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Booming Missouri recreational marijuana sales bring in cash for vets, treatment, courts


Missouri's first legal recreational marijuana sale happened nearly a year ago, on Feb. 3, 2023.

Nearly one year later, adult-use marijuana has made nearly $2 billion in Missouri. With a 6% state sales tax, Missouri racked in around $120 million.

Voters approved sales of recreational marijuana for people age 21 and older, referred to in state law a "adult use," in November 2022. Amendment 3 also defined how the tax revenue from those sales would be divvied up.

The state divides the money from recreational sales into three buckets: veterans' services, drug addiction treatment and the public defender system.

"We felt that those are important things to support," said Dan Viets with Legal Missouri, a member of the team that drafted the amendment. "Frankly, we felt that Missouri voters would agree with that and also likewise felt those are important things to support.”

Viets said the sale of recreational marijuana has multiplied the tax revenue the state brings in.

The tax money from medical marijuana, sold in Missouri since 2020, already funded veterans' services. However, Viets said there's been a decrease in medical sales since adult use was legalized.

According to numbers from the Department of Health and Seniors Services, medical marijuana sales decreased by $20.2 million from January to December 2023.

"That's why we included veterans services as one of the three purposes for which the additional 6% sales tax on non-medical marijuana would go to support," Viets said.

According to documents from the Missouri Veterans Commission, the commission anticipates receiving over $14 million for fiscal year 2024.

How is the tax revenue spent?

Mary Fox with the Missouri State Public Defender said the agency received $1.3 million to put into expense and equipment funds.

“We have used it to contract out overload cases to private attorneys, and then we have also used it to bring in some client advocates to assist our clients in returning to their communities as good members of the community," Fox said.

Fox said the public defender system, like many state agencies, is having problems hiring and retaining staff. The money from marijuana should help the system stay competitive with private companies, Fox said.

The money also helps public defenders with holistic defense.

“Holistic defense really means taking a look at the client more just from the legal issues that they're dealing with, but from the whole perspective," Fox said. "Many of our clients either have mental disorders or substance use disorders or just some sort of trauma that is going on in their life."

Because recreational marijuana has performed even better than expected, Fox expects the office to receive even more money than anticipated. Hopefully even more than 2023's $1.3 million.

The third bucket is drug addiction treatment grants, but it hasn't quite gotten off the ground yet. Lisa Cox with the Department of Health and Senior Services said the department is weeks away from awarding the grants.

Article Topic Follows: Special Report

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Hannah Falcon

Hannah joined the ABC 17 News Team from Houston, Texas, in June 2021. She graduated from Texas A&M University. She was editor of her school newspaper and interned with KPRC in Houston. Hannah also spent a semester in Washington, D.C., and loves political reporting.


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