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Missouri Legalizes Marijuana and Expunges Criminal Records

by David M. Reutter

By June 8, 2023, misdemeanor criminal records of those previously convicted in Missouri of a nonviolent marijuana-related offense were scheduled to be expunged. Felony expungement is set to follow by December 8, 2023. Though some counties have dragged their feet, the process is underway to implement post-conviction relief provided by passage of Amendment 3 to the state constitution in November 2022.

Approval of the ballot initiative made it legal for those 21 and over to buy and use recreational amounts of marijuana. Expungement of most marijuana-related convictions recognized that the constitution now effectively decriminalizes marijuana use in the state.

Expungement clears all charges and seals or destroys the case record. By June 5, 2023, the state had expunged over 32,500 misdemeanor cases and another 10,000 felony cases. After spending a dozen years in prison on a marijuana conviction, Sean Farmer, 36, said he was “super grateful” for the chance to clear his record.

“I got reintegrated with my children (and) my girlfriend,” he said. “It’s surreal. When I wake up in the morning sometimes I don’t know where I’m at, and then I look around, I’m like, oh God, I’m here.”

Missouri now allows consumers to possess up to three ounces of marijuana without penalty. Those with medical marijuana cards may purchase up to six ounces per month. However, all marijuana must be sold and bought from a regulated dispensary. A sale outside the regulated system is still a criminal offense, as is sale of marijuana to those under 21.

The Amendment also took aim at youth marijuana use with a special penalty for those under 21 who share marijuana with someone else, such as by passing a joint or a pipe. The law provides that anyone not yet 21 who “delivers without compensation or who distributes without consideration three ounces or less of marijuana” is subject to a $100 fine.

Those currently incarcerated on an eligible marijuana-related conviction are entitled to a review of their records, followed by immediate release from the associated sentence and expungement of the offense by a state court. Ineligible convictions include driving under the influence of marijuana or selling marijuana to minors.

Missouri is in the process of awarding licenses to comprehensive medical facilities that cultivate, sell and distribute recreational marijuana. The state Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) awarded the first such licenses by February 6, 2023. DHHS was set to roll out licenses for smaller dispensaries in September 2023.

Additional sources: KCUR, Kansas City Star