Medical marijuana and industrial hemp bills may fail due to end of legislative session
Last update: April 27, 2017
Industrial hemp cultivation
Rep. Paul Curtman filed a bill that would legalize the cultivation of industrial hemp. Industrial hemp can be used to make paper, clothing, insulation, and many other products. The bill provides for monitoring and licensure of hemp cultivation and does not allow permits for anyone who has been convicted of a felony in the past 10 years or been convicted at any time of a state or federal felony for possession or distribution of a controlled substance.
The industrial hemp bill passed 126-26 with bipartisan support, and the Senate’s Agriculture, Food Production and Outdoor Resources Committee voted 5-1 to approve the bill. Unfortunately, time is running out in the session, which ends on May 12, 2017.
In March, House Bill 437, a proposed medical marijuana bill, received a hearing before the Health and Mental Health Policy Committee. The legislation would allow patients with painful, incurable illnesses to be treated with medical marijuana. Currently, no further hearings of the House bill are scheduled. A similar bill was introduced in the Senate, but it similarly has not seen committee action in more than two months. Please tell your representatives it is time to move forward with a compassionate medical marijuana program!
Medical marijuana ballot initiative
While the citizen-led initiative failed to make the ballot in 2016, advocates are now looking toward the future. New Approach Missouri has recently established permanent signing locations in Columbia, Kansas City, Springfield, and St. Louis for collection of signatures with aspirations to place a medical marijuana initiative on the ballot in 2018. Please visit New Approach Missouri’s website for more information regarding the ballot initiative!
Decriminalization making slow progress
On April 4, 2017, residents of Kansas City voted overwhelmingly — nearly 75% — to reduce the penalties for simple possession of marijuana, becoming the latest city in the state to further reduce punishments for people caught with small amounts of marijuana.
The measure will amend local laws regarding the possession of up to 35 grams of marijuana for adults age 21 and older from a criminal misdemeanor to a civil offense punishable by a $25 fine.
In 2014, lawmakers enacted SB 491, which reduces penalties for those possessing up to 10 grams of marijuana, beginning on January 1, 2017. A first offense will be punishable as a class D misdemeanor (an infraction), and will carry a fine of $250-$1,000 with no jail time.
While this is better than the current penalty, a $250 fine is out of reach for some Missourians. The state still has a long way to go to treat marijuana consumers fairly. 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 perhaps the most outrageous marijuana sentence in the state, Missourian Jeffrey Mizanskey was until recently serving a life sentence for nonviolent cannabis-related offenses under a severe three-strikes law. Gov. Nixon commuted Mizanskey’s sentence in May 2015, and his parole was subsequently granted. On September 1, 2015, Mizanskey was freed after serving 21 years in prison!
Several thousand of Missourians are arrested and branded criminals each year for marijuana offenses. In 2012, Missouri arrested or cited over 18,800 individuals for marijuana-related offenses, 92% of which were for possession. During the same year, 87% of reported burglaries — including home invasions — and 88% 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 among races. Blacks are 2.6 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession in Missouri than their white counterparts, 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 report.
Thank you for supporting the Marijuana Policy Project and all of our allies. If you have a personal connection to the issue — including if you are a seriously ill patient, a loved one, a physician, or a clergy member — and would like to get more involved, please contact us by email at [email protected]. Please include your address or nine-digit zip code so we can determine who your state legislators are.
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