Poll Shows 62 Percent of Missouri Voters Support Recreational Marijuana

Jun 1, 2022 at 6:00 am
click to enlarge Missouri voters appear to be ready to see cannabis prohibition go up in smoke. - TOMMY CHIMS
Missouri voters appear to be ready to see cannabis prohibition go up in smoke.

As Missouri prepares to potentially decide the fate of recreational marijuana in the state this fall, a new poll offers some encouragement for those in the "pro-" category: More than half of voters are in favor of legalization.

The poll, which was conducted by polling firm SurveyUSA between May 11 and May 15, surveyed 1,782 registered voters in Missouri, asking the question: “Should the use of marijuana for recreational use remain against the law in Missouri? Or be legalized?”

The results indicate than some 62 percent of Missouri voters are in favor of recreational weed. Of those surveyed, 71 percent of those aged 18 to 49 said they support legalization, while voters between the ages of 50 and 64 came in at 59 percent in favor.

Only those over the age of 65 came in at less than half — 46 percent — in favor of legalization. But even still, only 35 percent of that group indicated that recreational cannabis should remain illegal, with 18 percent remaining undecided.

When broken down by party affiliation, those in favor of legalization came out to be 49 percent of Republicans, 79 percent of Democrats and 66 percent of Independents.

All told, it's good news for advocates working toward the legalization of recreational weed in Missouri (not to mention those of us who just want to smoke in peace without worrying about the long arms of Johnny Law). A ballot measure spearheaded by Legal Missouri 2022 is likely to be put to a vote in the state in November. That means, provided nothing goes wrong between now and then, the fate of recreational weed in Missouri will be in voters' hands this fall — a group that the new poll indicates to be increasingly warm to the notion.

The group submitted more than 390,000 signatures in mid-May, more than doubling the number required for the measure to land on the ballot. While it's common for signatures to be disqualified for a variety of reasons during the process, reps from Legal Missouri 2022 are confident they've got enough to make it on the ballot.

“This widespread and enthusiastic show of support from the people of Missouri exceeds our expectations,” says Legal Missouri 2022 Campaign Manager John Payne, who notes that the number of signatures for this ballot measure totals even more than those that ended in medical marijuana being legalized in the state. “We look forward to the timely review and certification of our petition by the Secretary of State’s Office as we continue to educate and inform voters in the coming weeks and months.”

If that ballot is signed into law, it would allow Missourians 21 and older to purchase, possess, cultivate and consume cannabis legally. Furthermore, it would result in automatic expungement of nonviolent marijuana offenses, making Missouri the first state to have such a measure put into place directly by voters. It would be a welcome development for those who have been convicted of such crimes, being that Missouri's expungement process at present could be best described as "labyrinthine" and "Kafkaesque."

“It’s time to stop treating adults who use marijuana responsibly like criminals,” says Dan Viets, a Columbia attorney, Legal Missouri 2022 advisory board chairman and Missouri coordinator for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. “It’s also time to repair the damage marijuana prohibition has done to hundreds of thousands of Missourians’ lives by automatically expunging their criminal records.”

Additionally, Legal Missouri 2022's measure would impose a 6 percent tax on weed sales in the state, which a state auditor’s analysis projects would generate at least $40.8 million dollars in annual revenue, as well as $13.8 million for local governments across Missouri. That money would be used to cover the implementation of the expungement program, with leftovers going to veterans' services, the state's public defender system and treatment programs for drug addiction.

Still, Legal Missouri 2022 is not without its detractors — even among those generally in favor of recreational weed. Critics, including those in support of House Bill 2704, dubbed the "Cannabis Freedom Act," point to changes to the Missouri Constitution that the measure would put in place — including a law enforcement stop-and-cite mandate for anyone smoking in public, a possession limit of three ounces and a government database that would keep track of those cultivating their own cannabis — as major downsides to the measure.

They allege further that Legal Missouri 2022's proposal would help to entrench those operators who currently have licenses in the market, many from out of state, and would create a monopoly that would largely lock Missouri entrepreneurs out of the industry. That's in part because those who already have licenses to grow and sell medical marijuana would be fast-tracked for participation in the recreational system.

Nevertheless, Legal Missouri 2022 looks to be the most likely path by which recreational cannabis is legalized in Missouri in 2022, as House Bill 2704 is — as the bill's sponsor, Representative Ron Hicks, put it in mid-May — "essentially dead" this legislative session.

Still, its supporters have hope for the bill in the future.

"Opponents used their power to stall the bill at each step. It should also be noted that it takes an average of seven years for a bill to pass and be signed into law,"  Representative Ashley Bland Manlove of Kansas City, who championed the bill, said in a statement. "I really hope the petition that has submitted signatures is unsuccessful; it blocks access to investment and equity. It also only expunges a fraction of the people affected by predatory public safety policies. I'm excited to see what happens for the bill next session."

But regardless of how it comes about, it would appear that legalized recreational marijuana is likely on its way to the state of Missouri, one way or another — and voters are ready to see cannabis prohibition go up in smoke.