Recreational Pot Presents Opportunities for Missouri’s Medical Cannabis Biz

Voters will decide on a proposal to legalize recreational cannabis next month.

In less than two weeks, voters in Missouri will decide on an amendment to legalize recreational pot in the state, a prospect that has some established medical cannabis businesses eyeing expansion.

The St. Louis Business Journal has a report out this week on the ballot proposal, known as Amendment 3, which is “projected to create a significantly larger market for the companies that have already emerged as major players in the state’s legal medical marijuana market.”

The outlet highlighted “Proper Cannabis, a St. Louis-based medical dispensary that opened a $20 million facility in Rock Hill last year, operates three dispensaries in the St. Louis region,” which has recently expanded “its existing facility by 25,000 to 30,000 square feet in preparation for a drastic increase in demand.”

“It’s both exciting and needed,” Proper Cannabis CEO John Pennington told the Business Journal. “What you have in Missouri is two to three times the number of people who are likely already consuming, who will now have safe, compliant and enjoyable places to shop with reliable quality products and medicine.” 

Medical cannabis opened for business in Missouri in the fall of 2020 after voters there passed a measure legalizing the treatment in 2018. 

A year after the medical marijuana program launched, the state reported that the industry had grown to more than 140 dispensaries employing about 5,000 people.

The St. Louis Business Journal also reported on “BeLeaf Medical, an Earth City-based medical cannabis firm, made a notable change as it prepares for the possibility of a market expansion into recreational cannabis.”

According to the outlet, the company recently hired Jason Nelson as its new CEO. Nelson “joined the company three and a half months ago from Chicago-based Cresco Labs, where he was the cannabis firm’s senior vice president of horticulture,” and where he “helped the company expand into 10 states, including five that made the transition from medical to recreational sales.”

Amendment 3 officially qualified for the Missouri ballot in August, when Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft said that the group behind the proposal, Legal Missouri 2022, had submitted a sufficient number of valid signatures.

“Our statewide coalition of activists, business owners, medical marijuana patients and criminal justice reform advocates has worked tirelessly to reach this point, and deserves all the credit,” Legal Missouri campaign manager John Payne said in a statement at the time. “Our campaign volunteers collected 100,000 signatures, on top of paid signature collection. That outpouring of grassroots support among Missourians who want to legalize, tax and regulate cannabis made all the difference. We look forward to engaging with voters across the state in the coming weeks and months. Missourians are more than ready to end the senseless and costly prohibition of marijuana.”

If it is approved by voters, Amendment 3 will allow “Missourians 21 years and older to possess, purchase, consume and cultivate marijuana,” and “Missourians with nonviolent marijuana-related offenses to automatically expunge their criminal records.”

The initiative would also create a legal marijuana market that would impose a six percent sales tax on weed.

“Beyond covering administrative expenses and the costs to process automatic expungements, any remaining surplus will be split equally between veterans’ healthcare, drug addiction treatment, and Missouri’s underfunded public defender system,” Legal Missouri explains on its website.

In addition, it would allow local governments in Missouri to levy their own sales taxes of up to three percent. According to the group, state officials “project additional annual revenue of at least $40.8 million and additional local government revenues of at least $13.8 million.”

The amendment’s prospects are difficult to gauge, with polling on the proposal all over the map.

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