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Here is a summary of the fate of marijuana-related legislation in the 2019 Session of the Missouri General Assembly which ended last Friday, May 17. Missouri NORML had its most active year ever. Our efforts included four lobby days, on the fourth Wednesday of each of the four full months the legislature was in session.
The greatest positive achievement of the session was the passage of Senate Bill 133, which contained much of the language which was also a part of House Bill 824 concerning a dramatic expansion of the legalization of hemp in the state of Missouri. The original “pilot program” which was part of a bill passed in 2018, never really got off the ground. No one had been licensed to cultivate the 10-40 acre plots of hemp contemplated in that legislation. The new law will almost certainly be signed by Governor Parson in the near future and will become effective upon the signature of the governor.
We are disappointed that House Bill 341, which would have expunged marijuana possession convictions, both misdemeanors and felonies, for medical marijuana patients, did not pass the Senate. After passing in the House, it went to the Senate, but there was not sufficient time for it to reach the Senate floor. Almost certainly Representative Ron Hicks will file a similar bill again next year.
House Bill 1095 sponsored by Representative Shamed Dogan would have reduced the penalty for distribution of up to 66 pounds of marijuana down to a misdemeanor in its original form. I testified in favor of this bill, which we helped draft. As anticipated, it was amended to a less dramatic reform, but still a very good one. The amended bill received a unanimous endorsement from the Committee Representative Dogan chairs, but was defeated on the House floor. We will continue working with Representative Dogan to pursue other creative reform bills next year.
It is generally easier to stop a bill from passing than it is to pass one. This fact worked to our advantage in stopping the passage of three very bad bills this year.
House Bill 829 would have allowed the state to spend money from the Missouri Veterans’ Health and Care Fund created under Amendment 2, now Article XIV of the Missouri Constitution, the Missouri medical marijuana law, for the purpose of paying the state’s lawyers in regard to any medical marijuana related litigation. This bill was arguably unconstitutional, but fortunately we will not have to go to court to stop it since it did not reach the floor of the Senate, after having passed in the House. In fact, now that we are aware of this bill, and we have alerted our allies in the Missouri veterans’ organizations to it, we can probably stop it from passing again in the House next year, if it is reintroduced.
Senate Bill 5, and other similar bills, would have made it much harder for Missouri citizens to place an initiative on the ballot, including constitutional amendments. It would have dramatically increased the number of votes required to pass a constitutional amendment. The reason citizen advocates propose constitutional amendment initiatives is because the Missouri General Assembly will not hesitate to amend or repeal statutory initiatives. Until our Constitution is amended to restrict the ability of the legislature to do that, it is very important that we maintain the right of citizens to amend our state’s Constitution, as the Amendment 2 campaign did.
Senate Bill 6 contained provisions which would have greatly restricted the sale of medical marijuana infused products, prohibiting the sale of any such product “designed to appeal to children” without really defining that term. It would also have prohibited the sale of any infused products in the shape of a “human, animal or fruit”. There is simply no need for such restrictions to be imposed on the new medical marijuana industry in our state. We are happy to see Senate Bill 6 go down to defeat.
Missouri NORML will continue to be vigilant and active in support of progressive marijuana law reform legislation and in opposition to further efforts to restrict or punish responsible consumption of cannabis by adults in our state. We held a very successful conference in Kansas City on April 27. We are making plans for a similar Missouri NORML state conference to be held in St. Louis this fall.
We urge you to make plans now to attend the national NORML Conference and Lobby Day in Washington, D.C. on September 8, 9, and 10. Go to norml.org for more details on this major national event.
Missouri NORML Coordinator
The Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission will conduct a public hearing regarding proposed city regulations for medical marijuana commercial operations tomorrow evening, Thursday, May 9. Although the Commission will meet in a “work session” beginning at 5:30 p.m., city staff members have clarified that the public hearing on medical marijuana regulations will begin at 7:00 p.m. The meeting is in the Council Chambers of Columbia City Hall at 701 E. Broadway, on the northwest corner of 7th and Broadway downtown.
A very progressive marijuana decriminalization bill, House Bill 1095, filed by Representative Shamed Dogan of St. Louis, is now set for a public hearing next Thursday, April 4, 2019, at 8:00 a.m. before Representative Dogan’s Special Committee on Crime in House Hearing Room #1, in the basement level of the Missouri Capitol Building in Jefferson City! The more witnesses who show up to support this bill, the better!
