Medical marijuana patients in Missouri got one step closer to being able to have prior misdemeanor cannabis offenses expunged from their criminal records on Thursday.
A bill providing for certain expungements, introduced by Rep. Ron Hicks (R), was approved by the House Special Committee on Criminal Justice in a 7-2 vote.
— Ron Hicks (@RNHCKS) February 14, 2019
“I’m ecstatic over it. I think it’s great,” Hicks told Marijuana Moment in a phone interview. “I love the fact that that committee sees the need for Missouri citizens to be able to move forward in their lives. Put something behind them—finally, truly behind them.”
Last November, the state’s voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure to allow medical cannabis. The new bill is aimed at clearing criminal records of past behavior that is now legal for certified patients in the state.
The legislation stipulates that the Department of Health and Senior Services must petition the courts for the expungement of “any marijuana-related misdemeanor offenses or municipal violations” that occurred before an individual obtained a medical cannabis card, according to a bill summary.
“Upon granting the order of expungement, the records and files maintained in any court proceeding in an associate or circuit division of the circuit court or in municipal court shall be confidential and only available to the parties or by order of the court for good cause shown. The effect of such order shall be to restore such individual to the status he or she occupied prior to such arrest, plea, or conviction and as if such event had never taken place.”
Hicks said that he has “support from both sides of the aisle in the House” and suspects that the Senate is inclined to approve it, too.
“We need this,” he said. “Our state needs this.”
Advocates believe that Gov. Mike Parson (R) is likely to sign such legislation.
The Columbia Tribune reported last month that he “supports expunging possession convictions for medical marijuana patients.”
“I think we ought to look at that issue,” the governor told the newspaper. “If you’ve got people that happen to be in jail or prison for something that was illegal two months ago and today it’s not, that’s a discussion to have.”
A spokesperson for his office told The Kansas City Star that the governor is “open to proposals and [an expungement law] is something he would consider.” However, “he still needs to see the final proposals as they make their way through the legislative process.”
If the bill is ultimately signed, residents will still have to wait until at least July 4 before the expungement process gets underway. That’s when patients can officially apply for medical marijuana identification cards under the state’s new program.
Rep. Barbara Washington (D) introduced a broader expungement bill this session, with her version requiring courts to expunge the criminal records of any individual—not just approved medical patients—who was convicted of possessing 35 grams of marijuana or less.
Hicks’s legislation is likely to next head to the House Rules Committee and then to the floor within the next couple of weeks.
In the meantime, lawmakers are already pressing ahead with plans to legalize cannabis for adult use in Missouri. The legislation under consideration wouldn’t allow for commercial sales, however.
Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.