... as of January 2021
Since becoming a law in 2018, Marijuana in Missouri has come a long way in a short time. Even before dispensaries starter opening their doors in October 2020, marijuana advocacy groups and state lawmakers had already been advocating for a change to the law that would, among other things (that will be outlined in this post) legalize the adult recreational use of cannabis in the state. A bill to legalize recreational marijuana was filed in the spring of 2020 that never made it out of the filing stage (primarily because of the corona crisis where getting the required number of signatures to move it along, was nearly impossible with pretty much the whole world on lockdown) but another bill was filed by MO republican representative, Shamed Dogan, on December 21 that looks like it might get some traction.
What are in the proposed changes?
Representative Dogan’s bill is one of several initiatives to change the Missouri constitution but this particular bill, HJR 30 or the Smarter and Safer Missouri Act, is the one that most folks are looking at. HJR 30 would legalize adult recreational use of cannabis and establish a cannabis industry that would tax recreational sales at 12% and medical sales at 4%. This revenue would be allocated towards, among other things, state infrastructure, state veteran programs and drug rehabilitation programs. This revenue is estimated to be in the dozens of millions a year that would be realized year one. The tax from MJ sales will go into the ‘Smarter and Safer Missouri Fund' and any funds left over from one year to the next would go back into the fund and not be used or allocated to any other fund or project.
Representative Dogan also states that his bill will reduce the money and resources needed to enforce the current illegal status of marijuana. Marijuana’s legalization would remove it from the list of schedule 1 drugs at the state level, which would allow law enforcement to concentrate on violent and hard drug crimes. The bill goes a giant step further with the state expunging the records of people who had been convicted of non-violent, marijuana-related crimes, as well as releasing those who are currently serving time for such infringements. This is a huge and welcomed change, as many lawmakers - Representative Dogan included - who feel the ‘war on drugs’ was/is a colossal failure, especially since so much of the war was on marijuana - the least dangerous of any of the drugs listed on schedule 1.
Things missed in the first (current) law
While the first and current law was a great step for Missourians, there was some ambiguity in it. The new proposed changes in the Smarter and Safer Missouri Act clarifies several important key provisions. It also includes items that were missing from the original bill. These items include:
- the current proposal doesn’t seem to have provisions for the amount you can possess or the amount you can grow. This can help curb the illegal marijuana trade, or ‘black market’.
- marijuana users cannot be discriminated against in housing or rentals
- marijuana usage cannot impede on a Missourian’s right to bear arms
- marijuana users cannot be denied healthcare, including organ transplant, and will be granted the same rights as those traditional therapies
- veterinarians cannot be penalized for recommending cannabis products to animals under their care
- out-of-state medical marijuana users will have the same access and rights as residents of Missouri. This is very good since it signals that states should be working together when it comes to MMJ
- state law enforcement funds cannot be used to aid any federal enforcement of federal laws (though this seems unlikely that it will need to be enforced, should this provision of the proposal make it into the law, since the federal government under Biden is likely to continue the Obama-era DOJ memo of keeping their noses out of state marijuana laws)
So what’s next? When can I buy rec cannabis?
The proposed bill has only just been filed. There are several stages for any Missouri bill to go through, so there is still a way to go. As the bill stands now there is still some ambiguity including no mentioning of the limits on possession or cultivations. The bill also mentions zoning laws for cultivation that appear to make the growing of plants, even for personal use, open and unrestricted. This particular provision will likely be discussed as the proposed bill first goes to the Rules Committee then to each chamber of the Missouri state legislature then to the governor and finally the the voters (as will the entirety of the bill). If all goes well through each stage of the bill, Representative Dogan is aiming for the bill to become law by January 31, 2023. So, we still have a ways to go. And there are still several rounds of negotiating before the final bill is drafted.
(How’d you like our crash course in how bills become law in the state of Missouri?? Queue ‘Schoolhouse Rock’ music …)
There are also several other bills floating around and the original bill from the spring that could compete with this post’s subject. Hopefully these bills will be folded into together or the final bill will be the ‘greatest hits’ of each of the other bills. Regardless of how that shakes out, Missouri is on the right track for passing recreational marijuana and deleting archaic laws from the original 1937 federal prohibition and the (unsuccessful) war on drugs.
For now, Missouri has medical marijuana and though the initial roll out of the whole program - licensing of dispensaries and manufacturers in particular - has been a little wonky, the state is one of the fastest states to get the program off the ground. Seeing that Missouri is moving quickly on the recreational side is also a welcome change to a state that has, until recent years, had state lawmakers who were strong and vocal opponents of cannabis- even on the medical side.
We’ll keep you updated on all the Missouri marijuana news and any changes to the current laws. It’s a good time for Missouri and the legalization of marijuana.