It was only last Wednesday, March 27, when Missouri NORML lobbyists visited the office of the House Speaker, Elijah Haahr, and asked him to assign that bill to Representative Dogan’s Committee. The Speaker did exactly that on the very same day!
Since the sponsor of this bill is the Chair of the committee that is going to hear the bill, it is very likely to come out of that committee with a positive recommendation very quickly. Missouri NORML helped Representative Dogan write this bill. It would reduce the possession of up to 100 grams, nearly four ounces, to an infraction, a non-criminal offense with no jail time and a maximum fine of $400. It would further reduce the distribution, sale or delivery of up to 66 pounds of marijuana down from a felony with a punishment of up to ten years, to a misdemeanor with a maximum punishment of one year!
If you cannot make it to the hearing in Jefferson City next Thursday, please contact your State Representative right away and urge him or her to support House Bill 1095, Representative Dogan’s bill to decriminalize marijuana in Missouri!
MO NORML Coordinator
Dan Viets has given most of his life to cannabis law reform efforts, and the movement is so lucky to have him!
There are few people who can say that they have dedicated the majority of their time on earth to legalizing cannabis and advocating for sensible drug policy reform, and Dan Viets is one of them. Dan is the Secretary of the national NORML Board and President of the NORML Foundation, as well as Chair of the Board for New Approach Missouri, the organization that just successfully legalized medical cannabis in the Show-Me-State.
Representative Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) has introduced an amendment to the House appropriations bill that, if passed, would not allow funds to be used to prevent states from implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of industrial hemp. These laws are defined in section 7606 of the Agricultural Act of 2014. In 2014, members of Congress approved language in the omnibus federal Farm Bill explicitly authorizing states to sponsor hemp research.
The majority of US states have already enacted legislation redefining hemp as an agricultural commodity and allowing for its cultivation. However, the federal government still includes hemp in the Controlled Substances Act, despite it containing minimal amounts of THC–the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
All parts of the hemp plant can be cultivated and used to produce everyday household items. It can be grown as a renewable source for raw materials such as clothing, paper, construction materials, and biofuel. Not only is it useful, but growing hemp is much more environmentally friendly than traditional crops. According to the Congressional Research Service, the United States is the only developed nation in which industrial hemp is not an established crop.
If Bonamici’s amendment is passed, this could prevent the Department of Justice from interfering with states’ rights, specifically regarding to the use, distribution, possession, and cultivation of industrial hemp. It’s time for Congress to respect state laws and allow them to engage in the environmentally responsible cultivation of industrial hemp.
Update: Identical language was introduced in the House by Representative Earl Blumenauer and cosponsored by 9 Republicans and 9 Democrats. House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions blocked the amendment from consideration.
Update: The Senate Appropriations Committee voted 24-7 to include the amendment as part of the 2018 MilCon-VA bill.
The Veterans Equal Access Amendment, which would expand medical cannabis access to eligible military veterans, is expected to be offered to the 2018 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations (MilCon-VA) bill.
Presently, V.A. doctors are forbidden from providing the paperwork necessary to complete a recommendation, thus forcing military veterans to seek the advice of a private, out-of-network physician.
Last year, majorities in both the US House and Senate voted to include similar language as part of the Fiscal Year 2017 MilCon-VA bill. However, Republicans sitting on the House Appropriations Committee elected to remove the language from the bill during a concurrence vote. We must not allow a similar outcome again this year. Lawmakers must stop playing politics with veterans’ health and pass and enact this amendment.
Veterans are increasingly turning to medical cannabis as an effective alternative to opioids and other conventional medications to treat conditions like chronic pain and post-traumatic stress. A retrospective review of patients' symptoms published in 2014 in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs reported a greater than 75 percent reduction on a scale of post-traumatic symptom scores following cannabis therapy. This is why, in recent months, two of the largest veterans’ rights groups -- AMVETS and the American Legion -- have resolved in favor of patients’ access to cannabis therapy.
Our veterans deserve the option to legally access a botanical product that is objectively safer than the litany of pharmaceutical drugs it could replace.