Medical marijuana is now legal in 18 states and the District of Columbia, but not yet in Missouri.
Where is Medical Marijuana Legal?
A federal law makes it illegal to possess or distribute marijuana in the United States, but some states contradict federal law and permit the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes:
Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia all allow the use of medical marijuana to relieve pain, anxiety and nausea in people suffering from such diseases as cancer, glaucoma, AIDs, Parkinson’s, and multiple sclerosis. Of those 18 states and the District of Columbia, 12 of them allow dispensaries to sell medical marijuana.
A recent New York Times article about medical marijuana and the federal government’s crackdown on dispensaries in California reports that DEA agents closed over 500 medical marijuana dispensaries in California within the first 7 months of 2012.
Where is Marijuana Legal for Recreational Use?
Colorado and Washington voted on November 6, 2012 to legalize the recreational use of marijuana by anyone age 21 or over. In both of these states, you can possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana for personal use. If you want to grow your own, Colorado limits you to 6 pot plants per person. (Washington does not allow cultivation of marijuana plants.) State-licensed stores in Colorado and Washington can sell cannabis and charge a tax on each sale.
In addition to Colorado and Washington, Oregon also had a proposition on its ballot in November 2012 to allow the recreational use of marijuana, but voters failed to approve it.
States Trend Toward Legalization of Marijuana
It is clear that the trend among the states is toward permitting the use of marijuana for both medical and recreational purposes, even though the federal government opposes its decriminalization:
- Medical marijuana initiatives were on the ballots in 3 states in the November 2012 national elections. Of those 3 states, Massachusetts voted to allow medical marijuana use, joining 17 other states and the District of Columbia that already allow it.
- In November 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first states to legally permit the recreational use of pot.
- A Gallup poll released in October 2010 showed that 46% of Americans favor the legalization of marijuana.
- The Department of Justice stated in 2009 that medical marijuana would not be a law enforcement priority.
- Several years ago, California lowered its penalty for possession of a small amount of marijuana to be equivalent to a speeding ticket penalty.
- In Denver, Colorado there are more than 300 medical marijuana dispensaries. According to an article in the Journal of Global Drug Policy and Practice, Colorado is the state with the largest per capita use of medical marijuana in the United States.
Will Missouri Legalize Marijuana?
A bill was proposed in the House in January 2012 to allow the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries in Missouri and to give seriously ill people the right to grow a small amount of marijuana for their own use, but that bill was not given a hearing and is now considered dead.
Missouri supporters of the legalization of marijuana tried to get a constitutional amendment on the November 2012 ballot to legalize marijuana in Missouri for medical and recreational use. The group backing the initiative obtained 65,000 signatures from Missouri residents, but failed to obtain the required 150,000 signatures needed by the May 2012 deadline to get the proposed amendment on the 2012 ballot.
Missouri Penalties for Marijuana Possession
A Missouri judge can sentence you to up to 1 year in jail and a $1,000 fine for misdemeanor possession of 35 grams or less of marijuana. Possession of more than 35 grams of marijuana is a Class C felony in Missouri, punishable by up to 7 years in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.
If you are convicted of marijuana possession in Missouri, that conviction will remain on your permanent criminal record forever and it can never be expunged (removed).
A Lawyer Can Help Get Your Missouri Marijuana Possession Charge Reduced
If you are charged with a misdemeanor possession of marijuana (35 grams or less) in Missouri and you don’t have any prior convictions for drug-related offenses on your record, an attorney may be able to negotiate a plea bargain with the court to have the drug possession charge reduced to a lesser offense, such as “Littering.” You will also have to pay a fine and court costs.
Minors (Under Age 18) With Marijuana Possession Charges
If a person under age 18 is charged with possession of marijuana or drug paraphernalia (such as a pipe), it is very likely that an attorney can negotiate a plea bargain with the court to get the charges reduced or dismissed, although the defendant might have to serve a period of time on probation, attend a drug education class, and pay a fine, in exchange for having the drug possession charges dismissed.
Drug Possession Charges Stay On Your Criminal Record Forever
Some types of convictions, such as first-time misdemeanor DWI/DUI or MIP (Minor in Possession) can be expunged (removed) from your permanent criminal record under certain circumstances, but convictions for possession of drugs or drug paraphernalia in Missouri will stay on your criminal record forever. Having a drug possession conviction on your criminal record may prevent you from getting a job, obtaining credit at a bank, or being accepted into college.
See my previous blog post for more information about what to do if you are charged with possession of marijuana or drug paraphernalia in Missouri.
Call St. Louis criminal defense attorney Andrea Storey Rogers at (314) 724-5059 for a free consultation if you have been charged with possession of marijuana or drug paraphernalia in Missouri. Or email Andrea at [email protected]
[This blog post was updated on December 28, 2012.]