Proposed Changes to State Medical Marijuana Program
Missouri legalization enthusiasts are talking about possible changes to pot laws as we roll into this new year. As Missourians have become more familiar with the state’s budding medical marijuan industry, one lawmaker has introduced a measure that would allow for adult recreational use. House Joint Resolution 30, introduced by Rep. Shamed Dogan, a republican who represents Missouri’s 98th District in St. Louis County would open up avenues of cannabis reformation that would potentially have a large impact on the current state program
Missouri voters passed the Compassionate Care Act, legalizing medical cannabis use, back in 2018. But this new piece of legislation, proposed by Dogan and called the ‘Smarter and Safer Missouri’ Initiative, would ultimately eliminate the licensing process and restricted-license structure ushered in by state health officials during 2020. In its place, the proposal, which was pre-filed just this December, seeks to establish a licensing process not unlike other industries in the state.
In speaking with the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Dogan commented that ‘support for marijuana legalization has grown in the GOP-dominated Legislature, with “increasing recognition” and that “voters increasingly support ending marijuana prohibition.”’
Missourians have witnessed a shaky start for the state’s medical marijuana program, which continues to be a source of displeasure with many. A federal lawsuit filed in December seeks to remove the requirement that medical marijuana licenses be awarded exclusively to those businesses owned by residents of the state. Dogan’s proposal plans to leave licensing requirements up to the local authorities, utilizing county and municipal governments. Effectively, keeping the state out of the decision-making process entirely.
“What I’m trying to do is reduce the amount of regulation on the industry,” Dogan said while speaking with Jaclyn Driscoll of the STL Public Radio. “By and large, if you want to get a license to grow or sell, you can do it.”
“One of the issues with the medical amendment that we passed was that the authority to regulate was given to the State, and there’s a lot of controversy around that now.” Dogan explained in that same interview.
This is a refreshing attitude in reference to cannabis regulation, and Missourians seem to be largely supportive of improving the entire take on all things marijuana.
Something that Dogan addresses in his communication about legalization is a dedication to providing a well-rounded set of legislation that accomplishes more than just adult legalization. In addition to allowing Missourians aged 21 and older to lawfully use the drug, Dogan’s proposal could play an important role in facilitating criminal justice reform. The measure, which would be on Missouri ballots in 2022, looks to expunge the records of people who have been convicted of nonviolent cannabis offenses, and release from prison those people who are presently incarcerated for nonviolent marijuana offenses. It is an important distinction for a state to address not just the easy parts of marijuana legalization, but the laws as a whole. Dogan clearly expresses his goal to provide justice for Missouri citizens who have been negatively affected by harsh marjiuana laws. This is clearly a step in a positive direction for Missouri Legislation.
Citizens are definitely justified in their criticism of state efforts so far. While the state has granted just under 400 licenses to operate cannabis facilities in Missouri, fewer than 40 are presently approved to operate. Consequently, the facilities in operation are feeling some growing pains–quite literally– as cultivation facilities struggle to meet rising demands and operate at full capacity.
Although the state has met targets outlined in the 2018 Compassionate Care Act, even with the controversy of the licensure process, the pandemic has also done much to decelerate licensed facility progress. From infrastructure challenges and employment deficits, to physical construction and regulation compliance, some projects have been delayed by several months. It is a trend that the entire state hopes to see reversed as we go into 2021.
While Dogan’s Safer and Smarter Missouri Initiative gains notoriety among cannabis users and business entities, there is a growing camp of folks who are expecting some changes to come to the established marijuana laws in Missouri. There have been nine other legislative pre-filings as it relates to marijuana laws since December 2020, and it should come as no surprise, as the state is trying its best to recover from the slow derailment of the medical marijuana licensing process so far.
Stay tuned as we follow developments on legalization efforts in the state of Missouri. The show isn’t over!