Missouri Voters Back Marijuana Legalization Ballot Initiative In New Poll, But Support Is Tightening A Week Before Election Day
With one week until the Election Day, Missouri activists still need to sway a small portion of voters to approve a marijuana legalization initiative that’s on the ballot, a new poll suggests.
The Emerson College/The Hill survey conducted for local TV news stations in the state found that 47 percent of very likely voters back the measure, compared to 39 percent who oppose it and 14 who remain undecided.
That represents a slight tightening since the same organizations ran a poll in late September and found 48 percent support the initiative. But in general, it signals that the chances of passage aren’t clear-cut—but are still clearly within the range of possibilities next week.
Support for Amendment 3 is strongest among Democrats, with 73 percent on board. A plurality of 47 percent of independents back the measure, but Republicans oppose it, 56 percent to 30 percent.
There is majority support among the youngest age demographics: 18-34 (69 percent) and 35-49 (64 percent). But that support tapers to a plurality (46 percent) for those 50-64 and a minority (38 percent) for people 65 and older.
“More voters have definitely become aware of Amendment 3,” Emerson College Polling Director of Survey Operations Isabel Holloway said. “It seems like it’s an issue that resonates more with younger voters than older. Younger voters tend to be more in support of this amendment, but it doesn’t really trend to more electoral success in terms of the Democratic party.”
She clarified that her last point means that the measure being on the ballot won’t necessarily turn out more voters to support Democrats who otherwise wouldn’t head to thew polls on Election Day.
The survey involved interviews with 1,000 very likely voters from October 26-28, with a +/-3 percentage point margin of error.
This latest poll falls roughly in the middle of other previous surveys, including one that found 62 percent of Missouri likely voters are “certain to vote yes” on Amendment 3 and another that showed just 43 percent of likely voters favor the initiative.
However, as Legal Missouri 2022 was quick to point out, the same firm behind that least encouraging survey previously missed the mark when it found just slim support for a 2018 medical cannabis ballot measure that ultimately passed overwhelmingly.
Here’s what the Legal Missouri 2022 initiative would accomplish:
Adults 21 and older could purchase and possess up to three ounces of cannabis.
They could also grow up to six flowering marijuana plants, six immature plants and six clones if they obtain a registration card.
The initiative would impose a six percent tax on recreational cannabis sales and use revenue to facilitate automatic expungements for people with certain non-violent marijuana offenses on their records.
Remaining revenue would go toward veterans’ healthcare, substance misuse treatment and the state’s public defender system.
The Department of Health and Senior Services would be responsible for regulating the program and issuing licenses for cannabis businesses.
Regulators would be required to issue at least 144 microbusiness licenses through a lottery system, with priority given to low-income applicants and people who have been disproportionately impacted by drug criminalization.
Existing medical marijuana dispensaries would also be first in line to start serving adult consumers with dual licenses.
Regulators could create rules around advertising, but they could not be any more stringent than existing restrictions on alcohol marketing.
Public consumption, driving under the influence of cannabis and underage marijuana use would be explicitly prohibited.
A seed-to-sale tracking system would be established for the marijuana market.
Local jurisdictions would be able to opt out of permitting cannabis microbusinesses or retailers from operating in their area if voters approve the ban at the ballot.
The measure would further codify employment protections for medical cannabis patients.
Medical marijuana cards would be valid for three years at a time, instead of one. And caregivers would be able to serve double the number of patients.
Throughout this election year, the campaign has battled legal challenges and opposition not just from prohibitionists but also a coalition of reform advocates who have taken issue with the particulars of the proposal.
Even the Missouri Democratic Party is taking a neutral position on the measure in light of those certain concerns, even though the party supports legalization generally. That is also the case with the state Libertarian Party.
A group of activists formed a campaign—comprised of lawmakers, a former Missouri lieutenant governor, legalization supporters and the director of the state chapter of Americans for Prosperity—to convince voters to oppose the initiative and compel the governor to add cannabis reform to the legislative agenda of a special session.
To that end, Rep. Ron Hicks (R) introduced a revised marijuana legalization bill in September, with the hopes that the filing would spur the governor to expand a special session to allow consideration of the emergency reform legislation as an alternative to a cannabis ballot measure.
The bill was filed just one day after the Missouri Supreme Court gave a final ruling on a legal challenge to the activist-led initiative that secured its placement on the ballot.
Hicks’s legislation has been slightly revised since it was introduced and advanced through committee during the regular session earlier this year. One key change is the addition of an emergency clause that references the ballot initiative, making it so the legislation would take effect immediately upon passage.
Gov. Mike Parson (R) said, however, that he would not add marijuana legalization to the agenda for the special session focused on tax relief and agriculture issues. However, Hicks said in a press release that “it is my hope that legislative action on my Marijuana Freedom Act will incentivize the governor to support passage of this legislation.”
Among the legalization ballot measure’s opponents are the Missouri NAACP, Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, Missouri Catholic Conference, Missouri Sheriff’s United, the Missouri Hospital Association, the Missouri Farm Bureau, Missouri Baptist Convention and Pro-Choice Missouri.
Some of the state’s Democratic politicians do support the legalization ballot measure, however.
Democratic Senate candidate Trudy Busch Valentine, for example, tweeted in September that she is backing the initiative, citing its expected tax revenue and other benefits.
The largest labor union in the state, Missouri AFL-CIO, also endorsed the legalization proposal that month. Missouri ACLU, the Missouri Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Missouri chapter of NORML back the measure, too.
A lawsuit filed in August sought to keep the reform proposal off the ballot after it was certified by the secretary of state. But after two lower courts dismissed the challenge, the state Supreme Court delivered the final word that the legal battle is over this month.
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The campaign has raised a sizable bucket of contributions, with almost $700,000 in large donations in the first half of October alone.
A couple weeks out from the election, the campaign took down and reedited ads promoting their marijuana legalization ballot initiative following a challenge from a state law enforcement agency.
The original ads released by Legal Missouri 2022 featured b-roll of law enforcement officers, one entering a police car and another on a motorcycle. But the Missouri State Highway Patrol sent the campaign a cease-and-desist letter seeking the ad’s removal, saying advocates did not have permission to use the agency’s emblem.
Meanwhile, state health officials have already taken steps to prepare for potential voter approval of the legalization measure.
A different campaign, Fair Access Missouri, separately explored multiple citizen initiatives this year with the hopes of getting at least one on the ballot, but did not end up submitting signatures for any of the measures.
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