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MJ in MO — The Current State Of Cannabis Legalization In Missouri

Missouri is far better known for its BBQ than its marijuana buds. Even as nearby Illinois opens up to the weed industry, the Show-Me State has a firm stance against recreational marijuana. But that doesn’t mean the recent “green wave” hasn’t had any effect on Missouri’s cannabis laws. While recreational pot may be illegal, Missouri has begun relaxing its stance towards this green herb. If Missouri’s marijuana activists have their way, this Midwestern state may soon abolish its ban on adult-use recreational marijuana.


Missouri’s Marijuana Mandates — Two Historical “High” Points


In 2014, Jefferson City legislators made their first move towards significant marijuana reform. Under the successful Senate Bill 491, Missouri downgraded its penalties for petty marijuana possession. Now, first-time offenders caught with below 10 grams of marijuana won’t face jail time. Instead, these residents will have to pay a fine of no more than $500.

Four years after SB 491 passed, Missouri took another step towards marijuana legalization. This time, voters passed Amendment 2, which inaugurated the state’s Medical Marijuana Program.

If Missouri patients have a referral from their doctor, they can submit an MMJ card application to the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services. Once approved, MMJ patients could legally purchase 10 ounces of cannabis flowers per month from a state-recognized dispensary. These possession limits could be increased depending on each doctor’s recommendations.


Are Pot Laws Different In Missouri’s Big Cities?


While statewide cannabis reforms didn’t start till 2014, a few of Missouri’s cities introduced new ordinances long before SB 491. In fact, Columbia residents were the first to pass decriminalization policies way back in 2004. Any first-time offenders in Columbia with under 35 g of cannabis flowers can only face a max fine of $250.

Missouri’s second-largest city—St. Louis—followed Columbia’s example when it passed decriminalization laws in 2013. St. Louis police can no longer arrest first-time offenders with less than 35 g of cannabis flowers. Instead, these offenders will face a fine of up to $300.

It took Kansas City a bit longer to increase its decriminalization laws, but it’s now considered one of Missouri’s most lenient cities for pot smokers. In 2017, KC reduced its fine for first-time pot possession (at 35 g) to just $25. However, in 2020, Kansas City eliminated this first-time fine. Although this doesn’t mean marijuana is legal in Kansas City, it does suggest the City of Fountains isn’t too concerned with petty cannabis possession.

A few smaller cities that have reduced their cannabis possession fines include Maplewood and Webster Groves. Both of these cities only fine residents for first-time possession of 35 g of cannabis.


What Are The Penalties For Growing Pot In Missouri?


Although Missouri has been easing its stance on marijuana possession, the same can’t be said about at-home cultivation. Recreational users face serious felony charges if they’re caught growing any amount of cannabis at home. Anyone caught growing less than 35 g of recreational weed could pay a fine of $10,000 and serve up to four years in jail.

The only exception to this policy is patients on the MMJ program. Since the passage of Amendment 2, MMJ cardholders could legally grow up to six marijuana plants in their household. It’s also legal for state-registered caretakers to grow marijuana for their patients. MMJ cardholders must ensure all of their marijuana plants are far from public view.


Is CBD Hemp Legal In Missouri?


Interestingly, Missouri’s laws surrounding CBD hemp are more ambiguous than its recreational marijuana policies. Even after the 2018 US Farm Bill passed, it’s unclear whether Missouri allows residents to buy, sell, or use recreational CBD oil.

We do know, however, that Missouri allows doctors to prescribe CBD for epileptic patients. 2014’s HB 2238 created the MO Hemp Extract Registration Program (MHERP) to register patients with a doctor’s approval. Once someone has an MHERP-approved card, they can legally purchase up to 20 fl oz of hemp-derived CBD oil. All legal CBD products in Missouri must have a max of 5 percent CBD and ≤ 0.3 percent THC.

In 2018, Missouri further reduced its penalties on hemp flowers with HB 2034. Significantly, this new law differentiates legal hemp from illegal marijuana. As stated in the 2018 US Farm Bill, legal hemp plants must contain ≤ 0.3 percent THC content.

Unfortunately for CBD fans, HB 2034 doesn’t explicitly say whether recreational hemp products are OK. While hemp-derived CBD is federally legal, Missouri police have confiscated CBD goods from smoke shops as recently as 2018. Although these raids seem to have died down in recent years, there are still questions over which CBD products qualify under Missouri’s laws.

So, even if a store offers hemp-derived CBD that conforms to the 2018 US Farm Bill, it’s difficult to say whether it’s legal in Missouri. Until Jefferson City clears up its stance on CBD, hemp fans should be aware of this strange legal situation.


Can Missouri Farmers Grow CBD Hemp?


Currently, there’s less confusion surrounding hemp cultivation than CBD consumption in Missouri. In fact, the state now has an Industrial Hemp Program under the MO Department of Agriculture. Farmers interested in adding hemp to their crop cycle could send an application to the MODOA at any time.

Just keep in mind that the Missouri Industrial Hemp Program charges a $750 non-refundable application fee. Farmers will also be required to submit a background check and verify their hemp contains ≤ 0.3 percent THC.

Even though Missouri allows farmers to apply for hemp licenses, this doesn’t mean residents could grow CBD hemp at home. If the police catch you growing hemp on your premises, you could face similar penalties to marijuana cultivation.


Could Recreational Marijuana Be On Missouri’s 2022 Ballot?


As more states embrace legal weed, cannabis activists are hopeful Missouri will soon follow the “green trend.” Indeed, one grassroots coalition called Fair Access Missouri believes recreational marijuana could become a reality as soon as 2022.

In the summer of 2021, Fair Access Missouri sent four petitions for increased marijuana legalization to the attorney general’s office. Three of these proposals legalize adult-use recreational weed, while the fourth added new features to MO’s Medical Marijuana Registry.

The organization New Approach Missouri also announced it would soon submit its proposal for recreational weed. New Approach Missouri is most famous for adding the successful Amendment 2 to the 2018 ballot. This group also attempted to add recreational weed to 2020’s election, but it came up short of the required signatures.

If the attorney general approves any of these proposals, they will need to get 171,592 signatures before the 2022 election.

But even if these proposals fail to make it into the ballot, there seems to be support for recreational weed in Jefferson City. GOP State Representative Shamed Dogan has been the most vocal advocate for legalizing adult-use cannabis. In 2020, Dogan introduced a constitutional amendment that would have eliminated marijuana from the state’s list of illicit drugs. Although Rep. Dogan’s efforts have failed thus far, he seems determined to continue his “push for pot” at the start of 2022.


Where Could Missouri Residents Get Legal Weed?


The only way Missourians could legally buy weed is to apply for an MMJ card and visit an official dispensary. Since recreational marijuana is still illegal, there are no formally recognized recreational dispensaries in the state. Locals will have to wait for Missouri to legalize adult-use cannabis before legal dispensaries start opening up.

Arguably, the easiest way Missouri residents could purchase recreational cannabis products is to visit a CBD store. Despite the state’s wishy-washy stance on hemp, dozens of CBD vendors now offer hemp flowers, CBD oils, and vape cartridges throughout Missouri. Thanks to the 2018 US Farm Bill, hemp-derived products are legal throughout the USA. For the moment, this may be the safest and easiest way for Missourians to get their hands on a cannabis-related product.

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