Several proposals in Missouri seek to legalize medical or recreational cannabis, and lawmakers have also approved milder sanctions in some possession cases.
In recent years, many states have revised their drug laws to permit the medicinal use of marijuana, decriminalize simple possession or even legalize recreational use. Unfortunately, here in St. Louis, charges of marijuana possession, cultivation and sale can still bring serious legal consequences. However, several recently proposed legislative measures could offer an alternative to strict sanctions for people who have been accused of marijuana-related offenses.
Broader medicinal use
One of these measures would fully legalize the medicinal use of marijuana. At present, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the medicinal use of hemp oil is only permitted for children who suffer from qualifying epileptic disorders. Under the new legislation, doctors could prescribe medicinal marijuana to patients afflicted with other serious health conditions, such as cancer. Qualifying patients could also receive approval to grow up to six plants in their own homes.
This could offer significant and even life-saving benefits for people who use medicinal marijuana to treat physical or mental ailments. As an example, KBIA News tells the story of a veteran who used marijuana to manage post-traumatic stress disorder. After the man was charged criminally and restricted from using the drug to treat his PTSD, he took his own life. Legalization of medicinal marijuana could help prevent tragic cases like this in which patients are denied access to needed treatment.
A petition to legalize the recreational and medicinal use, cultivation and sale of marijuana might be included on the state ballot this year, according to KSPR News. This proposal would not restrict the amount of marijuana that an individual could possess for any of these purposes. It also would not limit people from obtaining the drug based on their age.
If this measure succeeds, it could greatly reduce the number of people who face marijuana-related criminal charges each year in Missouri. According to the Missouri Department of Public Safety, in 2014 alone, 1,282 people in the state were charged with sale and manufacture of marijuana. Additionally, 18,907 people were charged with marijuana possession. The second figure represents roughly 60 percent of all drug possession charges that were made in the state that year.
Reduced possession penalties
Already, Missouri lawmakers have taken a significant step toward treating marijuana use more reasonably by removing the possibility of incarceration for possession of small amounts of the drug. According to The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, this measure applies to people who lack prior convictions and possess less than 10 grams of the substance. This change, which will take effect in January 2017, could substantially help reduce the number of people facing serious sanctions for marijuana possession.
Contesting marijuana-related charges
Unfortunately, since none of these changes are effective yet, any kind of marijuana-related charge can still carry serious legal consequences in Missouri. This makes it advisable for anyone facing such charges to consider seeking the advice of an attorney. An attorney may be able to help a person identify a strategy for questioning the charges or minimizing the long-term impacts of a conviction.