The Problems With The Fair Access Missouri Recreational Marijuana Initiative Petition
The Fair Access Missouri Political Action Committee, which is affiliated with the Missouri Cannabis Industry Association (MOCIA) has filed a Constitutional initiative petition to legalize recreational marijuana in Missouri. While the proposal has several problems, it is on the whole preferable to the initiative petition we anticipate from rival marijuana association MOCannTrade and its affiliated Legalize 2022 PAC. We have also covered extensively the proposal from Missouri St. Rep. Shamed Dogan (R-Ballwin), who filed a very good recreational marijuana proposal in the 2021 session.
On the plus side, the Fair Access proposal explicitly prohibits limitations on licensing or onerous licensing fees for recreational marijuana operators. The proposal also explicitly allows for release of marijuana prisoners and expungement of conviction records.
However, the Fair Access proposal has several significant deficiencies. First, the proposal creates personal possession and homegrow limits, which we oppose (it's not like we have restrictions on the ownership of any other kind of personal property in the state of Missouri). By contrast, Rep. Dogan's proposal does not have any personal possession or homegrow limitations. Law enforcement interests we have talked to have expressed concern that continuing to mandate personal possession or homegrow limits would waste law enforcement resources, as police would still have to make a determination of what lawful possession is.
Second, we read the Fair Access proposal to not distinguish between delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (which is specifically prohibited in current Missouri and federal law) and its isomers, delta-8 or delta-10 tetrahydrocannabinol. Currently, both delta-8 or delta-10 tetrahydrocannabinol products are widely sold in Missouri and several other states under the legal umbrella of the federal 2018 Farm Bill, which allows for legally derived cannabinoids from hemp (cannabis with less than 0.3% delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol). It seems unfair to create possession limits and licensing restrictions for products that are already being legally sold in Missouri.
Third, if passed, the Fair Access proposal would leave Missouri in the inefficient position of having three separate state agencies regulating cannabis. The Missouri Dept. of Agriculture would regulate hemp (statutory framework passed by the legislature in 2018), the Missouri Dept. of Health & Senior Services would regulate medical marijuana (Constitutional framework passed by initiative petition in 2018), and the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (Dept. of Public Safety) would regulate recreational marijuana (Fair Access proposal). Having three different state agencies regulating different categories of the same plant (cannabis) would be inefficient and waste taxpayer resources. By comparison, Rep. Dogan's proposal eliminates marijuana licensing altogether and does not task a new state agency with regulation or enforcement of medical or recreational marijuana.
Fourth, the Fair Access proposal explicitly allows the continued criminalization of marijuana if it exceeds the limits proposed. In fact, if the quantity in question is more than two times any legal limit, one can still be convicted of a felony. This is probably the most objectionable part of the Fair Access proposal -- as many diehard marijuana advocates will tell you, cannabis should never be a crime (and we agree). By contrast, Rep. Dogan's proposal completely removes marijuana from the criminal code in the State of Missouri.
Finally, there's the issue of cost and process. Initiative petitions are expensive propositions that take a lot of labor -- one might reasonably anticipate it'll take on the order of $2 million to get this proposal in front of the voters. We also anticipate the MOCannTrade/Legalize 2022 PAC will float a competing initiative petition that is better funded and more restrictive.
By contrast, the elected lawmakers in the Missouri General Assembly are increasingly interested in action -- and the cost from a lobbying perspective is an order of magnitude lower. Part of the reason why lawmakers are interested in acting is the intense controversy surrounding medical marijuana licensing and other issues with regulatory inflexibility that have to do with putting an entire marijuana regulatory framework in the Missouri Constitution.
We'd welcome the chance to engage with Fair Access or any other group that is unhappy with the significant problems stemming from the 2018 New Approach Missouri initiative petition and the medical marijuana program it created. Stakeholders or interested parties can reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.