50-year struggle repeals nation’s oldest marijuana prohibition on December 8
Missouri’s law outlawing “hashish dens” in 1889 is believed to be the oldest anti-marijuana law in the nation. So, when Article XIV of the Missouri Constitution takes effect this week, it will repeal the longest-standing marijuana prohibition in the nation, according to Dr. Dale Gieringer, Executive Director of California NORML and an independent research scholar.
On Thursday, December 8, the possession and use of marijuana by adults will be legalized pursuant to the adoption of Article XIV of the Missouri Constitution by Missouri voters on November 8. That law becomes effective Thursday, December 8.
This law will stop most of the more than 20,000 arrests that happen each year in the state of Missouri for marijuana, the vast majority of them for simple possession. Two-point-six (2.6) times as many Black people are arrested, per capita, as White people.
In addition, the state will begin the process of expunging, automatically, hundreds of thousands of marijuana arrests from public records. All misdemeanor marijuana and paraphernalia charges should be expunged by July. All felony cases involving possession of up to three pounds should be expunged by the end of 2023.
This important legal reform is the result of more than 50 years of work by activists affiliated with NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Missouri NORML members were active in drafting the initiative, gathering signatures to place it on the ballot, and campaigning to pass it.
Missouri NORML Coordinator, attorney Dan Viets, said, “I first attended a NORML national conference in August of 1972. I, and many others, have remained active advocates for the repeal of the prohibition of responsible adult marijuana use ever since. Article XIV is the culmination of decades of citizen activism”.
Article XIV, known as “Amendment 3 only on the November 8 ballot, will also make it possible for those who are serving sentences for marijuana offenses, or who are on probation or parole for marijuana law violations, to petition courts in Missouri to grant early release. Article XIV states that such release shall be granted absent extraordinary circumstances.
While there remains important work to be done, this historic change in Missouri law will stop police from treating adults who use marijuana responsibly like criminals. It will allow the police instead to use their time and resources addressing violent crime and property crime rather than arresting 20,000 people each year for marijuana.