Missouri lawmakers are now considering three separate marijuana reform bills in 2014; meanwhile voters could decide on a constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana in November.
JEFFERSON CITY, MO — On Wednesday, Rep. Chris Kelly (D-Columbia) introduced House Bill 1659, which would allow adults to possess and grow small amounts of marijuana and set up a taxed and regulated marijuana commerce.
If passed, adults 21 or older would be allowed to grow up to eight plants and possess up to sixteen ounces of marijuana per household. The bill would also establish a process for allowing medical marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation for those under 21, and allow the cultivation of industrial hemp.
In addition, two additional bills have been filed this year, House Bill 1324, which would allow medical marijuana in the state and House Bill 1325, which would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of cannabis. The primary sponsor of both bills is Representative Rory Ellinger of University City.
Currently, Missouri has some of the harshest marijuana laws in the country. Possession of any amount of marijuana — even as little as a gram — can be punished by up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine under state law.
Possession of over 35 grams — about 1.25 ounces — is a felony subject to a prison sentence of up to seven years and a $5,000 fine.
Last year, two bills that would have relaxed Missouri’s marijuana laws died in committee without getting a vote . House Bill 668 would have removed criminal penalties for the medical use of marijuana for seriously ill patients with their doctors’ recommendations, and House Bill 512 would have reduced penalties for possession of marijuana for adults.
Neither of these bills advanced during the 2013 session, largely due to the efforts of Missouri Speaker of the House, Rep. Timothy Jones, who prevented the bills from moving forward.
If efforts at the state house in 2014 fail, grassroots reform organization Show-Me Cannabis is currently in the process of placing a voter initiative on the 2014 ballot, which would create an amendment to the state constitution that would enable marijuana to be regulated for adult use.
To qualify for the ballot, organizers must collect the signatures of roughly 320,000 registered voters by May 4, and they must gather signatures from at least 8% of registered voters in six of the state’s eight US congressional districts.
A March poll conducted by Show-Me Cannabis found that residents favored legalizing, taxing, and regulating marijuana by a margin of 54-44% when the proposed system was explained.