Missouri's Adults Can Legally Possess and Smoke Weed Starting This Week
Missourians will be allowed to possess up to 3 ounces of bud starting this week, and will be able to grow up to 18 plants at home and buy adult-use products in February.
Published on December 6, 2022

Last month, Missouri became the first midwestern state to legalize adult-use cannabis by way of a voter-approved ballot measure. This week, the first phase of that law comes into full effect.

Starting on December 8, any adult in the state will be allowed to possess up to three ounces of weed. Adults will also be able to grow up to 6 flowering plants, 6 immature plants, and 6 plants under 14 inches at home for their own personal use. Anyone who wishes to home-grow must first apply for a personal cultivation license, though, and the state will not begin accepting these applications until February 6, 2023. Unlicensed sales will remain prohibited, of course, and adults will not be allowed to get high in public, at work, or while driving.

“This is truly a historic occasion,” said Missouri NORML Coordinator Dan Viets, who co-authored the voter-approved legalization amendment, in a statement. “This means that the great majority of the 20,000 people who have been arrested year after year in Missouri will no longer be subject to criminal prosecution for victimless marijuana law violations.”

The new law also lays out a framework for legal adult-use sales, including provisions to help small business owners, veterans, former cannabis offenders, and residents of disadvantaged communities get a start in this lucrative new industry. The state Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) must draft the necessary regulations before the licensing process can even begin, but officials have actually already released the first draft of these rules to the public. The winning adult-use licenses will be selected from a pool of qualified applicants at random, using a lottery system.

Even though Missouri has already gotten a head start on its regulations, the actual process of vetting and awarding business licenses generally takes at least one year, if not more. To avoid unnecessary delays, the state will allow existing medical cannabis dispensaries to apply to sell adult-use weed as well. The state Division of Cannabis Regulation will begin accepting these applications this week and plans to approve them within 60 days. If everything goes smoothly, the first legal adult-use sales could begin in February.

Legal sales will include a surprisingly modest 6% state sales tax, which is predicted to bring the state more than $40 million annually once the industry is in full swing. This revenue will go to fund state cannabis regulators, veterans' healthcare programs, drug treatment programs, and the state underfunded public defender program. Some of this revenue will also help Missourians with nonviolent cannabis-related offenses automatically expunge their criminal records. In addition to the state sales tax, localities can tack on additional retail taxes of up to 3%.

Local municipalities will also be allowed to vote on opting out of allowing legal adult-use shops to open in their jurisdictions, though. And considering that the legalization initiative only passed with a very slim 53% majority, it's likely that a large number of localities will choose to do so. This may end up reducing access to legal weed, which is likely to help the local black market stay in business. In states like California, where most communities have opted out of legal sales, legal businesses have had serious trouble competing with easily-available illicit bud.

The adult-use law also includes several provisions to improve Missouri’s medical marijuana program. Patient and caregiver registration cards are now valid for three years, up from one year. The current $100 fee for patients who grow their own medical pot will also be cut down to $50. Employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees who are legally using medical pot while off the clock, except in safety-sensitive positions or in jobs that require federally-mandated drug testing.

These same protections do not apply to recreational users, however. Employers are not required to allow employees to use or possess pot on company property, and are free to fire anyone over non-medical cannabis use. Companies can also continue both pre-hire and random workplace THC testing, but are only allowed to take action against employees or applicants who are not registered medical marijuana patients.

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Chris Moore
Chris Moore is a New York-based writer who has written for Mass Appeal while also mixing records and producing electronic music.
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