In 2018, voters in Missouri made it clear that they wanted access to medical marijuana. But, a year and a half later, they don’t quite have their program up and running yet. Following the timeline provided, the state moved forward with issuing medical marijuana identification cards for registered patients – but the state’s 192 dispensaries that have been approved are still months away from opening. This has left nearly 30,000 patients without a way to access their medicine legally – but that won’t stand in the way of their right to possess it.
“If individuals are in possession of marijuana and possess a valid and legal prescription we will uphold their constitutional rights and they will not be arrested,” writes department spokeswoman Tracy Panus. “We will not arrest individuals based upon the assumption the marijuana was obtained illegally.”
Though there is no way for patients to legally obtain their medical marijuana – as even purchasing it from a state that allows out-of-state ID cards still means crossing state lines with the product – patients are not going to be penalized if they are found in possession of marijuana.
This was very clearly spelled out in a recent letter written by Lyndall Franker, who is the Department of Health and Senior Services Director of Medical Marijuana. The January 28th letter was released in the hopes of clearing up any confusion surrounding the issue, at the request of law enforcement and legislators alike.
The letter by Franker reads as follows: “It is the opinion of DHSS that, pursuant to Article XIV, individuals who hold a valid medical marijuana identification card are currently authorized to possess and use medical marijuana, and the lack of a mechanism by which those individuals may legally come into possession of medical marijuana does not change their right to possess it.”
In the letter, Franker also claims that this situation was “inevitable” with the schedule provided by the state constitution to get things up and running. He made a point to mention that it takes months to cultivate, test and process medical marijuana for it to be ready for sale – citing this as the main reason behind the delay in getting products to patients.
In the meantime, until products are available for patients to purchase in Missouri, registered patients don’t have to fear being arrested if they’ve been obtaining their medicine elsewhere. However, that doesn’t mean patients in the state are immune to arrest for illegal sale or federal charges for trafficking if they are bringing their cannabis in from another state, which is something else MMJ patients need to keep in mind. The good news is that a few months from now, this should no longer be an issue for Missourians hoping to find relief with medical cannabis.