Updated: Nov 22
A story from St. Louis Public Radio December 4 contains a remarkable statement from Missouri Governor Mike Parson, who is quoted as saying "...he would 'much rather have the legislators have that discussion out here and see if there is a solution to have one way or the other than doing the ballot initiative. I haven’t changed my opinion on that. I probably agree with you that if it got on the ballot, it’s probably going to pass. … I think there’s a reason that people get sent up to the legislative branches. You get sent up here to make tough decisions. And when you don’t make decisions, that’s why these ballot initiatives kick in.'”
While Gov. Parson does not give much detail why he believes it's best a deliberative, legislative approach to marijuana legalization is best, it's not hard to list the reasons why this might be the case. Most Missouri voters, after all, only really read the short question presented to them on a ballot -- as opposed to reading and understanding the nuances of ballot initiative proposals that can run dozens of pages. Because a ballot initiative is really just a proposal developed and written by a special interest group that is willing to fund a signature collection campaign to place it on the ballot, there's no room for input from external stakeholders, no chance to debate or consider any ballot proposal in context of other governance issues, including and especially the budget.
And as we've discussed extensively, the Constitutional ballot initiative passed by New Approach Missouri in 2018 legalizing medical marijuana created insane compliance requirements and licensing restrictions -- which created intense controversy, legislative investigations, and has cost the state of Missouri millions of dollars in litigation costs. All of which could have been avoided had the Missouri General Assembly passed medical marijuana through a transparent, deliberative, and statutory approach in the first place.
In 2022, Missouri State Representative Shamed Dogan (R-Ballwin) has filed House Joint Resolution 83, which removes the unnecessary regulations and licensing restrictions from the current medical marijuana program, and legalizes marijuana for adult use with no restrictions on licensing or market entry (we covered Rep. Dogan's proposal in detail earlier this year). We hope to see this proposal advance when the General Assembly convenes in January 2022.