Cannabis policing in Missouri is a complex issue with a long history. The state has had a tumultuous relationship with cannabis, but progress has been made with the recent legalization of both medical and adult-use cannabis.
Progress of Cannabis Legalization in Missouri
In 2018, Missouri passed a constitutional amendment to legalize medical cannabis. The amendment allows for the use of cannabis for medical purposes, with a licensed physician’s recommendation. The state also established a system for licensing and regulating medical cannabis dispensaries and cultivators.
Since then, Missouri dispensaries processed nearly $650 million in cumulative medical marijuana sales. On February 3, the first day that adult-use dispensaries were allowed to sell recreational cannabis, $5 million worth of marijuana was sold to adults in Missouri. Over that first opening weekend, nearly $13 million of legal cannabis was sold to Missourians without a medical card.
As part of the recent adult-use legalization, voters in Missouri also agreed to expunge the records of past cannabis criminal convictions. Exceptions to this expungement include cases involving violence, selling to a minor, or DUI. As a result of these efforts, nearly 4,000 marijuana records have been expunged to date, with more expected to be processed over the coming months.
Which Police Agencies Enforce Cannabis Laws
Cannabis policing in Missouri is carried out by a variety of law enforcement agencies, including state and local police, as well as the Missouri State Highway Patrol. These agencies have been criticized for disproportionately targeting people of color in their enforcement efforts. In 2020, marijuana possession arrests in Missouri were higher in counties with larger black populations, in comparison with white population.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol has a Narcotics and Criminal Investigation Division (NCID) that is responsible for investigating and enforcing drug laws in the state. The NCID has specialized units, such as the Drug Interdiction and Criminal Enforcement (DICE) Unit, that focus on identifying and arresting individuals involved in the illegal distribution and sale of drugs, including marijuana.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol also has a Tactical Team Unit (TTU) that is responsible for executing search warrants and making arrests in drug-related cases. The TTU is a specialized unit that is trained to handle high-risk situations and works closely with other law enforcement agencies in the state to combat drug-related crime.
Local law enforcement agencies in Missouri also have protocols in place to enforce cannabis laws. The Kansas City Police Department, for example, has a Narcotics Unit that is responsible for investigating and enforcing drug laws in the city. The unit is composed of detectives who are trained to identify and arrest individuals involved in the illegal distribution and sale of drugs, including marijuana.
In addition to enforcing possession, sale, and distribution laws, law enforcement agencies in Missouri also focus on identifying and arresting individuals who drive under the influence of marijuana. The Missouri State Highway Patrol has a Traffic Safety Unit that is responsible for enforcing traffic laws and identifying individuals who may be driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol has also been criticized for its use of drug interdiction tactics, such as setting up roadblocks and conducting searches without probable cause. In some cases, these tactics have been found to be unconstitutional.
Cannabis policing in Missouri is complicated and some law enforcement officials are still unsure how to properly enforce the law. In the past, enforcement has been criticized for disproportionately targeting people of color. But efforts to decriminalize and legalize recreational cannabis may lead to more equitable policing moving forward.
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