St. Louis Mayor Signs Cannabis Decriminalization Measure

St. Louis Mayor Tishaura O. Jones signed a cannabis decriminalization ordinance this week, saying the measure will help address racial disparities in the city’s enforcement of cannabis prohibition laws. Jones approved the measure, which was passed by the Board of Alderman last month, at a signing ceremony held at City Hall on Monday.

The new ordinance, Board Bill 132, repeals city laws related to the possession of small amounts of cannabis and drug paraphernalia within the City of St. Louis. The mayor’s office noted in a statement that the measure is consistent with Amendment 2, the 2018 ballot measure that legalized medical marijuana in Missouri after receiving the approval of 82 percent of St. Louis voters and more than 65 percent of the vote statewide.

Jones noted that the ordinance is the latest step in her “mission to put the public back in public safety,” noting that over the last three years, almost 600 have been arrested in St. Louis for marijuana-related charges. Of them, nearly 500 were Black.

“We are seeing a major shift in the way our country sees not just marijuana, but how it connects to public safety, incarceration, and economic opportunity in our communities,” Jones told reporters. “This law will help reduce racial disparities in our policing, make our city safer, and make St. Louis more competitive in hiring for city positions.”

Monday’s signing ceremony was attended by aldermen representing communities from across St. Louis. Alderman Bret Narayan, the bill’s sponsor, thanked the mayor and his colleagues, noting that the measure will also have other benefits for the city. 

“It’s rare that we see so many people from so many different backgrounds unite around a single cause, which is exactly what we have done here,” said Narayan. “This law represents the clear will of the people of St. Louis. It will allow for our law enforcement officials to use their resources on the most pressing issues in our region, help with labor shortages in our City departments, and will also help prevent our injured first responders from falling into the pitfalls of opiate addiction.”

Cannabis Decriminalization Measure Draws Wide Support

The measure was passed by the Board of Alderman on November 23. Narayan said at the time that the bill had broad support from city leaders.

“It has the buy-in from the public safety director,” Narayan said. “It has the buy-in from the director of personnel. We have talked to basically every stakeholder along the way.”

The St. Louis cannabis decriminalization measure also has the support of activists and representatives of Missouri’s growing medical cannabis industry. Tom Muzzey, the CEO of SWADE Cannabis, which operates five dispensaries within the city limits, said that “policy reform is vital, and we recognize that states and local jurisdictions are struggling to address the existing issues of social, economic, and racial inequity associated with cannabis.”

“As a leader in the industry, we believe it is our responsibility to assist with the narrative and offer guidance for all parties involved,” Muzzey continued. “Together, with our partners, we are committed to fighting for the changes needed to create a more just and equitable industry.”

Although the bill changes the city’s cannabis enforcement policy, Dan Viets, the executive director of the Missouri chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), noted that the new ordinance does not provide full protection from prosecution.

“If we only repeal the local ordinances, police still have the option to pursue charges under state law,” Viets said.

Viets said that the focus on cannabis reform must continue at the state level, noting that “19 states now have already legalized adult marijuana use.” Advocates of legalization are currently in the process of collecting the 170,000 signatures needed to put a recreational cannabis initiative on Missouri’s ballot for the 2022 election.

“It’s not a radical proposal at all,” Viets said. “It’s one which will result in much greater control of marijuana regulation. Taxation and legalization are better for everyone.”

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Missouri Transfers Almost $7M in Cannabis Revenue to Veterans

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said Thursday that it had initiated the second required transfer of revenue from the state’s new medical marijuana program to the Missouri Veterans Commission.

The total amount of funds transferred is $6,843,310, more than the first transfer in September of last year, which came to $2,135,510.

The transfer of the funds is required under the constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana that Missouri voters approved in 2018. A provision under the amendment, which is now known as Article XIV, requires “that fees and taxes collected by [Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services] for the medical marijuana program, less operational expenses, should be transferred to the [Missouri Veterans Commission] for health and care services for military veterans,” the agency said in a press release on Thursday.

The department said it has “collected fees related to facility and patient licensing,” and that “Article XIV states that medical marijuana sold in licensed dispensaries will be taxed at a rate of 4%.”

Article XIV states that the remainder of medical marijuana funds must go to the veterans commission “for health and care services for military veterans, including the following purposes: operations, maintenance and capital improvements of the Missouri veterans homes, the Missouri service officer’s program and other services for veterans approved by the commission, including, but not limited to, health care services, mental health services, drug rehabilitation services, housing assistance, job training, tuition assistance and housing assistance to prevent homelessness.”

Missouri voters overwhelmingly approved the amendment legalizing medical cannabis in the state, passing the measure by a margin of 66-34 percent.

The first dispensaries in the state opened their doors to customers in October of 2020.

Since then, the program in the Show Me State has boomed. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said earlier this month that the medical cannabis program has grown to include a little more than 140 dispensaries––still shy of the 192 required by the amendment––and the industry employs roughly 5,000 people.

By the end of July, the department said that sales for medical marijuana had eclipsed $91 million.

“The amendment that was voted on said that we should open the minimum number at least, which was 192 dispensaries,” said Lyndall Fraker, director of the section of medical marijuana with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. “As of today, we have 142 open. We’ve done the math, and based on the number of quantities that each patient can purchase each month, how much product it would take to serve the patient base, and we think we are going to be good for five or six years.”

