Missouri could be the first state where a Republican-controlled legislature passes an uninitiated adult cannabis legalization measure on the ballot, but the deadline is tight.
The House Rules Committee on Legislative Oversight voted 6-4 to advance the Cannabis Freedom Act on April 19, approving the legislation for consideration by the full lower house. The 2022 Missouri General Assembly session should end on May 13.
Sponsored by Republican Representative Ron Hicks, the legislation, House Bill 2704aims to legalize the possession and personal use of cannabis for adults 21 and older, allowing them to purchase commercial cannabis from a licensed retailer, and grow and possess up to six mature plants for the purpose non-commercial, according to the bill abstract. Personal possession limits are not defined in the current version of the 76 page invoice.
Under present-day Missouri laws and penalties, possession of up to 10 grams of cannabis is an offense punishable by a maximum fine of $500 for the first offense and one year imprisonment with a maximum fine of $2,000 for the second offense or for possession of 10 grams to 35 grams. Possessing more than 35 grams is a felony punishable by seven years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000.
The legislation also aims to free all non-violent cannabis offenders from prison and create a system for individuals to erase cannabis-related offenses from their records.
Republican Rep. Phil Christofanelli, who chairs the house rules committee, said he had “serious concerns” about the current version of the bill during Tuesday’s hearing that resulted in the committee voting 6-4 to advance legislation, St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
“I think there needs to be additional cannabis testing on the market,” Christofanelli said. “I think there have to be reasonable limits placed on ownership and grow facilities.”
Hicks acknowledged those concerns and agreed that testing parameters should be added to his bill, the outlet reported.
Under the legislation, a “Cannabis Enforcement Authority” would be established within the Department of Health and Senior Services. This authority would be responsible for promulgating the necessary rules and regulations for the program, including the licensing process for cannabis growers, retailers, processors, carriers and wholesale distributors. The authority would also set up a stock tracking system.
Further, growers, manufacturers, processors and distributors would not be subject to any special zoning requirements or license fees under the legislation.
And the tax rate levied on cannabis sales could not exceed 4.225%, less than the 12% rate listed in the original introduction of the bill. All tax revenues would be deposited into a “cannabis freedom fund,” as established under the bill, and used to pay for costs associated with implementation, administration and enforcement. provisions of the law.
Other notable provisions of the bill include:
- The use or possession of cannabis must not interfere with a person’s legal right to possess a firearm.
- It is legal for a person 21 or older to transfer or give cannabis to another adult or for a parent or guardian to transfer or give cannabis to a person under 21 if that person has a referral from a doctor.
- No bank, trust company, association or credit union shall be prohibited, penalized, adversely affected or otherwise discouraged from providing financial services at licensed facilities under the provisions of the bill.
According to the bill’s summary, those who oppose the legislation have pointed to what they perceive to be an increase in youth use and impaired driving in Colorado, which has launched adult commercial sales. in 2014, as well as an unlimited medical cannabis licensing structure in Oklahoma, where lawmakers are battling an illicit market.
Under Missouri’s Cannabis Freedom Act, the number of adult use licenses would be limited to twice the number of current medical cannabis licenses in the state, a provision that was added when the draft was approved. legislation by the House Public Safety Committee via a 5-4 vote. March 31.
Those who support the legislation have pointed to flaws in Missouri’s medical cannabis program that “is not something the legislature can fix” because it was passed through the initiative petition process.
“I don’t want to take anything away from the initiative’s petition process, but we currently have a medical marijuana industry in our state because of the initiative’s petition process,” Hicks said during a court hearing. Public Safety Committee last month.
“I’m sure every single one of you sitting here has received some sort of email or heard of someone like this talking about the rollout of this program, whether it’s dishonest or unfair to someone or ‘it was misdeployed, or whatever the problem was,’ he said. ‘But at the end of the day, whatever those problems were, we couldn’t solve them as a body.’
In a similar timeline to the adjournment of the Legislative Assembly, there are three adult-use-vote initiative campaigns in Missouri that have until May 8 to submit 160,199 valid signatures to present an amendment. Constitution to voters in the November 2022 elections.
As of April 20, the Cannabis Freedom Act has not been on the House calendar.