Legal questions remain about how medical marijuana will work in Missouri

The clock is ticking on medical marijuana in Missouri, but there’s still a lot people don’t know. Here’s more about the grey areas and what will have to be figured out quickly.

Constitutional amendments go into effect on Dec. 6, but it won’t be legal by then. That’s just when the clock starts ticking on deadlines to accept applications for medical cards and dispensaries.

However, there are things that are not spelled out that a local attorney is closely watching.

One concern is how the Department of Health and Senior Services will handle applications for medical cannabis cards. Will some be granted and others not? If some aren’t granted, on what grounds? And, once people have cards in their hands, will the state protect that information under federal medical privacy laws?

“If this agency has a list of people who have marijuana cards, is that going to become public record at some time?” said Brandan Davies, a marijuana defense lawyer. “And then, what are companies or law enforcement agencies going to do with those records?”

With inevitable marijuana documents cropping up, will the state track their cannabis prescriptions like they do with opiates? Will doctors face consequences for over-prescribing?

“You can’t get over years and years and years of it being illegal and it flips a switch and then now all of a sudden now there is no negative stigma associated with it,” Davies noted. Then there’s the cultivation component in the Missouri law.

With a medical card, you can grow up to six plants in your own home. What’s to say you can’t get around sharing, or growing without a card if you have a friend who does?

“The 15-second lawyer workaround on that is, ‘What if I’m paying rent at my friend’s house? I’m renting out part of his house for my grow operation,’” Davies said.

When the Jackson County Prosecutor announced that she wasn’t going to prosecute simple possession anymore, she cited averse juries. However, some say it’s also a practical move in light of all the grey areas in the new law.

Some would even say the tricky bits are by design, with medical marijuana introduced to test the waters for what advocates hope will be legal use across the board. “Whenever you create all this grey area, you’re paving the way for it to become legal,” Davies said.

However, with weed still illegal on a federal level, there’s also the question of gun ownership. One cannot have a firearm if one is an illegal drug user and the feds still consider weed illegal, regardless of what the state says. High courts have already ruled against marijuana users on that.

There are also myriad questions related to employer drug policies, particularly if you live in Missouri but work in Kansas.

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