Editorial: Recreational marijuana amendment would be disaster for Missouri

Legalization of recreational marijuana will be on the November ballot in Missouri.

Amendment 3, which garnered enough signatures to be placed on the ballot, would legalize “purchasing, possessing, consuming, using, delivering, manufacturing, and selling marijuana for personal use” for those older than age 21, according to the official ballot language. Additionally, it would allow certain marijuana-related non-violent offenses to be expunged.

The state estimates initial costs of $3.1 million and initial revenue of at least $7.9 million, per the ballot language. Annual costs would tally $5.5 million with annual revenue of at least $40.8 million. This comes from a 6% state tax. Additionally, local governments are expected to incur annual costs of at least $35,000 with annual revenue of at least $13.8 million.

While some see this issue as a positive for personal freedom and dollars to state and local coffers, there’s much more to the story. A look to other states where recreational marijuana use has been legalized should offer voters a warning before they rush to the polls. A recent story in B Magazine shared some of the issues these states are now facing.

Colorado and Washington were the first states to legalize recreational marijuana use. The first state-licensed sales began in 2014.

The Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area’s annual report highlighted several startling statistics. Since legalization, traffic deaths with drivers who tested positive for marijuana have increased 138%. The study also notes that in 2020, of the 120 drivers in fatal crashes who tested positive for marijuana, 117 tested positive for THC — the psychoactive ingredient of marijuana. And nearly 70% exceeded the state’s legal level for driving.

Marijuana usage in Colorado is also hurting young people, where use among those 12 and older is 61% higher than the national average.

Studies indicate there is increased risk of schizophrenia among young people who use marijuana.

Former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson, author of the book “Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness and Violence,” shared in an essay for The Wall Street Journal that the first four states to legalize recreational marijuana — Colorado, Washington, Alaska and Oregon — all saw big increases in crime as compared to the national average.

The mass shooters in Rep. Gabby Giffords’s constituent meeting (2011), the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater (2012), Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida (2016), First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas (2017), and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida (2018), were reported to be using marijuana.

Some states have struggled with drug cartels, who are using legalization to expand their footprint. Law enforcement is challenged to identify the worst of the bad actors, who mingle illicit sales with “legal” ones.

Add in the challenges with labor trafficking, water theft, use of harsh chemicals, the codification of sales monopolies — not to mention stench — and you have a real problem.

Proponents of this amendment — which is 39 pages long, full of vague and confusing language — would have voters believe that recreational marijuana only involves the individual using and it doesn’t hurt everyone else. But that is simply not true. Recreational marijuana would be a disaster for Missouri if locked into the Constitution.

We strongly encourage a “no” vote.