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In Missouri, marijuana legalization is just the beginning of policy work


After recreational marijuana became legal in Missouri some lawmakers saw an opportunity, while others saw problems.

Recreational marijuana was legalized through an initiative petition, which means it was filed by citizens who gathered signatures -- not a politician -- and voted on by the general public.

At least 40 bills have been filed this year on marijuana law and policy. The bills being filed in the Missouri House of Representatives and Senate will have to pass through both chambers and be signed by the governor before they can be law. Regular Missouri residents won't get a chance to vote on them.

Marijuana on college campuses

Freshman Rep. Adrian Plank (D-Columbia) filed four bills on recreational marijuana. One of the bills deals with the release of people in prison for low-level marijuana crimes. Expungement is a big part of Amendment 3, which legalized recreational marijuana last November.

“I thought it was necessary for them to be able to advocate for themselves so they could petition the courts to get them out of jail," Plank said.

The four bills filed by Rep. Adrian Plank (D-Columbia) splayed across his desk.

Another one of Plank's bills would make it legal for people to use marijuana products on public university campuses.

“The University of Missouri has said that they don’t want any marijuana on campus," Plank said. "I get it, I guess. The problem with that is when you’re talking about medical. You know, you don’t tell people not to bring their ibuprofen on campus.”

But the University of Missouri follows federal law, not state law when it comes to marijuana use on campus. MU and other public universities are subject to two laws called The Drug Free Schools and Communities Act and The Drug Free Workplaces Act. These laws list marijuana among prohibited drugs for both schools and workplaces. If the university breaks these laws, it could face serious consequences.

"Should we violate that, we could be subjected to significant fines that could impact student financial aid," said University of Missouri spokesman Christian Basi.

Open containers in cars

Rep. Kent Haden (R-Mexico) is not a fan of Amendment 3. He said Republicans are generally against the amendment because it "tries to write the law itself."

Republican lawmakers worked last year to get their own legalization bill passed before Amendment 3 could make the ballot but failed.

"That’s why they took it to a constitutional amendment because it never could pass the House," Haden said.

Rep. Kent Haden's (R-Mexico) bill and an example of air-tight marijuana containers.

Haden introduced a bill that would require people to keep marijuana in air-tight containers while in cars. He said he came up with this bill after meeting with the Callaway County and Audrain County sheriffs. They were worried about people driving while under the influence.

"Before it'd be a car to two, now it's 10 or 15 cars all the time," Haden said.

The Audrain County sheriff, in particular, was worried about drug dogs picking up on the marijuana scent, Haden said.

Likelihood of becoming law

These laws face different challenges than Amendment 3 did. While the amendment was passed through a popular vote of regular Missourians, these bills have to go through committee hearings, debates and be voted on favorably by both chambers of the Missouri legislature.

Haden is worried about being able to pass a bill that fits into the long amendment.

“The way it’s written, you know, there should be no interference by legislatures, so is public safety interference?” Haden said.

Plank, however, thinks that shouldn't be a problem.

“You can do those bills as an initiative petition process and still make those changes, so I think that’s what I’m doing,” Plank said.

However, Plank acknowledges that he faces different challenges than Haden because of their ever-dueling parties.

“Our strategies are different being as we’re in the minority," Plank said.

Although marijuana has been a popular topic in previous years, other issues have dominated this year's legislative session. These bills have yet to be scheduled for hearings. However, the session is only about halfway through, and there is still much more to come.

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Hannah Falcon

Hannah joined the ABC 17 News Team from Houston, Texas, in June 2021. She graduated from Texas A&M University. She was editor of her school newspaper and interned with KPRC in Houston. Hannah also spent a semester in Washington, D.C., and loves political reporting.


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