A new poll conducted in Missouri shows that while a majority of likely voters back a marijuana legalization initiative that will be on the ballot in November, nearly 20% of respondents are still on the fence about the issue.
Emerson College Polling and The Hill found that 48% of voters support Amendment 3, while 35% are opposed and 17% are unsure.
Since the state certified Legal Missouri 2022 for the ballot, polling results have been mixed. This survey, like most others, is in the middle of the pack. It reveals openings for proponents and detractors to sway a sizable segment of undecided voters before Election Day.
Democratic voters (70%), voters between the ages of 18 and 34 (63%) and 35 and 49 (66%), voters who backed Biden (69%), and Black voters (70% all showed strong support for the initiative) (57 percent).
This last finding is especially significant because pro-legalization advocates who oppose the initiative have argued that the proposal’s failure to adequately address racial equity through opportunities to enter the legal industry is a major flaw. Black people, however, are the only racial group to have majority support in the recent poll.
Recently, the chair of the state’s Legislative Black Caucus, Democrat Representative Ashley Bland Manlove, urged voters to reject the legalization initiative due to concerns about the initiative’s lack of equity.
While acknowledging that the initiative has a good chance of passing, Bland argued that it lacked comprehensive provisions to make the cannabis market equitable, that it added penalties for certain offenses that weren’t necessary, and that it failed to address the racial inequalities in cannabis criminalization.
About a week prior, a different firm released a poll finding that 62% of Missouri likely voters are “certain to vote yes” on Amendment 3.
Included in that were majorities of Republicans (57%), independents (57%), and Democrats (77%). (54 percent).
Emerson/poll Hill’s is more positive for the campaign than the Remington Research Group/Missouri Scout poll, which found only 43% of likely voters support the initiative.
Legal Missouri 2022 was quick to point out that the same firm had been wrong about support for a medical cannabis ballot measure in 2018 that went on to win with a landslide.
In the most recent survey, conducted from September 23-27, 2018, 1,160 likely Missouri voters were interviewed, yielding a margin of error of +/- 2.8%.
This election year, the campaign has been fighting off legal challenges and resisting opposition from prohibitionists and a coalition of reform advocates who are unhappy with certain aspects of the proposal.
Those reservations have persuaded even the Missouri Democratic Party, which backs legalization in principle, to take a neutral stance on the measure. And the same holds true for the state’s Libertarian Party.
Legislators, a former Missouri lieutenant governor, legalization supporters, and the director of the state chapter of Americans for Prosperity recently formed a campaign to convince voters to reject the initiative and convince the governor to add cannabis reform to the agenda of a special session.
Representative Ron Hicks (R) filed an updated marijuana legalization bill this month in the hopes of convincing the governor to call a special session to consider the measure as an alternative to a cannabis ballot initiative.
After the Supreme Court of Missouri issued its ruling on a challenge to the activist-led initiative that ensured its placement on the ballot, the bill was introduced the following day.
After being introduced and passing through committee during the regular session earlier this year, Hicks’ legislation has undergone minor revisions. One major alteration is the inclusion of an emergency clause citing the ballot initiative, ensuring that the law would go into effect immediately after it was signed into law.
To avoid distracting from the special session’s focus on tax relief and agriculture issues, Republican Governor Mike Parson has said he will not propose legalizing marijuana. But in a press release, Hicks said, “it is my hope that legislative action on my Marijuana Freedom Act will incentivize the governor to support passage of this legislation.”
However, there are some Democrats in state office who back the initiative to legalize the drug.
Democratic Senate candidate Trudy Busch Valentine, for example, tweeted her support for the initiative earlier this month, citing the potential increase in tax revenue and other benefits as reasons.
After the secretary of state certified the reform proposal for the ballot, a lawsuit was filed last month to have it removed. While two lower courts had already ruled against the challengers, this month the state’s highest court issued the final ruling, effectively ending the legal battle.
The goals of the Legal Missouri 2022 plan are as follows:
People over the age of 21 could buy and possess three ounces of marijuana.
With a registration card, they can cultivate a total of 12 marijuana plants, including 6 mature plants, 6 immature plants, and 6 clones.
The initiative proposes a 6% tax on recreational cannabis sales, with the proceeds going toward automatic expungements for people convicted of certain nonviolent marijuana offenses.
To fund public defenders, substance abuse programs, and healthcare for veterans, the remaining funds would go to these areas.
The program would be regulated and licenses for cannabis businesses issued by the Department of Health and Senior Services.
Applicants with low incomes and those disproportionately affected by drug criminalization would be given priority by regulators in the lottery for at least 144 microbusiness licenses.
With a dual license, existing medical marijuana dispensaries would also be among the first to begin serving adults.
Ad rules could be crafted by regulators, but they couldn’t be tougher than current regulations on booze marketing.
Use in public spaces, operating a motor vehicle while high, and purchasing marijuana for those underage would all be illegal.
To better regulate the cannabis industry, a seed-to-sale tracking system would be implemented.
If voters approve the ban, local governments would have the option of not allowing cannabis microbusinesses or retailers to operate within their borders.
Patients who use medical cannabis would have additional protections in the workplace if this bill passes.
Licenses to legally possess medicinal marijuana would be extended from one year to three. And the number of people who could be helped by caregivers would increase by a factor of two.
At the same time, the state’s health department is taking proactive measures in anticipation of the measure’s legalization being approved by voters.
Fair Access Missouri, an alternative campaign, independently investigated several citizen initiatives this year with the hope of getting at least one on the ballot, but ultimately did not submit signatures for any of the measures.