Representative proposes the ‘Cannabis Freedom Act’ to legalize marijuana in Missouri
On Tuesday, Representative Ron Hicks, R-St. Peters, filed a blockbuster, 74-page omnibus bill that would legalize adult-use cannabis in Missouri. Dubbed the “Cannabis Freedom Act,” House Bill 2704 makes provisions for taxation, implementation, regulation, and criminal justice reform.
Hicks’ bill wholly removes marijuana from the list of controlled substances while touching on nearly every issue that has been addressed by other cannabis-related legislation in recent years.
The bill would allow adults age 21 and older to purchase and possess cannabis or cultivate up to 12 plants for personal use. HB2704 grants regulating authority of adult-use cannabis to The Missouri Department of Agriculture.
Representative Hicks stated, “The Cannabis Freedom Act is the product of input from many different stakeholders including members of law enforcement and those who have endured incarceration for conduct that society now deems acceptable. I am particularly grateful for input from Oklahoma State Representative Scott Fetgatter (R-Okmulgee) for his assistance in creating a free market program that is also strictly regulated.”
Other highlights of the bill include language allowing for marijuana businesses to deduct business expenses as any other legal business in the state would, including those that would be disallowed under federal tax code and language barring the use of asset or civil forfeiture in the state of Missouri as pertaining to legal marijuana cultivation, use, sale, or possession. Additionally, Missouri law enforcement personnel and the use of state funds would be restricted from assisting in the enforcement of federal marijuana laws involving acts that would no longer be illegal in the state of Missouri. New Haven Police Chief Chris Hammann and former Carter County prosecutor Rocky Kingree said in a joint statement: “Law enforcement does not need to be tasked with the thankless job of marijuana prohibition anymore and the Cannabis Freedom Act allows for the reparative justice actions that will continue the work of repairing the relationship and trust between the government and its citizens.”
The bill makes it a class E felony to disclose information regarding the statewide list of or any individual information of persons who have applied for or obtained a patient or caregiver card for medical marijuana and modifies language pertaining to fingerprinting and background checks for employees, owners, contractors, and volunteers of licensed facilities. The bill also provides protections for gun owners, creates protections for banks and financial institutions to work with legal cannabis businesses, and provides protection for parents who use cannabis.
Among the most important provisions of the bill, the “Cannabis Freedom Act” calls for the conviction, remaining sentence, ongoing supervision, or unpaid restitution to be vacated and allows for all nonviolent marijuana-related offenses to be expunged and sealed, “The effect of expungement under this section shall be to restore such person to the status he or she occupied prior to such arrest, plea, or conviction and as if such event had never taken place,” the bill reads.
Missouri State Representative Michael Johnson (D-Kansas City) said, “The Cannabis Freedom Act will put Missouri into the forefront of the evolving national conversation on ending marijuana prohibition. From the offender release and expungement protocols to the opportunity for our hospitality sector to the potential to give our farmers more options in the market, this proposal is the right thing at the right time for our state.”
HB2704 would also open access to marijuana business licenses, allows hospitality operators, including bars, restaurants, and lodging establishments to provide legal marijuana consumption spaces, and creates a “Marijuana Advisory Council”, an advisory council of marijuana industry experts tasked with creating a list of food safety standards for growing, processing, and handling marijuana in Missouri.
Read the full text of the bill below.