House bill proposes regulating marijuana like alcohol

Monday, February 17, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CST; updated 12:20 a.m. CST, Wednesday, February 19, 2014

COLUMBIA — Legislation filed by Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, to legalize medical and recreational marijuana use in Missouri borrows language from an initiative by Show-Me Cannabis Regulation, the group considering whether to gather signatures for a statewide vote.

Out of 13 initiatives proposed by the group, Kelly chose to use the one allowing the highest amounts of marijuana for personal possession, but he suspects the permissible amounts will decrease if the bill is passed.

House Bill 1659 proposes changing state law, while the Show-Me Cannabis initiatives would amend the Missouri Constitution. 

Kelly said his legislation has added to a statewide conversation about the legalization of marijuana and has brought attention to the Show-Me Cannabis campaign.

"Passing is possible, but unlikely," Kelly said about his proposed bill.

John Payne, executive director of Show-Me Cannabis, said legalization bills filed by Kelly and others in the Missouri legislature represents a victory in itself.

"Chris might be the most respected legislator in Jefferson City, so people of both parties really take him seriously, even when they disagree with him," Payne said.

Under Kelly's bill, marijuana would be regulated like alcohol, with the same age minimum to make purchases. The Missouri Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control would be responsible for rules and regulations.

The proposal would let counties have one marijuana retailer for every 2,500 people. Growers and retailers would need to acquire a license and pay a 25 percent tax on sales. 

Personal cultivation of up to eight marijuana plants per household would be exempt from the tax and licensing requirements. Households would be limited to 16 ounces of the marijuana plant, 16 ounces of edible marijuana products and 72 ounces of liquid marijuana such as tinctures.

Other legislation

  • Rep. Rory Ellinger, D-University City, has filed two bills: House Bill 1324 would legalize and establish a pilot program for the use of medical marijuana. If passed, Missouri would become the 22nd state to legalize medical marijuana. Ellinger's House Bill 1325 is based on the 2004 Columbia ordinance and would decriminalize possession of less than 35 grams of marijuana and eliminate the possibility of a prison sentence for anyone caught with that amount.
  • SB 358, filed by Sen. Jason Holsman, D-Kansas City, would remove hemp from the list of controlled substances and legalize personal cultivation for people without drug convictions.
  • SB 491, filed by Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City, would establish new classifications of misdemeanors and felonies in Missouri that includes lighter penalties for marijuana offenses.

Colorado and Washington are the only states that have approved the legalization of recreational marijuana. Legislative proposals for recreational use are pending in Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Supervising editor is John Schneller.

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