JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri NAACP is asking voters to vote “No” on Amendment 3 saying legalizing marijuana will not the industry more diverse.

According to Legal Missouri 22, the campaign that put the question on the ballot, if Amendment 3 is approved there would be 144 new small marijuana businesses awarded to historically disadvantaged populations, but the NAACP said that’s not guaranteed.

“That diversity that the campaign is really looking at is Black and Brown people working in the gardens that grow the marijuana,” Missouri NAACP President Nimrod Chapel Jr.

Later this week, we will know if Missouri voters plan to legalize recreational marijuana. The Show-Me State would join 19 others in allowing cannabis to be used for recreational purposes.

“It would generate hundreds of millions of dollars, if not over a billion dollars, on an annual basis for the state’s economy, create good-paying jobs,” Legal Missouri 2022 campaign manager John Payne said.

The question on the ballot added by Legal Missouri 22 reads, “Do you want to amend the Missouri Constitution to:Remove state prohibitions on purchasing, possession, consuming, using, delivering, manufacturing, and selling marijuana for personal use for adults over the age of 21Require a registration card for personal cultivation with prescribed limitsAllow persons with certain marijuana-related non-violent offenses to petition for release from incarceration or parole and probation and have records expungedEstablish a lottery selection process to award licenses and certificatesIssue equally distributed licenses to each congressional districtImpose a six percent tax on the retail price of marijuana to benefit various programs”It’s also going to allow those people who have records for non-violent marijuana offenses with the exemption to sales to minors and driving under the influence, to expunge those records and to have those records expunged automatically,” Payne said.

If passed by voters, medical marijuana dispensaries, cultivation, and manufacturing licensees would first be given the chance to apply for a comprehensive license to sell both medical and recreational marijuana. Then, after the comprehensive licenses are disbursed, a lottery system would be used for an additional 144 micro-licenses that would have restrictions on who they can sell their product too. Under the micro-license, the cultivation facilities will be able to grow up to 250 plants.

“Instead, they are going to charge tens of thousands of dollars in the application process, they are going to have give it away to rich and powerful people and we’re going to be excluded from a billion-dollar industry again,” Chapel said. “To say that we’re going to make sure that these micro-licenses go to minorities, I think that is trash.”

In the 40-page amendment document, it says if it’s approved by voters, a “chief equity officer’ would establish a program dedicated to communities that have been impacted by marijuana prohibition on the licensing process and offer resources to those interested in a license.

The statewide organization’s position on the amendment is different from chapters of the NAACP in St. Louis, St. Louis County and St. Charles County. All three have endorsed Amendment 3. Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas has also announced he is in favor of the referendum. On the other side of the state, St. Louis City Mayor Tishaura Jones is asking voters to vote “No” on the question. She tweeted last week, “Legalization doesn’t equal decriminalization. We deserve better. Vote No on Amendment 3.”

Payne said the Missouri General Assembly has had the opportunity to do this for years but hasn’t.

“When the legislature fails to act, this is why the initiative petition exists, that’s the whole purpose of it, so it has come to a point where the voters do need to take it into their own hands,” Payne said. “If the voters don’t act on it, then I don’t expect anyone is going to in the near future.”

Friday afternoon, the Missouri NAACP sent a cease-and-desist letter to Legal Missouri 22 for using its name for promotional items.

“Specifically, Legal Missouri 2022 is prohibited from using the name of the Missouri State Conference of the NAACP or any of its member units including the following units: St. Louis County branch; the Columbia branch; and St. Louis Branch as it relates to any and all NAACP units in the state in any of its advertisements or in any other capacity, without the express consent of the NAACP,” the letter states.

Last month, the campaign also received a cease-and-desist letter from the Missouri State Highway Patrol regarding pair of commercials.

“It’s not just unfair, it’s wrong,” Chapel said. “We know what Amendment 3 is going to do. It’s going to keep generations behind. It’s going to keep entire communities from ever participating in a billion-dollar industry that’s not only in Missouri but nationwide.”

The Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) doesn’t have a stance on whether Amendment 3 on the November ballot passes or fails but would be required to put the program into effect. But if the measure is approved by voters, how soon could Missourians buy recreational marijuana, and how is the state preparing to roll out the program?

It was four years ago that voters approved medical marijuana, sending tax revenue to veterans’ healthcare services. Since then, the state has brought in nearly $495 million, sending $27 million to veterans’ health services.

DHSS said there are about 204,000 patients and 3,000 caregivers that have licenses in Missouri.

Under the medical marijuana program, patients are taxed at 4% while the initiative petition says recreational marijuana products would have a 6% sales tax, estimated to bring in $40 million for the state.

According to the amendment, 2% of the 6% sales tax will go to the “Veterans, Health and Community Reinvestment Fund,” then one third of the remaining balance will be transferred to the Missouri Veterans Commission, another third goes to the Missouri State Public Defender program, and the remaining portion goes to DHSS to provide grants to increase education and resources for drug addiction treatment and overdose prevention. Local municipalities are also allowed to tax recreational marijuana up to 3%.

The referendum would allow those 21 and older to possess up to three ounces of marijuana and have up to six flowering plants, six clones, and six seedlings. It also would expunge non-violent offenses.

Legal Missouri 22 said the vast majority of people who have a non-violent offense are getting simple possession citations or arrests for possession of less than 35 grams. Allowing Missourians 21 and older to possess up to three ounces at a time would be the second-highest possession limit in the country.

If approved by voters, DHSS expects recreational pot to be available for purchase sometime in February.