With the success of ballot initiatives legalizing recreational cannabis in both Colorado and Washington earlier this year, a lot of people are probably wondering, “What about my state?” When it comes to Missouri, new developments regarding recreational and medicinal cannabis legalization come out of the woodwork every so often, but it seems like these most recent legalization have (perhaps predictably) reunited the debate among public officials and activists alike.
With that in mind, following are some of the most recent initiatives regarding cannabis legalization/decriminalization in the state of Missouri.
Senate Bill 951 (Legalizing medicinal cannabis)
Introduced on Feb. 26 by state Senator Jason Holsman (D – Kansas City), this bill would give patients with a “debilitating medical condition” access to medicinal cannabis and allow for the creation of regulated dispensaries as well as the ability for patients to grow up to four immature plants, and three mature ones. This bill would put the question before the voters of Missouri this year, so it’s also what some activists are dubbing as their “best shot” at placing a reform measure on the ballot this November.
House Bill 2054 (legalizing industrial hemp)
In case there are any readers out there unfamiliar with the differences between hemp and cannabis, suffice it to say that cannabis is the flower of the plant, while hemp is the leaf. Hemp is actually extremely useful for industrial purposes, which is why state Representative Mike Colona (D – Saint Louis) introduced House Bill 2054 the day after Holsman’s introduction in the senate — a bill that would exempt industrial hemp from the list of controlled substances in Missouri and make it “legal for anyone who has not been convicted of a drug-related crime to cultivate such hemp.”
Aptly named, the organization Show-Me Cannabis simply aims to legalize and take steps toward legalizing cannabis in the state of Missouri. In January, the Secretary of State approved 13 initiative petition proposals by the group, and although Show-Me Cannabis Chairman Dan Viets said the group’s polling shows only 45 percent of voters support the initiatives for 2014, he also said he expects that number to increase by 2016 — which is why the group won’t be pursing any ballot initiatives until then. In the mean time, the organization’s approved bills are still waiting to be assigned to a General Assembly Committee.
Governor Nixon’s Views
In February, Governor Nixon expressed support (albeit cautious support) for the notion of legalizing medicinal cannabis, stating, “Medicinally I think that folks are beginning to see that there are things which the medical can get help on…and I think our legislature might consider that.”
However, Nixon stopped short of calling for full-fledged legalization, saying,“I think to move beyond that at this point is a bridge too far, but that bridge has not yet been built.” Now, this is interesting because just a few years ago, a politician wouldn’t be caught dead saying anything besides the thought that cannabis is a dangerous drug and should remain illegal for any purpose. Nixon’s change in rhetoric is a punt, but it’s a sure sign that the topic of cannabis is becoming less and less politically toxic. What does that mean for the future of medical cannabis in Missouri, though? I suppose we’ll all just have to wait and see!
Written by Kellie Bertels, an attorney with the firm Bandré, Hunt & Snider, LLC, the best attorneys Jefferson City MO has to offer.