JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri Senate passed a ban on synthetic marijuana without the House provision that makes possession of any amount a felony.
The House amended the ban in early March to make any K2 possession charge a Class C felony, but the Senate reversed that move Wednesday by making possession of 35 grams and more of K2 a felony. Anything less would be a misdemeanor.
This would make the treatment of K2 the same as marijuana.
"What I'm hearing from businesses who have employees — some those employees work at schools, they operate heavy machinery — who are going out at lunch, getting stoned on this stuff and coming back in and saying, 'Yeah, bought some K2 at the gas station, smoked it,'" Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, said. Schaefer was the sponsor of the Senate version.
The disagreement among senators wasn't over the ban.
"If I were to speak directly to the youth ... I would tell them No. 1: Stay off K2. It will kill you. That's what I would say," Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City, said, in a conversation with Sen. Scott Rupp, R-Wentzville. "No. 2: do not ever buy K2 because you will get a felony if this passes and that will ruin your chances of getting an education in the future and having a meaningful job."
Some Democrats said a felony charge for any possession amount was too harsh.
"I don't think we need more felonies. I don't think we need more teenage kids running around with felonies on their records," Justus said, adding that felonies can cost otherwise hardworking people their jobs.
She said making all K2 possession charges a felony did not make sense at a time when the state is trying to reduce the number of non-violent offenders in prisons.
Schaefer disagreed, comparing K2 more to methamphetamines instead of marijuana because K2 is a chemically synthesized drug.
The Senate passed the overall bill 32-0 as well as an emergency clause, which would cause the bill to go into immediate effect after receiving the governor's signature.
The revised bill needs House approval, or a compromise needs to be reached on the differences in a conference committee.