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