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Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Employees work to measure changes from recreational marijuana

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Voters settled the issue in November: Recreational marijuana is now legal in Missouri.

What is not settled is what legalizing marijuana means for municipalities, such as Jefferson City.

Since early December, it has been legal to possess up to three ounces of marijuana. Voters approved Amendment 3 last November, which legalizes recreational use by adults, though its purchase is not yet available.

Exactly how legalization changes governance for Jefferson City has yet to be determined; However, a city official says they are preparing for the emergence of this “new industry” and its potential mix of civic influences.

City Attorney Ryan Muhlman said he knows of two dispensaries in Jefferson City that are looking to transform their businesses to sell marijuana to both patients and consumers.

The Missouri Department of Health and Services is not currently accepting applications for brand new facilities, but instead is allowing pre-existing medical marijuana dispensaries to apply for recreational sale. It takes companies to qualify to become what the DHSS website calls a “comprehensive facility.”

The city has only two facilities equipped with the appropriate license to sell medical marijuana, Shangri-La and Missouri Health & Wellness.

And the Department of Homeland Security said, based on its schedule for approving the applications, recreational purchases may be available in some places as early as February. Although, according to the department’s website, it really depends on when or whether dispensaries submit a recreational application, because there is a 60-day period before receipts are notified of approval.

In the meantime, Moleman said, staff continues to review needed citywide changes. He said that the edit in terms of the number of words per page is huge and very dense.

“A lot of it is going through new constitutional amendments and figuring out what measures cities can take, things we can’t do anymore, and then we try to reconcile it with the law and the regulations we have,” he said.

The back and forth between the law and the Missouri constitution presents some very unique challenges.

“The industry sells a product that is not available to the population under the age of 21, and like liquor stores, you cannot organize a liquor store in the same way that you can organize a store selling general merchandise that is available to everyone of any age,” he said.

He added that this relates to the secondary effects that adult industries can have. For example, Moehlman said, there needs to be some kind of mechanism in place to ensure that companies do not sell or distribute marijuana to minors, a mechanism city employees are currently working on.

While understanding dispensaries have the means to operate in a fair and inclusive manner, they also impose a greater obligation, Muhlmann said: “It’s really no different than any type of business that is restricted to (of a certain age) adults.”

He added that another mechanism might adopt a formal bill that lists the city’s regulations on marijuana, which would require city council approval. A preview of what the wording might entail was given during a meeting of the Committee of Public Safety held on 29 December.

Some of the 13 regulations proposed by the legal team deal with the rules of personal cultivation and also prohibit use and possession by anyone under the age of 21 or by anyone in public places or while operating a vehicle or other motorized transportation.

To regulate or prohibit public use

Muhlmann said the staff is recommending that the city council vote to ban adult use of marijuana in public as a “starting point” in a larger conversation about regulating the public sphere.

“We basically start with the position: If you are participating in this particular substance, it should be — not in public streets, restaurants, businesses — but in private situations,” he said.

Moehlman later indicated that the city council could revisit the issue if there was a desire to allow it in certain types of public spaces, since there are “certain licensing schemes that Amendment 3 is considering”.

The council must also decide whether to agree to asking Jefferson City voters in April about enacting a 3 percent sales tax for all recreational marijuana purchases citywide.

On Tuesday, the House will consider the bill on whether to add it to the ballot, but its constituents ultimately make the final decision.

Purchases of medical marijuana are not taxed by the city and will not be taxed even if there is a future tax intended for recreational use.

The state taxes medical marijuana at 4 percent; The state will tax recreational marijuana at 6 percent.

Moehlman said city employees believe a tax on recreational use is appropriate because increased work adds to City Hall officials and public safety employees.

Grow guide for marijuana beginners.
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