Both sides weigh in on Amendment 3 and who benefits from the billion-dollar industry it seeks to create in Missouri

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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) – Inside BeLeaf Medical near the Lemp Mansion, the buzz of fans fills the air as the company strives to create the conditions necessary to grow 20 unique strains of medicinal marijuana.

“What you’re doing is you’re taking a full 30,000 square foot facility,” explained Jason Nelson, CEO of BeLeaf Medical. “You segment it, so you get a nice rotating production.”

Nelson said his operation costs around $80 million or more. He pays big loans to be in business. He said he was paying $500,000 a month on the loans alone. If Amendment 3 passes, he sees his clientele skyrocket.

“We operate with 30 employees,” Nelson explained. “We’ll double that to 60 if Amendment 3 passes in the next 30-60 days, so you’re talking vacation time jobs.”

He believes that Amendment 3 encourages competition.

He said Missouri’s 350 currently licensed facilities may be eligible to supply recreational marijuana. In addition, 144 new licenses would be up for grabs. Proponents say they are targeting low-income and minority owners to increase diversity in the industry. Additionally, Amendment 3 would allow people to grow at home, under certain guidelines to maintain public health safety.

“We have a 100,000 foot facility running in KC,” said Tom Bommarito, partner at Greenlight Medical Marijuana Dispensary. “Another 150,000 operational and another 100,000 we’ll get up and work, but we’re waiting for the vote.”

Bommarito’s family is known for car retailing. But four years ago, he said he found a partner with growing experience to tackle the budding marijuana industry.

But some think Amendment 3 could only benefit those who are already in the game.

“There will be mistakes and unintended consequences and no one will be willing to spend $3 million putting it back on the ballot to fix it,” Save Our State Coalition Executive Director Scott Dieckhaus said.

Diceckhaus said recreational marijuana should pass through the state capitol.

John Payne with Legal MO 2022 said this amendment is the result of trying that.

“The fact is that the political class in this state has shown an unwillingness and an inability to address this issue,” Payne explained. “If we passed this by simple law, they would probably repeal or eliminate it, so a constitutional amendment is really the way it should be done.”

Another concern for Scott Dieckhaus is the deletion of Amendment 3.

“Those who have served their time, paid their time, who are no longer incarcerated, would have their records expunged by the Amendment 3 tax money for free, if passed,” Dieckhaus said. “Incarcerated people should pay a lawyer, file a complaint in court, they are people who do not have access to income. It seems to me [to be] done backwards.”

This is not exactly the case. If you look at pages 36 to 38 of Amendment 3, it says that an individual can ask a court to have the sentence quashed. Further down, it is stated that public defenders will assist individuals in filing their cases.

News 4 spoke with attorney Drew Baebler, whose firm is based in Crestwood. He said that what is important is the “Pro se” mentioned in this section. This means that the incarcerated person would not be represented before the judge, but the state’s public defender’s office would help provide documents and complete those documents at no cost.

Anticipating the passage, Jason Nelson reserved an operational space. But if Amendment 3 fails, tens of thousands of square feet will remain idols, forcing Nelson to “weather the storm” financially and hope the feds will act.

“What it looks like is a state program that is continuing as is,” Nelson explained. “No new licenses, no automatic debarments, the risk to public safety and the loss of taxpayer dollars across the river in Illinois for four to eight years.”

If Amendment 3 passes on November 8, it will be added to the state constitution a month later, on December 8. This is when medical license holders can apply to sell for recreational purposes.

Some dispensaries in the area tell News 4 they are ready to apply that day so they can start selling by the end of February at the latest.

Meanwhile, there’s a watch party for Amendment 3 supporters on election night at Ballpark Village. These festivities begin at 7:30 p.m.

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