Lawmakers debate medical marijuana
Last update: March 20, 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 two months. Please tell your representatives it is time to move forward with a compassionate medical marijuana program!
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.
Be sure to sign up for MPP’s alerts so that we can keep you abreast of developments regarding both the bills in the legislature and updates from the initiative campaign.
Decriminalization making slow progress
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.
Lawmakers consider legalizing and regulating marijuana
During the 2016 legislative session, which adjourned in May, several Missouri lawmakers filed legislation to reform the state’s marijuana laws. Among them was Rep. Brandon Ellington’s HJR 57, which sought to regulate marijuana like alcohol for persons 21 years of age and older.
While the bill did not pass, it helped foster a long-overdue conversation about whether Missouri should continue criminalizing a substance that is safer than alcohol. Please let your lawmakers know you think it is time for a more sensible approach.
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.
To stay updated on the status of marijuana policy reform in Missouri, please subscribe to our email alerts. If you have any questions concerning the status of marijuana policy reform in Missouri, you can contact us by email at [email protected].