A Missouri lawmaker on Wednesday pre-filed a bill to make it so police could no longer use the odor of marijuana alone as justification to conduct searches of a person’s home, vehicle or other private property. The move comes as efforts to more broadly legalize cannabis are heating up in the state—both via the ballot and in the legislature.
Rep. Ian Mackey (D) is sponsoring the new legislation, which he said is meant to build upon the state’s 2018 vote to legalize medical cannabis.
The one-page bill text simply states: “Notwithstanding any provision of law, the odor of marijuana alone shall not provide a law enforcement officer with probable cause to conduct a warrantless search of a motor vehicle, home, or other private property.”
“Missourians overwhelmingly voted to legalize marijuana as medicine, so to allow officers to continue to search our citizens simply because they smell medicine is discriminatory and wrong,” Mackey told St. Louis Today. “It’s time for Missouri to follow the example of other states on this issue.”
“It’s time to update our marijuana criminalization statutes to be more reflective of the 21st century,” he added.
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Separately, St. Louis lawmakers unanimously approved a bill last month to decriminalize marijuana possession and cultivation for adults. That local measure would also prevent police from using the smell or visual presence of cannabis smoke as a basis to conduct a search or arrest someone.
The proposal wouldn’t change Missouri state laws that continue to criminalize marijuana, but the city’s ordinances penalizing low-level possession and cultivation would be repealed.
The St. Louis action from the comes one year after the Kansas City, Missouri City Council voted to approve an ordinance ending all penalties for marijuana possession under the municipality’s local laws.
In that city, Mayor Quinton Lucas (D) and four local lawmakers filed the cannabis measure, which similarly repeals a provision of the Code of Ordinances stipulating that possession of 35 grams or less of marijuana carries a $25 fine and more than 35 grams is punishable by a $500 fine.
In September, the City Council also approved a measure making it so most government workers in Kansas City will no longer face pre-employment drug tests for cannabis.
Meanwhile, a Republican Missouri lawmaker is again making a push to place marijuana legalization on the ballot in 2022.
Rep. Shamed Dogan (R) pre-filed his joint resolution this month to place a constitutional amendment on legalization on the 2022 ballot. He introduced a similar proposal last year, but it did not advance.
Under the lawmaker’s plan, adults 21 and older could purchase, possess and cultivate cannabis for personal use. It does not specify allowable amounts.
If enacted, no police or state funds could be used to assist in the enforcement of federal cannabis prohibition. And the state could no longer allow asset or civil forfeiture for citizens of age who conduct marijuana activities made lawful under the measure.
There are some advocates who want to see the legislature take the lead on establishing a regulated marijuana market, but others remain skeptical that will actually happen in the state’s GOP-controlled House and Senate. That’s why there are currently two separate campaigns working to get legalization initiatives on the state’s 2022 ballot.
On group of activists kicked off its campaign this month, with plans to deploy hundreds of signature gatherers at major cities throughout the state.
New Approach Missouri, which successfully got a medical cannabis initiative passed by voters in 2018, announced its plans to put the reform proposal on the ballot through its new campaign committee Legal Missouri 2022 earlier this summer.
The organization tried to place the issue of legalization before voters last year, but the COVID-19 pandemic derailed that effort.
Despite the health crisis, activists managed to collect 80,000 raw signatures within months, though they needed 160,199 valid signatures to qualify.
A separate campaign, Fair Access Missouri, is separately exploring multiple citizen initiatives with the hopes of getting at least one on the ballot next year. Three of the four would create a system of legalized cannabis sales for adults 21 and older, while another would simply amend the state’s existing medical marijuana program.
Aside from recreational marijuana legalization, three of the proposed initiatives would amend the state’s medical cannabis program. Among other changes, they would remove licensing caps, repeal the application scoring system, reduce patient fees and allow patients to access a one-year supply instead of 90 day.
Free Access Missouri, which has ties to the Missouri Cannabis Industry Association (MCIA), does seem to be living up to its name based on the measures, which contain provisions that appear to specifically promote industry participation by proposing a system without licensing limits.
For 2022, proposals to amend the state Constitution will need 171,592 valid signatures from registered voters.
Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.