Legal cannabis in Missouri has generated $19 million for veterans, treatment, public defenders

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(Missouri Independent) – Since recreational weed was legalized in 2022, it has led to more than $19 million going towards three causes — supporting veterans, expanding substance use treatment programs, and adding to the Missouri Public Defenders System’s budget.

“It is so rewarding to see the impact of this voter-approved program on organizations that provide vital services to Missourians,” said Amy Moore, director of the Division of Cannabis Regulation, which is within the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

The constitutional amendment Missouri voters approved in November 2022 to legalize recreational marijuana also established funds for the three causes.

Last fall, each of these three programs received $1.3 million. Then earlier this month, DHSS transferred an additional $5.1 million for each. 

The funds going to the Missouri Veterans Commission are specifically meant to pay for health care and other services for military veterans and their dependent families, according to the division. 

The public defender system’s funds will pay for legal assistance for low-income Missourians. 

And, DHSS will use its fund to operate a grant program to increase access to drug addiction treatment with an emphasis on reintegrating recipients into their local communities by supporting job placement, housing, and counseling.

In January, Moore told state lawmakers that recreational cannabis sales had generated $58 million in revenue, which includes sales tax and annual fees marijuana businesses pay the state. 

So far, $8.2 million has gone to pay for the state’s operation costs of regulating the recreational marijuana industry — for things like salaries or professional services.

After operational costs, the next draw on the fund is expenses incurred by the court system for expunging certain marijuana offenses from people’s criminal records. 

After that, revenues are split between veterans, substance use treatment programs, and public defenders.

“We look forward to watching this impact grow,” Moore said, “and are grateful to be a part of it.”

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Rebecca Rivas

Rebecca Rivas covers civil rights, criminal justice, and immigration. She has been reporting in Missouri since 2001, most recently as a senior reporter and video producer at the St. Louis American, the nation's leading African-American newspaper.