Current marijuana laws in Missouri are some of the harshest in the United States. A person found in possession of over one ounce of cannabis faces a felony charge that can come with a sentence of up to seven years in jail and up to $5,000 in fines. Minor efforts have been made to reform marijuana policies in the show-me-state. In 2017, SB 491 will be enacted. This act creates a new classification of misdemeanor offenses to be called Class D. The same bill allows for a first-time, non-violent offense of possessing less than 10 grams of marijuana to qualify as only a Class D misdemeanor instead of a Class A, thereby slightly lessening the punishment. That law will not take effect until 2017.
Although another measure to regulate and legalize recreational use and retail sale of marijuana has already been filed, this proposal includes additional sections. This initiative, aiming to be included on the 2016 ballot, would legalize, regulate and tax retail cannabis sales for adults aged 21 years and older, establish a medical marijuana program for qualifying patients, allow for home cultivation by adults. Also included, is a section allowing for legal cultivation, sale and distribution of industrial hemp. This measure also contains a clause that will expunge previous non-violent marijuana convictions obtained in the state of Missouri.
This petition was just filed with the office of Secretary of State Jason Kander, and remains open for public comment at this time. It will remain open for comment for at least 30 days, at which time it will either be approved for circulation or shut down. If the wording of this version is approved for circulation by the Secretary of State’s office, the group may begin petitioning for the signatures needed to place the amendment on the 2016 ballot.
A very limited medical marijuana amendment has already been passed establishing very strict regulations for patients suffering from the one and only qualifying condition, epilepsy, to have safe access to cannabidiol (CBD) oil. Two licenses will be granted for producers and cultivators of the cannabis that will be used to make the CBD oil. The window to submit applications for those licenses recently ended.
Many marijuana advocates disagree with enacting such limited medical marijuana laws because it upholds prohibition of a substance believed to be no more harmful than alcohol. Only time will tell whether voters in Missouri will have the chance to vote for or against a marijuana legalization amendment in 2016.
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The cannabis law reform movement has officially exploded into the United States with measures recently being approved by voters in Oregon, Alaska, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territory of Guam. Marijuana advocacy campaigns in many states have declared intentions to seek legalization through voter ballot initiatives during the presidential election in 2016. Now, Missouri has joined that list of legal marijuana hopefuls.
Last week, Show-Me Cannabis, an advocacy group in Missouri, reportedly filed a petition with the Missouri Secretary of State, which had to contain 165,000 signatures supporting a legalization amendment being placed on the state-wide ballot in November 2016. Now, the Show-Me Cannabis organization and effort supporters must wait while the petition is reviewed and verified.
The proposed ballot amendment would legalize and regulate marijuana for adults aged twenty-one years and older. This measure also includes the development of a medical marijuana program.
Voters who may not be sold on the idea of legalizing cannabis for recreational use, may be able to see the upside to the tax revenue and job creation that this industry would bring to the state. For example, in September 2014, the state of Colorado reportedly collected $6,664,654 in marijuana tax revenue, and in May of 2014, the industry had already created ten thousand new jobs in the state. Very few people disagree with creating jobs and stimulating an increase in state tax revenue.
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Throughout the years of marijuana prohibition, the state of Missouri has handed down some of the most severe sentences to marijuana offenders in the United States. Possessing any amount could result in a misdemeanor offense punishable by up to one year in prison and hefty fines.
Missouri is keeping up with the changing times, though. In July 2014, Governor Nixon, signed the bill for a new law that allows epilepsy patients to use cannabis oil for medicinal treatment. It includes specific guidelines regulating the cultivation of the cannabis as well as the production of the oil. The levels of cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannbinol (THC) for each plant will be tested to ensure a consistent product. Plants may contain no more than 0.3 percent THC, and must be high in CBD. The THC is the cannabinoid in cannabis known to have psychoactive properties, whereas the CBD is known more for it’s medicinal value.
Now, applications to cultivate cannabis and produce high cannabidiol (CBD) oil are available through the Missouri Department of Agriculture. Completed applications may be submitted beginning November 3, 2014, and submissions will be accepted for thirty days.
Only two applicants will be granted licenses to cultivate and produce. The facilities must operate as a non-profit organization, and may not be stationed any closer than 2,000 feet from residential neighborhoods, child care facilities, and schools. No dates have been set yet for the opening of the facilities or when the product will be available to patients.
This bill received great support, largely because Missouri Senator, Eric Schmitt, has a son who suffers from epilepsy. During a discussion of the bill, Schmitt addressed the room,
“The promise of CBD oil is real. I don’t know if this will work. We’ve had hope before. It might or it might not.”
Applications are currently being accepted for patients who want to participate in the program. The state estimates 1,000 epilepsy patients will take advantage of the new medical cannabis oil law. In order to qualify to participate in the program, a patient must provide certification from a neurologist stating that at least three other forms of treatment have been tried.
photo credit: High Times