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The Missouri Affiliate of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws
Greater St. Louis NORML, Mid-Missouri NORML, MU NORML, NORML KC,
Springfield NORML, SEMO NORML, St. Charles NORML
15 N. 10th St. Columbia, MO 65201
For Immediate Release: Friday, July 12, 2019 For More Information Contact:
Dan Viets, 573-819-2669
More than 1,000 Missouri Medical Marijuana Patients
Are Already Approved to Consume Cannabis!
During the past two weeks, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services has approved applications from more than 1,000 Missouri patients who have applied for approval to legally possess and consume cannabis. Although Amendment 2, now Article XIV of the Missouri Constitution, gives DHSS up to 30 days after a patient files an application to approve or deny approval, in fact, DHSS began to approve hundreds of patient applications on the very first day that they could apply, Friday, June 28.
Since then, despite the intervening holiday, DHSS has approved hundreds of additional patient applications, a total of 1,078 as of July 12, according to Lisa Cox, spokesperson for DHSS.
Attorney Dan Viets is Missouri NORML Coordinator and President of New Approach Missouri, the organization which drafted Article XIV, placed it on the ballot and led the very successful campaign for its passage. Viets praised DHSS for its efforts to implement Article XIV in a timely manner.
“Two thirds of Missouri voters supported the passage of Article XIV, far more than supported the other half dozen initiatives on that ballot, and far more than voted for any statewide candidate. DHSS has been very actively engaged in implementing Article XIV since the election. The fact that they are approving many patient applications within hours of the time they are filed illustrates this fact,” said Viets.
NORML has six active Chapters in the state. These Chapters and hundreds of individual members of NORML were critical to the success of the Article XIV campaign.
# # #
Last evening, I interviewed Dr. Randall Williams, Director of the Missouri DHSS, on my radio show. I asked him whether patients, and caregivers, were going to receive physical cards via US Postal Service or if the documents received from DHSS online will serve as the “cards”. He told me he believed cards would be mailed out soon.
However, today I received a phone call from the attorney for the Medical Marijuana Program. She told me that Dr. Williams was mistaken. Patients and caregivers will in fact will not receive “cards” in the mail. They will use the documents which are sent to them by DHSS when they are approved as proof of their patient or caregiver status. I told her I would try to clear up any confusion on that point.
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.