Last Update: April 22, 2014
The “Show-Me” State considers a full range of bills to improve cannabis
Legislators in Missouri have sponsored bills ranging from one that would lower criminal penalties for possession of a small amount of marijuana, to bills to establish a workable medical marijuana program for the state, to bills that would even tax and regulate marijuana similar to alcohol.
HB 1325, sponsored by Rep. Rory Ellinger, would lower the criminal penalty for possession of less than 35 grams of cannabis to a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a fine only. Currently, under Missouri law, a person in possession of that amount can face up to one year in jail and up to a $1000 fine. While a person convicted of a Class A misdemeanor would still have a criminal record, which could affect current employment, housing, and educational opportunities, this bill is still a step in the right direction. The bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee, but has not yet received a hearing.
Meanwhile, two bills were put forth that would each establish a medical marijuana program for seriously ill patients who qualify. SB 951, sponsored by Sen. Jason Holsman, would create a regulatory system supervised by the Department of Health and Senior Services and require an 8% sales tax on the sale of medical marijuana. This bill would place the issue before Missouri voters in the 2014 election. Another bill, HB 1324, sponsored by Rep. Rory Ellinger, would also establish a framework for the regulation of patient access to medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivation centers. Unlike SB 951, this bill would become effective after passage by the legislature and would not require voters for approval.
Rep. Chris Kelly introduced HB 1659, a bill that would tax and regulate cannabis for adults 21 and over. However, following a hearing by the House Committee on Crime and Prevention and Public Safety in March, Representative Kelly is considering amending the bill to establish a medical marijuana program, an approach which the committee appeared to favor. Ask your legislators to protect medical marijuana patients.
Marijuana laws in Missouri
Missouri has some of the harshest marijuana laws in the country, despite studies which indicate that stiff penalties do not result in lesser use. Possession of any amount of marijuana — even as little as a gram — can be punished by up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine under state law. Possession of over 35 grams — about 1.25 ounces — is a felony subject to a prison sentence of up to seven years and a $5,000 fine.
In 2011, Missouri arrested over 20,000 individuals for marijuana-related offenses, 91% of which were for possession. During the same year, 86% of reported burglaries — including home invasions — and 87% of motor vehicle thefts went unsolved by law enforcement. In addition to marijuana prohibition diverting police from more serious crime, it’s also been unevenly enforced between races. For instance, did you know that African-Americans are 2.6 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession, even though blacks and whites consume marijuana at similar rates? For more information on how the war on marijuana consumers is often waged unequally, check out the ACLU’s recent report. And, if you agree Missouri should take marijuana off the criminal market, legalize it for adults 21 and older, and tax and regulate it similarly to alcohol, tell your state representative and senator today!
Thank you for supporting the Marijuana Policy Project and all of our allies. If you have any questions concerning the status of marijuana policy reform in Missouri, you can contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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