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Legal Missouri 2022 Doubles Down on Corruption & Monopolization of the Recreational Marijuana Market

Last week, Legal Missouri 2022, the successor to the New Approach Missouri 2018 campaign, filed an initiative petition to legalize recreational marijuana through attorney Marc Ellinger. The campaign appears to be primarily backed by individuals and entities who have commercial licenses in the current medical marijuana market and want to secure control of both the recreational and medical marijuana markets. It's worth noting that the Missouri recreational marijuana market is estimated at ~$2 billion, which is 4X what the medical marijuana market is estimated at.

In 2018, voters approved the New Approach Missouri constitutional ballot initiative by 66% of the vote, creating a medical marijuana program. In the next two years, over 2200 applications for commercial marijuana licenses were filed, representing somewhere between $40-$50 million in application fees to the state, legal fees, and application consultants, who often charged between $20,000-$50,000 per application. Eventually, more than 85% of applicants were denied, resulting in significant public controversy and allegations of corruption that have been extensively covered elsewhere.

The Legal Missouri 2022 proposal doubles down on restricting access to legal marijuana commerce:

-allows current medical marijuana licensees to immediately enter the recreational market under existing license caps

-mandates a lottery for any open recreational marijuana licenses

-creates 144 "microbusiness" licenses that allow for very limited production and retail of marijuana with preference for "social equity" applicants that fit a variety of criteria including: being a disabled veteran, being low income, having graduated from an unaccredited school, having a criminal marijuana record or being related to someone who has a criminal marijuana record, and living in an low income area

In other words, the Legal Missouri 2022 proposal effectively hands control of the ~$2 billion recreational market to the licensees who control the medical marijuana market today and excludes entrepreneurs, farmers, and anyone else from owning or operating a real marijuana business. The "microbusiness" category of licenses is not likely to have a real impact on the market, as each microbusiness allowed to grow marijuana is capped at only 250 flowering plants.

The Legal Missouri 2022 recreational marijuana initiative proposal is a market monopoly proposal geared to allow the existing medical marijuana operators to almost completely dominate the recreational marijuana market. It's worth noting that many of the consultants, funders, and campaigners for the 2018 New Approach Missouri campaign won licenses and/or personally profited from consulting and writing license applications including John Payne, the executive director of New Approach Missouri (and now the Legal Missouri 2022) campaign raked in over a million dollars in application writing fees from clients; Jay & Diane Czarkowski of Canna Advisors (won 29 licenses for clients); attorney Chip Sheppard; and Mitch Meyers.

Another serious deficiency of the Legal Marijuana 2022 proposal is that it creates personal possession limits and both civil and criminal penalties for people who possess marijuana over the possession limit. We will cover this issue separately and will highlight for now that we oppose any civil or criminal penalty for marijuana possession.

We urge the citizens and elected representatives of the people to pass recreational marijuana legislation through the Missouri General Assembly when lawmakers reconvene in January 2022. We have extensively covered a legalization proposal filed by State Representative Shamed Dogan (R-Ballwin) that completely eliminates barriers to licensing and market access, allowing for a competitive and robust market and further completely ends the criminalization of marijuana in Missouri.

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