Missourians and Floridians could be welcoming a legal cannabis market in 2022

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Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Florida and Missouri could, quite possibly, be the next U.S. states to celebrate cannabis reform.

So far, 18 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have legalized weed for recreational use and an additional 38 for medical purposes.

Now, advocates in Florida are adamant that they will succeed in collecting enough signatures to get a legalization initiative featured on the 2022 ballot.

Missouri voters are also preparing for a potential legal market. The latest push by Missourians represents the fourth attempt to get a legalization initiative featured on a ballot since 2016.

An overview of Florida’s cannabis legalization plan

Cannabis in Florida is illegal for recreational purposes. Maximum possession of 20 grams (3⁄4 oz) is charged as a misdemeanor offense and is punishable by one year of incarceration, driving license suspension and a fine not exceeding $1,000.

Notwithstanding the harsh rules, cannabis consumers in Florida continue to seek out the plant from illicit sources. Because of this, state lawmakers are quickly realizing that money is being left on the table. 

To that end, activist group Regulate Florida is hoping to include an adult-use cannabis legalization initiative on Florida’s 2022 general election ballot. To succeed in their efforts, members of the working group must collect more than 223,000 signatures for Supreme Court review, before collecting an additional 890,000 valid signatures no later than January.

One of the nation’s biggest cannabis dispensaries, Trulieve, is supporting regulators in the signature-collecting process. 

“We are working diligently trying to get there, and hopefully we will make it, but I can’t really guarantee that at this point,” said lawyer for Regulate Florida, Michael Minardi. “Hopefully, with the people that we have on the ground and what’s going on throughout the state with all the stores, we will get there.”

In the event that Florida’s recreational cannabis initiative is featured on the 2022 ballot and is successfully voted on, possession would be legalized for adults aged 21 and above. Moreover, cultivation of nine plants would be allowed per adult in each household, with no more than 18 plants being allowed per residence. 

“I think the people of the state of Florida support legalization,” Minardi added. “Nationwide throughout the country, it is getting passed more and more in states everywhere, and the national trend is that people support this issue, and we don’t think Florida is any different.”

An overview of Missouri’s cannabis legalization plan

Although past attempts to legalize cannabis for adult-use purposes have failed in Missouri, next year brings plenty of hope for lobbyists like John Payne.

Payne serves as campaign manager for Legal Missouri 2022. He also helped to manage New Approach Missouri during its unsuccessful 2016 campaign, which struggled to collect enough signatures for a ballot vote.

Two years later, Payne and members of New Approach Missouri were victorious in their efforts to feature medical cannabis initiative “Amendment 2” on the ballot, which managed to gain enough votes to be enacted into law.

Unfortunately, a recreational cannabis effort that followed lacked the fuel it needed to thrive due to the coronavirus pandemic. Now, the Legal Missouri campaign will take its place.

“It is finally time for Missouri to legalize and regulate the adult use of cannabis,” Payne said on December 2, when he announced the Legal Missouri campaign.

If the campaign is successful, recreational cannabis sales would be taxed at six percent and localities would be allowed to add an additional three percent sales tax. What’s more, anyone who has previously been convicted of a non-violent cannabis crime could benefit from the “automatic” expungement system.

One of the highlights of Missouri’s legal cannabis campaign is that no employee would be discriminated against based on them returning a positive drug test for cannabis. 

It’s also important to note that some elements of Missouri’s existing medical cannabis program would be changed if a recreational market is enacted with the Legal Missouri campaign. For example, medical cannabis dispensary owners would be able to legally convert their facility into an adult-use store.

More than 170,000 residents must sign the petition for Legal Missouri 2022 to be voted on at the November 2022 election day.