A Missouri lawmaker just amended a new adult-use legalization bill to explicitly block trans women from applying for social equity cannabis business licenses.
The Cannabis Freedom Act, introduced by state Rep. Ron Hicks (R) this February, would make it legal for adult Missourians to buy and possess unlimited amounts of weed. The bill would also allow anyone with a non-violent conviction for cannabis-related crimes to apply for resentencing or expungement. And to help members of historically disadvantaged communities get a start in the weed industry, the bill would grant no-interest business loans to women- and minority-owned companies.
So far, the bill has drawn a surprising amount of support for such a conservative state. Last week, the House Public Safety Committee voted to advance the bill with a 5-4 vote. But before the bill cleared the committee, state Rep. Nick Schroer (R) added a highly controversial amendment stating that “for the purposes of [the social equity] section, 'woman' refers to the female biological sex assigned at birth, the proof of which is identified by a birth certificate.”
LGBTQ people are not considered minorities under Missouri law, so this amendment would effectively prevent a weed business operated by a white trans woman from accessing these social equity loans. However, a trans man could technically still apply for the same loans as long as they presented a birth certificate stating their gender at birth. And any trans woman that is not white could potentially still qualify as a minority under the revised bill.
Shortly after forcing his amendment into the Cannabis Freedom Act, Schroer voted to kill the bill entirely. Proponents of the legislation believe that the Representative, who is currently running for state Senate, only introduced the amendment to gain traction with conservative voters. Others have suggested that Schroer actually added the anti-trans language as a “poison pill” that would encourage liberal lawmakers to vote against weed legalization entirely.
“He literally either was showboating and needed his sound bites in the committee or he was deliberately trying to kill that piece of legislation,” Rep. Hicks told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Legislators are also taking issue with a proposed cap on the total number of legal weed businesses that would be allowed to operate in the state. When Missouri kicked off its medical marijuana program in 2020, the state ended up getting sued by hundreds of businesses whose applications were rejected. To avoid a repeat of the issue, state Rep. Ashley Bland Manlove (D) negotiated an amendment that would double the number of business licenses that would be issued by the state.
Before it comes up for a floor vote, the bill must still be approved by the House Rules Committee, so lawmakers may still have a chance to remove the anti-trans amendment.
“I’m hopeful we will strip that language off on the floor,” said House Minority Leader Crystal Quade (D), co-sponsor of the Cannabis Freedom Act, to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “It is frustrating that one member will take a bipartisan-supported bill and use it simply for campaign fodder.”