Cannabis legalization efforts in Missouri are under attack once again, this time by The Missouri State Conference of the NAACP.
The Missouri NAACP, breaking with chapters in the St. Louis area is urging its members to vote against Amendment 3 on the Nov. 8 ballot, reported the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch.
The group announced Thursday that it believes recreational marijuana legalization, as it is proposed under Amendment 3, would prevent minorities from entering the cannabis industry.
“Marijuana possession should not be a constitutional crime. Additionally, for years now, Black people, other minorities, and people who have been criminalized by marijuana laws in the past have been unable to enter the medical marijuana market,” the Missouri NAACP wrote. “That is not right. In an effort to prevent the permanent exclusion of minorities from the cannabis industry in the state of Missouri, the NAACP calls upon every voter to reject the criminalization of marijuana possession, de facto racist regulation of the cannabis market, and the wool being pulled over our eyes by the supporters of Amendment 3.”
Under Amendment 3, the first “comprehensive” cannabis business licenses would be provided to existing medical marijuana companies.
The state's chapter highlighted that the amendment “does not increase the number of available full market licenses” and claims that giving “micro” business licenses to disadvantaged groups makes a “very limited” program.
According to Nimrod “Rod” Chapel Jr., president of the Missouri NAACP, members agreed last week to vote against all five questions appearing on the November ballot, not only Amendment 3.
“For too long, money and interest have misused political power and taken advantage of working families,” said Chapel.
It appears that under the proposed amendment, someone who owns, grows, delivers without consideration, or possesses with intent to distribute more than three ounces of cannabis but less than six on their third offense would be subject to a misdemeanor.
According to the state NAACP, this is a “constitutional crime.”
Representatives of the Legal Missouri 2022 campaign pointed out that the amendment doesn’t include any other criminal penalties, adding that someone arrested on their third offense would be facing felony charges under the current regulations.
The Missouri NAACP further questioned the efficiency of the expungement program under the amendments, saying it would be “dependent on legislative authorization funding.”
Legal Missouri campaign organizers said the court would be requested to initiate expungements under the measure.
“We are proud to have the endorsement of the Saint Louis City, Saint Louis County, Saint Charles County, and Columbia branches of the NAACP,” stated campaign manager John Payne, adding the St. Louis city and county branches played important roles in drafting Amendment 3.
“They helped ensure that the amendment contains strong criminal justice reforms and equity provisions,” Payne said.
Previous Attacks On The Proposed Measure
The Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys criticized the proposed constitutional amendment on several accounts in a position paper published in September.
The paper touched on the issue of impaired driving, claiming that the measure doesn't allow courts to stop drivers' use of marijuana in case of those charged or convicted of killing someone while driving under the influence of cannabis.
Moreover, the prosecutors were not too fond of civil penalties for cannabis offenses that are part of the amendment either.
"Amendment 3 fails to protect our children from dealers in black market marijuana," they said, adding that a "dealer can give or sell to middle schoolers and face only a civil penalty of $100."
The document also raised concerns about the health effects of marijuana while stressing that legalization should be a part of the Missouri Constitution.
More recently, Catholic bishops in the state also announced their opposition to the measure.
“We believe that marijuana legalization will negatively impact Missouri families, health outcomes, communities, and workers,” said Bishop W. Shawn McKnight. The Catholic bishops of Missouri, he said, are asking voters to vote “no” on the amendment.
Missouri’s bishops said they're concerned about the social costs of increased marijuana usage would outweigh any state revenues generated by a taxable marijuana industry.
And that, "legalization sends the message that marijuana is safe and socially acceptable." Although recreational marijuana would be limited to use by adults over 21, they said that many states with legal cannabis have the "highest teen usage rates."
How Do Missourians Feel About Legalization?
While the survey shows that less than a majority of Missourians back legalization, it is important to mention that only 35% are against it, and 17% remain undecided.
Considering the attacks, and many Missourians being undecided on the measure, it looks like the chances are slim for the passage of the cannabis legalization measure this November.
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