Mere talk of medical marijuana legalization has some Missouri lawmakers scurrying; the state government is now preemptively passing resolutions to record the position of opposing local governments. While medical or recreational legalization of the drug in the Show Me State may remain unlikely for the present moment, it is far more certain that legalized marijuana would save state law enforcement money and time.
Two states, Colorado and Washington, have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes, and 18 more permit the use of cannabis for medical purposes. In Missouri, however, marijuana possession is illegal, and the state has some of the strictest marijuana laws in the nation: possession of less than 35 grams is a misdemeanor, but conviction for possession of a single gram can result in a sentence of up to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine. Possession of more than 35 grams of cannabis is a felony in the state.
A bill introduced in the Missouri House in January would allow adults aged 21 and older to possess and use marijuana. The measure is modeled on the law Colorado voters approved in 2012. By most projections, the bill stands little chance of passing, but a poll taken in 2012 did show that more than half of all Missourians favor marijuana legalization.
Legal and financial experts project that Missouri could save time and money on current state expenses. According to one Harvard University study, the potential shift would save Missouri $90 million in costs linked to the enforcement of the state’s marijuana laws and to the incarceration of offenders. In addition, legalization of marijuana carries powerful expected fiscal benefits. Legalization would earn the state treasury $59 million in annual tax revenue.