A Missouri House committee unanimously voted on Thursday to approve legislation that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.
All seven members of the House Special Committee on Criminal Justice voted in favor of the bill, which would change the classification of possessing less than 36 grams of cannabis from a felony to a class D misdemeanor. The bill would also reduce the penalty for possessing 10 grams or less from a misdemeanor to an infraction.
Rep. Shamed Dogan (R), the lead sponsor of the bill, said in his newsletter that the aim of the legislation is to support efforts to enable law enforcement to focus on more serious issues than marijuana arrests.
“I am hopeful that we can get this legislation to the Governor’s desk so that we can focus law enforcement resources on violent crime and our opioid epidemic,” he said.
Following a hearing last week and a discussion with the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, the committee amended the bill to lower the proposed possession amounts, which secured votes of a former judge and the committee Vice Chair David Evans (R), as well as Rep. Lane Roberts (R), a former leader of the Missouri Department of Public Safety, and a Joplin ex-police chief.
Cannabis lobbyist Eapen Thampy was the first one to report the passage of the bill on his blog.
Although Missouri lawmakers passed a bill that reduced penalties for marijuana possession in 2014, cannabis arrests are still the second most common after DWI, according to Dogan.
“That’s disproportionate and a waste of law enforcement resources when we have these opioid deaths, over 1,000, in the state of Missouri just last year,” he said.
A fiscal assessment of the bill estimates that it could contribute $157,175 by 2020 and over $1,328,713 by 2026 to net revenue.
“Passage of HB 1095 is estimated to result in 30 fewer persons incarcerated and 383 fewer persons entering probationary supervision per year in DOC,” the analysis says. “The full impact of the bill occurs in FY26 with 90 fewer persons incarcerated and 1,269 fewer persons on field supervision. It is estimated that ten fewer Probation and Parole Officers would be needed if this legislation is passed.”
The bill has now been forwarded to the House Rules: Legislative Oversight committee, which will discuss it in a hearing on March 15.
Other cannabis legislation is also under way in Missouri. In March, the full House authorized a bill that would expunge prior marijuana convictions of eligible patients under Missouri’s new medical cannabis law.