Medical marijuana patients in Missouri may soon be able to have their criminal records expunged for misdemeanor cannabis offenses.

A bill introduced by Rep. Ron Hicks (R) providing for certain expungements was approved by the House Special Committee on Criminal Justice in a 7-2 vote.

House Bill 341 is intended to clear certified patients’ criminal records of charges that are now legal under recent changes to state cannabis laws. This follows a voter-approved ballot measure in favor of legalizing medical marijuana last autumn.

The proposed legislation stipulates that the state’s Department of Health and Senior Services may petition the court for the deletion of all “marijuana-related misdemeanor offenses or municipal violations” that took place before patients were approved for medical cannabis cards, according to a bill summary.

“Upon granting the order of expungement, the records and files maintained in any court proceeding in an associate or circuit division of the circuit court or in municipal court shall be confidential and only available to the parties or by order of the court for good cause shown. The effect of such order shall be to restore such individual to the status he or she occupied prior to such arrest, plea, or conviction and as if such event had never taken place.”

Bipartisan support

The bill received bipartisan support in the House and now heads to the House Rules Committee before making it to the Senate floor in the next couple of weeks, where it is likely to enjoy the approval of Gov. Mike Parson (R).

The Colombia Tribune reported last month that he “supports expunging possession convictions for medical marijuana patients.”

“I think we ought to look at that issue,” Parson said. “If you’ve got people that happen to be in jail or prison for something that was illegal two months ago and today it’s not, that’s a discussion to have.”

A spokesperson for his office told The Kansas City Star that the governor is “open to proposals and [an expungement law] is something he would consider.” However, “he still needs to see the final proposals as they make their way through the legislative process.”

If the bill passes, patients will still have to wait until at least July when they can officially apply for a medical marijuana identification card under the state’s new program. At that point, they can apply for an expungement.

Meanwhile, Rep. Barbara Washington (D) introduced a broader expungement bill earlier this session seeking to clear the criminal records of any individual convicted of possessing 35 grams of cannabis or less.

Missouri lawmakers are also pursuing plans to legalize marijuana for adult use, though not for commercial sales.

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