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What a legal recreational marijuana industry could mean for Missouri

Cannabis legalization advocates are pushing for a 2022 ballot initiative that would bring legal recreational weed to Missouri.
Steve Helber
Associated Press
Cannabis legalization advocates are pushing for a 2022 statewide ballot initiative that would allow legal recreational weed in Missouri.

Legal MO 2022 is a ballot initiative campaign to bring recreational marijuana to Missouri. When a state legalizes cannabis, there's a lot to consider.

How cannabis products are ultimately taxed is a big piece of that puzzle. Jack Cardetti, a spokesman for Legal MO 2022, explains that under his coalition's plan, cannabis would include a 6% state tax and a local tax of up to 3%.

"We think that hits a really fine line between providing valuable revenue for government programs . . . but, making sure that the taxes and the cost aren't so much that consumers continue to purchase off of the illegal market."

In neighboring Illinois, he says, taxes can be as high as 35% when it's all said and done, depending on the amount of THC in the product.

The tax dollars earned in the first year of legalization, according to Cardetti, is estimated to be in the $60 million to $100 million dollar range. Those funds would be split in equal parts among the following programs: veteran's health care, drug treatment and mental health services, and the funding of automatic expungements.

One of the more important aspects of legalization, despite being somewhat overlooked in public discourse, is how a state manages criminal record expungement of non-violent marijuana offenders.

Ellen Suni is the dean emerita of the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law. She says criminal record expungement in general is a relatively new concept in Missouri.

"It's only since 2012 that Missouri has had any law providing for expungement of criminal records," she says, adding that only 13 specific offenses could be expunged until 2018.

When it comes to how to handle expungement in relation to marijuana legalization, she agrees with Legal MO 2022's stance of automatic expungement.

"I think it's a necessary part of any long-term plan to provide the kind of relief so that people can get jobs, they can get housing, they can go on field trips with their kids," she explains. "The number of consequences that people face long after their conviction are very, very great."

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