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Cannabis Freedom Act aims to decriminalize marijuana in Missouri


Crowds gathered Tuesday morning in the Missouri State Capitol to share their opinion on the decriminalization of marijuana with lawmakers.

The Missouri House Public Safety Committee heard public testimony on House Bill 2704, the Cannabis Freedom Act, which would legalize marijuana for recreational use in Missouri. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Ron Hicks (R-Defiance), is what's called an omnibus bill, meaning it includes pieces of marijuana reform from many different lawmakers. The whole bill is over 70 pages long.

Public comment will remain open online until March 18. Supporters of the bill are also planning a rally in the Capitol on March 29 they're calling the Show-Me Canna Freedom Rally; Hicks and several others are expected to speak at the rally.

Dozens came to testify in favor of the bill touting hats and t-shirts with marijuana leaves and slogans like "Be Wise, Legalize." Their support for the bill was well-received by the committee, which gave bipartisan support to the bill. Rep. Ashley Bland Manlove (D-Kansas City) is the ranking member on the Public Safety Committee and said she's pleasantly surprised by the support the bill has received.

"It has gotten a surprising amount of bipartisan support," Manlove said. "I'm honestly shocked."

Current Missouri law only allows medical marijuana sales. The sales tax is set at 4% and the state brought in $8,141,331 from marijuana sales since it was legalized in October 2020, according to data obtained from a Sunshine Request by ABC 17 from the Missouri Department of Revenue.

Under H.B. 2704, tax revenue from marijuana sales would go toward veterans, education and first responders. Committee members discussed using the revenue from marijuana sales to help get rid of personal property taxes in Missouri.

"Since we are still in a Republican majority, they have an agenda to get rid of taxation," Manlove said. "But getting rid of some of the more regressive taxes, that I do agree we have, and replacing it with revenue from this avenue might be a really good aspect."

Brennan England is the state director of Minorities for Medical Marijuana. England supports the Cannabis Freedom Act because he wants to see more minority-owned marijuana businesses and this bill would lessen the barriers of entry into the industry.

"The fact that minorities have been left so dramatically out of the legal industry shows how disparaging that racism is in our corporate structures and that there's still so much repair that has to be," England said.

Although it was a smaller group, several people testified in opposition to the bill. Opposition was largely from those in the medical marijuana business who took issue with things omitted from the bill, such as license caps and testing requirements. John Pennington, founder and CEO of Proper Cannabis said without license caps, the black market for marijuana will grow.

"If you open this up to an unlimited license state, the black market will expand, standards will be reduced, more people will be using cannabis and it will get in the wrong hands," Pennington said.

Article Topic Follows: Missouri Politics

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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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