for someone no longer incarcerated or on probation or parole. 

For class A, B or C felony offenses, or class D felony offenses of possession of more than 3 pounds of marijuana, circuit courts shall order expungement of criminal history records upon completion of state supervision. 

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MEG CUNNINGHAM is The Beacon’s Missouri Statehouse reporter. Previously, Meg worked as a national politics reporter for ABC News in Washington, D.C., where she covered campaigns and elections. Meg is...