As of Thursday, it is legal for adults to possess and use marijuana in Missouri. That doesn’t mean you can legally buy it, or use it anywhere.
Medical marijuana has been legal in the state since a ballot measure passed in 2018, but voters took it a step further this November in approve a constitutional amendment legalize the drug for anyone 21 years of age or older. The new law makes Missouri that 21st state to allow recreational use.
Change comes with some confusion. For one thing, dispensaries still can’t sell for fun. People will finally be able to grow their own, but applications to do so won’t be available until next month. And places like schools and businesses can still ban drugs.
John Mueller, co-founder of Greenlight Dispensaries, says 15 stores in Missouri have received calls from people who are confused about the new law and why they still can’t buy it from dispensaries.
“I think everyone is concerned and excited about adult use,” said Mueller, whose company plans to add 300 jobs at its cultivation, manufacturing and dispensary locations for the expected increase in business. “Every dollar we sell is a dollar that doesn’t go to the black market.”
Recreational users also call and email the Missouri Wild Alchemy dispensary in O’Fallon, owner Jason Crady said — “24-7.”
“There’s a lot of buzz about it,” said Crady, who is busy hiring and training staff in preparation for the entertainment sales.
Existing medical dispensaries will eventually be allowed to sell to recreational users, but the agency has not specified when that will be. John Payne, a leader in the campaign to legalize marijuana, said recreational sales will likely begin in February.
The state is expected to issue an additional 144 dispensary licenses by early 2025.
Spokeswoman Lisa Cox of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, which regulates marijuana, said personal cultivation application forms will be available Jan. 7 for people who want to grow a limited amount. which amount to themselves.
Some places will continue to ban lights. Among them: the four campuses of the University of Missouri System. The system cited two federal laws — the Drug Free Schools and Communities Act and the Drug-Free Workplace Act — on Wednesday in announcing the continued ban on marijuana on campuses and at university-sponsored events. Student violators may face discipline up to and including expulsion.
Legalization is worrisome for some in law enforcement who worry it will mean more impaired drivers.
Kevin Merritt, executive director of the Missouri Sheriffs’ Association, said that marijuana impairment is more difficult for police to assess because there is nothing comparable to blood-alcohol tests that can determine the level of intoxication of people who have been drinking.
“Basically, what did they (officers) observe in the operation of the vehicle?” Merritt said. “What did the officer smell and observe when they got into the car? What kind of actions, or bad actions, does he see in the operation of the car to make a case that the person is disabled?
The amendment also requires the expungement of criminal records for most people who are in prison or on probation for a marijuana offense, a process expected to be completed by mid-2023.
It’s part of a broader move toward decriminalizing low-level marijuana crimes that has gained steam in recent years. President Joe Biden announced in October that he pardoned thousands of Americans convicted of simple possession under federal law. Kansas City and St. Louis is one of the jurisdictions that has stopped prosecuting misdemeanor possession.
Missouri dispensaries expect to see more out-of-state buyers. Missouri is bordered by eight states, only one of which – Illinois – allows the sale of marijuana.
Payne projects that once the program is fully up and running, Missouri will see annual sales of up to $1.3 billion.
Ron Burch, 36, of the southwest Missouri town of Joplin, now has a medical marijuana card. He knows the demand for recreational pot is strong.
“Looking ahead to February, it’s going to be a mad rush to fill all the shelves for people to be knocking on doors to buy products,” Burch said.
Larry Stiffelman, who owns a medical dispensary in the eastern Missouri city of St. Clair, said recreational marketing is important because, due to high taxes, his business still struggles to make a profit.
“I can tell you that sales have probably tripled or quadrupled per store,” Stiffelman said. “So it’s huge as far as business volume goes.”
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