Marijuana Legislation Pending Before The Missouri General Assembly

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By Dan Viets

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At this point in the 2015 session of the Missouri General Assembly, bills continue to be filed which relate to cannabis. One of the bills presently filed relating to medical marijuana is House Bill 490 filed by Representative Keith English. This bill would create a comprehensive medical cannabis law.

It would allow cannabis to be dispensed from up to 60 distribution centers throughout the state. Licensed physicians and others who are authorized to prescribe controlled substances would have the authority to recommend cannabis to patients. A system for regulating and registering patients, dispensaries and cultivation centers would be established under this law. The bill contains some restrictions on where cannabis could be used, including not allowing possession or use in automobiles and requiring cannabis in cars to be kept in an official medical cannabis container.

This bill has not yet been assigned to a committee nor set for a hearing. Rep. English recently declared that he is leaving the Democratic Party and has become an Independent. Therefore, his ability to influence the course of events in the legislature may be somewhat limited. We anticipate other medical marijuana legislation will be filed in the not-too-distant future.

House Joint Resolution 15 has been filed by Representative Brandon Ellington of Kansas City, a Democrat and the Chair of the Black Caucus in the Missouri House. Rep. Ellington's bill would create a system of regulation and taxation of cannabis like alcohol for those over 21 years of age, allowing retailing and cultivation by placing a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot in November of 2016.

House Bill 358 is nearly identical to Senate Bill 31. Both bills would require that, if a person on probation tests positive for marijuana or other controlled substances or commits any other alleged violation of probation conditions, the probation officer would be required to immediately place that person under arrest. This would be a major infringement on the discretion of probation officers and it would place a far greater financial burden on the state. No fiscal note has yet been produced regarding this bill, but an accurate fiscal note would likely indicate that the cost to taxpayers of this bill would be substantial. We hope it can be stopped.

Senator Robert Schaaf, a physician from St. Joseph, has filed Senate Bill 255 to authorize the agricultural cultivation of low-THC cannabis, referred to in the bill as "hemp". This bill would authorize farmers in the state of Missouri to once again cultivate a crop which was a major source of revenue in the 1800's. Missouri was among the very largest hemp-producing states. The difficulty in harvesting hemp, which was an extremely labor-intensive process in the 1800's, caused hemp to fall into disfavor. However, the development of hemp harvesting machinery has long since overcome that problem. A similar bill will likely be filed in the Missouri House very soon.

There are several bills pending which would establish the ability to expunge marijuana criminal convictions. Those bills include House Bill 166, Senate Bill 100 and Senate Bill 165. However, the bill which is likely to have the best chance of passing has yet to be filed. I worked for several months on a Missouri Bar Committee on expungement which included several prosecutors as well as legislative staff people. The bill which that committee has produced contains compromises, but has the advantage of support from the Missouri Prosecuting Attorneys Association. The Missouri Bar Board of Governors recently recommended the bill for passage, but also recommended a couple of changes in it.

This bill will allow almost all marijuana convictions to be removed from public access and specifically authorizes a defendant who has been found guilty of such offenses and has them sealed to deny that the conviction ever occurred. The primary intention of this legislation is to allow those with marijuana and other non-violent convictions to once again obtain employment. This bill will be filed shortly in the Missouri Senate and probably in the Missouri House as well.

Help make this legislative session successful for cannabis law reformers by contributing to Show-Me Cannabis today!

Source: Show-Me Cannabis

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