Missouri legislators must act now on legalizing adult cannabis use or risk having their hands tied if a petition changes the state constitution.
That was the bottom line for Representative Ron Hicks, a St. Charles County Republican, when he presented his legislation during a hearing before members of the House Public Safety Committee on March 8. Many Missourians testified by expressing their support for the bill, which Hicks introduced Submitted last month.
Titled The Cannabis Freedom Act, House Bill 2704 It aims to legalize cannabis possession and personal use for those 21 years of age or older, allow home cultivation of up to 12 mature plants, and tax cannabis sales at a rate not to exceed 12%, among other provisions, according to the Summary subordinate 74 legislation pages.
In addition, cannabis growers, manufacturers, processors and distributors will not be subject to special zoning requirements or licensing fees under the legislation.
The main reason Hicks says Missouri lawmakers need to act now is so they can control any upcoming legalization standards.
“I don’t want to take anything away from the initiative petition process, but we have the medical marijuana industry in our state right now because of the initiative petition process,” he said during the hearing. “I’m sure every one of you sitting here has gotten some sort of email or heard from someone in this situation about putting this program up, whether it’s dishonest or unfair to someone or it was put up wrong, or whatever the problem is.
But the bottom line is, regardless of these issues, we as a body cannot solve them. This was done through an initiative petition process, and we know how it’s done. It’s enshrined in our constitution, which is something I don’t think any of you would want to address. I know that I do not want to violate our constitution and against the will of the people.”
This work schedule ends when the Missouri General Assembly meets no later than May 30.
On a similar timeline, there are three Missouri Adult Use Ballot Initiative campaigns that have until May 8 to provide 160,199 valid signatures to force a constitutional amendment on voters in the November 2022 elections.
A Missourian resident, who testified in support of Hicks’ bill during the March 8 committee hearing, spoke out against one of those initiatives.
Christina Thompson, from the advocacy group ShowMe Qana Freedomimplicitly that she opposed the initiative she sponsored Missouri Legal 2022 Because it claimed it would create a monopoly on companies already involved in the government’s medical cannabis program.
“Without this legislation, our Constitution will be corrupted for profit by the Legal Missouri 2022 ballot initiative,” Thompson said. “This is the same group that designed the disruptive medical marijuana program, and they want to write another violent and subversive business monopoly into our state’s constitution. I say monopoly because this initiative eliminates nearly all competition through the licensing caps that the Constitution protects.”
According to Legal Missouri 2022’s websiteThe group’s initiative seeks to create new business licenses to expand industry participation by small business owners and among disadvantaged residents, including those previously convicted of nonviolent cannabis offenses.
However, Thompson claimed that the adult use licenses created under the initiative would go directly to existing medical cannabis companies.
While presenting his bill to the committee on Tuesday, Hicks expressed a lack of confidence in the signature-gathering process for ballot initiatives.
“Let’s be honest here: sometimes [citizens] I don’t even know what they’re signing,” he said. “Sometimes we don’t even know what they’re signing. but with this [bill]We know exactly what we’re doing. We get our hands on it. We asked Missouri to help us and get their hands on it. And that’s what I did with it. ”
Hicks also noted the side of criminal justice reform in introducing an adult-use program.
Anyone who has been convicted of a nonviolent crime related to cannabis will be able to petition the court to have that crime struck, according to HB Summary 2704.
Eric McCauley, of Columbia, Missouri, testified in support of the bill on Tuesday, which was sentenced in 2012 to 23 years in prison for cannabis use and money laundering offences. He spent more than 12 of those 23 years in prison, before a federal judge granted his merciful release last June.
“I’m really lucky to be here today,” McCauley said. “I’m here to support all those who still spend time using cannabis and their children.”
McCauley’s son was at the hearing.
“I had to fight my tears since I turned around and saw the people behind me were opposing me [the bill]’ He said, ‘I hope they are not opposed to it just because they want to maintain a monopoly in this industry.’
McCauley said he met some of the most intelligent people in his life who were also behind bars for nonviolent cannabis convictions. He said that many of these people did not have access to opportunities like going to college and simply chose different paths.
“But people incarcerated for marijuana are not the same people incarcerated for other reasons,” McCauley said, “maybe you have an exception here or there, but there are some very good people out there. I went from kindergarten until [my son’s] Graduation Year. It’s been a long time, and he’s still fine because his dad isn’t a really bad guy and he’s still helping him raise him from prison.”
In terms of creating an inclusive industry, Hicks said the current version of his bill does not include licensing limits because he wants to take a free-market approach to adult use of cannabis in Missouri.
“I want to keep it for the people of Missouri,” he said. “But I also want to do it with a regulatory framework so we can keep it in a cage and it doesn’t spread.”
The common message among those who testified in support of the bill was that legalization in the state was coming, one way or another.