Assorted cannabis "flowers." (Photo by Jym Wilson)

Just after 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, the lead organizer behind the Missouri amendment to legalize recreational marijuana declared victory. With only 13 precincts left to report at 12:45 a.m. Wednesday, the numbers are in his favor.

With 3,253 of 3,266 precincts counted on the Missouri Secretary of State website, voters are in favor of legal recreational marijuana at about a 53.1-46.9 margin. In Greene County, 52.5 percent of voters supported Amendment 3.

“How does it feel to make history?” John Payne, campaign manager for Legal Missouri 2022, told a crowd of supporters at a rally in St. Louis after declaring Amendment 3 a win. At about 10:40 p.m. Tuesday, Payne told the Daily Citizen the race wasn’t done, but he was feeling good about it.

The outside of Flora Farms medical marijuana dispensary in Springfield is lined with signs that say “Vote Yes on 3.” (Photo by Shannon Cay Bowers)

At 11:14 p.m., he texted, “Better than good” in response to the latest figures. With nearly all precincts reporting as of 12:45 a.m., votes in favor of Amendment 3 outnumbered opposition by over six figures.

In a statement, Payne thanked the “army” of volunteers and supporters who fought for Amendment 3.

“Today Missourians took a huge step forward by becoming the 20th state to legalize marijuana for adult use,” Payne wrote. “Missouri also made history by being the first state in the nation to automatically expunge past, nonviolent marijuana offenses by a vote of the people.

“This enormous step forward for criminal justice reform will result in hundreds of thousands of Missourians having their records cleared, at no cost to them, for an activity that is now legal.”

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia had legalized recreational pot prior to Tuesday. Missouri is one of five states, including neighboring Arkansas, where it was on the Nov. 8 ballot. 

The Missouri initiative removes state prohibitions on purchasing, possessing, consuming, using, delivering, manufacturing and selling marijuana for personal use for adults ages 21 and up. It also automatically expunges nonviolent marijuana convictions from criminal records, and allows people with nonviolent offenses to petition for release from incarceration, parole or probation.  

The amendment, however, caps how much marijuana a Missouri resident can possess at a time, with a 3-ounce limit for nonmedical users and a 6-ounce limit for medical patients. And smoking in public could still be a finable offense. 

Dispensaries across the state that have medicinal licenses will be able to sell recreational weed once the law changes. A lottery system will award additional licenses. 

Narrow vote on recreational pot comes four years after overwhelming support for medicinal use

Missouri voters overwhelmingly supported legalized medicinal-use marijuana when it was on the ballot in 2018. The initiative, which was led by Payne, passed with 65 percent of voters in support of it. 

Payne also led the signature drive to get the recreational use amendment on the ballot. The amendment, which is nearly 40 pages long, has received support from ACLU of Missouri, the Missouri Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and several marijuana advocacy groups. 

It drew opposition from strange bedfellows, including state associations of sheriffs and prosecutors, Gov. Mike Parson, the Missouri Marijuana Legalization Movement and the Missouri NAACP. 

The collection of opponents includes those who say recreational marijuana is an unsafe step too far, while others say the amendment language doesn’t go far enough

Recreational weed will have a 6 percent tax, with the revenue generated from sales funding programs, including care for veterans and treatment for people with drug addictions. The state public defender system would receive funding too, and the tax revenue will also help process expungements related to Amendment 3.

Amendment 3: Recreational marijuana

Keep tabs on Amendment 3 results, as well as other statewide constitutional issues, here.

With 3,253 of 3,266 precincts reportingVotesPct.
  • A Yes vote would approve a detailed amendment, making it legal for people 21 and over to buy and use marijuana, and it would create a state program to regulate who can get licenses to grow and sell recreational marijuana. The state would tax sales at 6 percent, with net proceeds to a Veterans, Health and Community Reinvestment Fund. The amendment also would expunge the criminal records of people with previous marijuana-related charges, and set up a system for people in jail on marijuana charges to petition for their release.
  • A No vote means marijuana continues to be illegal, except for medicinal use.

Amendment 1: Investing state money

  • A Yes vote would give the state treasurer more freedom to invest money in municipal securities and “other reasonable and prudent financial instruments and securities” so that the state can earn a larger return.
  • A No vote limits investments to banks and government securities as allowed under current law.
With 3,253 of 3,266 precincts reportingVotesPct.

Amendment 4: Kansas City police funding

  • A Yes vote would require the city of Kansas City to follow a law forcing it to spend a minimum of 25 percent of the city’s revenue on the city police department. Estimates are that would cost the city roughly $38 million more per year. While this only applies to Kansas City, the Amendment is up for a statewide vote. According to this Missouri Independent story, there’s only one police department in Missouri, and possibly in the country, that is controlled by the state and not its local city government officials — and that’s the Kansas City Police Department.
  • A No vote allows the city discretion to spend as little as 20 percent of its revenues on city police.
With 3,253 of 3,266 precincts reportingVotesPct.

Amendment 5: New Department of the National Guard

  • A Yes vote would create a new Department of the National Guard and require its leader be a member of the governor’s appointed cabinet. Advocates say this will improve communication. See story from St. Joseph News-Press.
  • A No vote means the Missouri National Guard remains part of the Department of Public Safety, whose top official is appointed by the governor.
With 2,962 of 3,266 precincts reportingVotesPct.

State Constitutional Convention

Every 20 years, Missouri asks voters whether to hold a constitutional convention to amend and update the state’s constitution. Voters have not approved such a move since 1942.

  • A Yes vote means delegates would be elected and would gather to propose changes to the state’s constitution. Any proposed changes would have to be approved by voters in a statewide special election.
  • A No vote opposes a statewide convention, and the issue returns to voters again in 20 years.
With 2,962 of 3,266 precincts reportingVotesPct.

Cory Matteson

Cory Matteson moved to Springfield in 2022 to join the team of Daily Citizen journalists and staff eager to launch a local news nonprofit. He returned to the Show-Me State nearly two decades after graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Prior to arriving in Springfield, he worked as a reporter at the Lincoln Journal Star and Casper Star-Tribune. More by Cory Matteson