At the time of the first transfer to the veterans commission last year, Fraker noted how facilities were just “getting up and running now, and the first testing laboratory [was] on track to be operational very soon.” 

“We are confident that medical marijuana will become available for patients this month, and I am grateful for all of the hard work by so many that got us to this point,” Fraker said then.

On Thursday, Fraker expressed satisfaction with the latest transfer of funds to the veterans commission.

“Patients are being served by more than 140 dispensary facilities in Missouri now, and we are very pleased to see their sales revenue where it is,” said Fraker. “Ultimately, this is how we are able to provide much-needed funding for the veteran’s commission.”

Paul Kirchhoff, Missouri Veterans Commission (MVC) executive director, commented on how the funds will be utilized. 

“MVC will use these funds for veterans’ health and safety initiatives designated in House Bill 8,” said Kirchhof. “A portion of these funds will also be used to complete the Missouri Veterans Cemetery – Jacksonville columbarium wall.”

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Missouri’s Medical Marijuana Program Sees Huge Growth in First Year

A little less than a year after the state made its first medical marijuana sale, Missouri’s medical marijuana program has swelled to more than 140 dispensaries.

According to local television station FOX 2 NOW, the “state’s medical cannabis industry employs roughly 5,000 people” and sales have been strong.

“The sales revenue is pleasantly surprising,” Lyndall Fraker, director of the section of medical marijuana with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, told the TV station. “At the end of July, we surpassed $91 million in sales.”

In 2018, voters in Missouri approved a constitutional amendment legalizing medical cannabis with more than 65 percent support. Proponents of the amendment called on the Show Me State to open at least 192 dispensaries, a threshold that Fraker said Missouri is likely to reach.

“The amendment that was voted on said that we should open the minimum number at least, which was 192 dispensaries,” Fraker said, as quoted by FOX 2 NOW. “As of today, we have 142 open. We’ve done the math, and based on the number of quantities that each patient can purchase each month, how much product it would take to serve the patient base, and we think we are going to be good for five or six years.”

In October of last year, Missouri’s first dispensaries opened their doors to long lines. With the success of the medical marijuana program, Missourians may be emboldened to take the next step and embrace legalization of recreational pot use.

Earlier this year, a Republican lawmaker in Missouri said it’s time for the state to go in that direction.

“We spend more time and more law enforcement resources going after marijuana smokers than all the other drugs combined,” GOP state House Representative Shamed Dogan said at the time “Ten percent of the arrests in the state of Missouri right now are from marijuana possession.

“I think alcohol prohibition taught us that trying to prohibit something this way, the way we’ve gone about marijuana prohibition, it backfires,” Dogan added. “I mean, you can buy any amount of alcohol you want, right? You can buy any amount of tobacco that you want, so I think it should be regulated the same way.”

Dogan and his colleagues weren’t able to pass a legalization measure this session, but advocates in Missouri have continued to push. In July, a group called Fair Access Missouri filed a petition with the Missouri Secretary of State to legalize recreational marijuana, among other things.

“Today’s filings are the next step in that fight,” the group said in a statement. “We’ve seen across the country that smart rules and an open market are the way to go when legalizing cannabis, and that’s what we’ll be bringing to Missouri.”

Along with recreational pot use, the group is also aiming to “permit state-licensed physicians to recommend marijuana for medical purposes to patients with serious illnesses and medical conditions.”

According to local television station KSHB, the group’s petition, which was filed on July 12, “is still making its way through the initiative petition process, which could take roughly 65 days.”

The station said that Fair Access Missouri “has not yet decided if it will attempt to collect signatures to get the issue on an upcoming ballot.”

Some local leaders in Missouri have not waited for statewide cannabis reform, however. Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas helped successfully pass an ordinance decriminalizing possession and control of marijuana in the city. 

“One of the ways we improve police-community relations is by eliminating laws that for too long have led to negative interactions, arrests, convictions and disproportionate rates of incarceration of black men and black women,” Lucas said at the time. “Reducing petty offenses—such as municipal marijuana offenses—reduce these negative interactions each day.”

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Friday, February 26, 2021 Headlines | Marijuana Today Daily News

Marijuana Today Daily Headlines
Friday, February 26, 2021 | Curated by host Shea Gunther

// Washington Supreme Court Strikes Down Criminalization Of Drug Possession (Marijuana Moment)

// Disagreements Threaten Virginia Marijuana Legalization Deal As Deadline Approaches (Marijuana Moment (Virginia Mercury))

// Dispensaries: Millions in tax revenue could be lost if legislators delay Montana’s recreational marijuana program (KTVQ 2 News)

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// Another New Mexico House Committee Approves Marijuana Legalization Bill (Marijuana Moment)

// Sales of cannabis pre-rolls up nearly 50% in 2020 despite pandemic (Marijuana Business Daily)

// Sales of Canadian cannabis edibles extracts fall for first time (Marijuana Business Daily)

// House passes recreational marijuana legislation in North Dakota (Rapid City Journal (AP))

// Missouri pushes back deadline for medical cannabis businesses to open (Marijuana Business Daily)

// Canadian marijuana firm Canopy Growth files $2 billion shelf prospectus (Marijuana Business Daily)

// New Jersey Attorney General Orders Marijuana Cases To Be Dropped Following Legalization Bill Signing (Marijuana Moment)

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