Recently, there has been news about Missouri passing a law that would legalize marijuana. A bill was filed by Rep. Chris Kelly (D-Columbia) that would permit state marijuana users to possess and transport up to one pound of the drug, a pound of hashish, and more than a half-gallon of hashish oil without needing to obtain a license. You can read the proposed bill here.
The bill proposes to implement a 25% tax on marijuana as well as set up a detailed process for licensing growers and retailers. An exemption would be in place for those who grow it themselves. Rep. Kelly has openly admitted that the bill still needs work, but it is way to begin discussing the idea of legalizing marijuana. He hopes to be able to submit the bill to voters in the future.
Rep. Kelly decided to take a position in this debate after he spent four years as an associate circuit judge. He said that money is wasted and “[t]here is no good evidence to show marijuana is any more dangerous than alcohol or other substances.” Currently in Missouri, an individual can be charged with a misdemeanor for possessing up to 35 grams of marijuana. If convicted, you could face as much as one year in jail.
There has been a recent trend in this country to legalize marijuana. In 2012, Washington and Colorado voters legalized recreational marijuana use. Colorado permitted commercial sales to begin on January 1, once a regulatory structure had been implemented. In the state, there is a 10% tax on wholesalers and a 15% on all retail sales of the drug.
Here, in Missouri, Rep. Kelly is suggesting a type of licensing system that would allow for every county in the state to have one retailer for every 2,500 people. This means that in Boone County, there could be up to 65 retailers. In terms of the exceptions to taxes and licenses, a “household exception” is proposed in the bill that would permit a grower to own as many as 8 plants without being taxed or made to get a license. Further, an individual could possess no more than 16 ounces of usable marijuana, 16 ounces of hashish and 72 ounces of marijuana in liquid form.
Proponents of the bill state that the potential income from the taxes and licensing associated with marijuana would allow for funding that has not previously been available to the state. In a way, it is considered to be an untapped resource.
In 2004, Columbia voters passed an ordinance stating that possession of fewer than 35 grams of marijuana should not involve an arrest, rather it should only be considered a violation in city court. Further, a survey was performed in September of 2012 and it found that a “majority of Missouri residents supported taxing and regulating marijuana like alcohol.”
It is too early to tell whether the law will pass or not, but it is an interesting topic of discussion. What do you think about the proposed bill? Is it a good idea for Missouri?