Polling on a Missouri marijuana legalization ballot initiative has run the gamut in recent weeks—and the latest survey released on Thursday shows the measure comfortably ahead.
The SurveyUSA poll found that 61 percent of likely Missouri voters are “certain” to vote yes, compared to 28 percent who are “certain” to vote no and 11 percent who are undecided.
Democrats were most likely to back Amendment 3, at 79 percent. That’s followed by independents (58 percent) and Republicans (50 percent). There was majority support among every age demographic except those 65+, who support it with a plurality (46 percent).
The survey also followed up with people who initially said they were undecided on the ballot measure, asking how they lean. A plurality of those (43 percent) said they lean “yes,” while 16 percent said they lean “no.” Another 41 percent said they don’t lean any particular way.
The final result for the initiative, after incorporating the results of how voters said they lean, has Amendment 3 passing at 66 percent, with 29 percent opposed and four percent still undecided. There was majority support across all political party affiliations and age demographics.
“Support for the measure is strong across the board, with opposition concentrated among very conservative voters, 56 percent of whom initially vote no (58 percent after leaners are included),” SurveyUSA said in an analysis of the poll. “Among senior citizens, 46 percent initially vote yes, 38 percent initially vote no; when leaners are included, a majority of seniors support the measure, 53 percent to 41 percent. Among Republicans, 50 percent initially vote yes, 39 percent no; when leaners are included, 54 percent support, 41 percent oppose.”
“A majority of all other demographic groups, and a majority in all regions of the state, say they will vote yes on the measure,” it said. “While opposition to ballot measures tends to increase as Election Day nears, SurveyUSA notes there is little tightening here, with ‘yes’ leading ‘no’ by a 40-point margin in mid-September, and by 33 points today.”
The new survey involved interviews with 791 likely Missouri voters from October 27 to November 1, with a +/-4 percentage point margin of error.
The results should be encouraging for activists with Legal Missouri 2022—and they’re largely consistent with a previous SurveyUSA from September that found 62 percent of Missouri likely voters were “certain to vote yes” on Amendment 3—but polling has been mixed overall for the measure.
Separate surveys released in September and early November by Emerson College and The Hill found that a plurality of very likely Missouri voters supported the marijuana legalization initiative, but also showed significant shares of voters were still undecided.
All of these results are more positive for the campaign than one released in September by Remington Research Group and Missouri Scout that found just 43 percent of likely voters favored the initiative.
However, as Legal Missouri 2022 was quick to point out, the same firm behind that 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.
Most recently, the campaign has found itself pushing back against criticism from a U.S. congresswoman and the Missouri NAACP, which sent a cease-and-desist letter this week over alleged unauthorized use of its branding.
A spokesperson for Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) offered a veiled criticism of the ballot initiative, telling Marijuana Moment on Wednesday that the congresswoman “believes that at its core every state and local drug policy reform and initiative must be rooted in…equity and restorative justice like those she has called for and helped pass at the federal level.”
St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones (D) came out against the proposal this week, as well. She expressed concern about enacting the reform as a constitutional amendment and said that any attempt to do so would need to be for a measure that is “forward-thinking, flexible and most of all, equitable.” She said Amendment 3 “fails to meet that lofty aim.”
Meanwhile, the state NAACP chapter sent a cease-and-desist letter to the legalization campaign on Wednesday, accusing it of “unauthorized use of its name and emblem” in advertising and marketing materials. The campaign strongly contested the characterization, saying that local leaders with the organization played a role in drafting Amendment 3, which has been endorsed by several NAACP branches in the state.
Legal Missouri 2022 campaign manager John Payne also told KOMU that they campaign was proud to have “endorsements from members of Missouri’s Legislative Black Caucus.”
The chair of that caucus, Rep. Ashley Bland-Manlove (D), is among the measure’s most notable opponents, however. She announced in August that she was forming a coalition to inform voters about what she views as deficiencies in the proposal, particularly as they concern industry equity.
Payne said in a press release on Thursday that the Legal Missouri 2022 initiative has enjoyed endorsements from numerous elected officials, including Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas (D) and seven state lawmakers.
Among the legalization ballot measure’s other opponents are the 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.
For its part, the Missouri Democratic Party is taking a neutral position on the measure in light of certain concerns about key provisions, even though the party supports legalization generally. That is also the case with the state Libertarian Party.
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.
On Thursday, Missouri Sen. Barbara Anne Washington (D), who is Black, also released a statement endorsing the initiative, stating that prohibition is “needlessly harmful and has the largest impact on communities like the one I represent in the Missouri state Senate.”
“It’s especially harmful to those with past marijuana offenses on their records who struggle to get jobs and provide for their families. That’s the main reason I’m strongly supporting Amendment 3 to legalize marijuana for Missourians 21 years and older,” she said. “Amendment 3 will take part of the substantial tax revenue from marijuana sales in Missouri to automatically and permanently expunge the records of past nonviolent marijuana offenses, becoming the very first state to do so by a vote of the people.”
However, she added that this “is not a perfect solution but I do believe Amendment 3 represents meaningful progress.”
The largest labor organization 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.
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Meanwhile, 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.”
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 was over.
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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Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.