While people who are at least 21 will be able to purchase recreational marijuana legally starting on Jan. 1 in Illinois, it doesn’t mean they’ll be able to bring the cannabis into Missouri.
However with such ease of travel between the Missouri and Illinois, with multiple bridges connecting the two states in the St. Louis-area, someone is bound to bring legally purchased weed from the Land of Lincoln to the Show Me State.
On Jan. 1, Illinois residents will be allowed to possess any combination of 30 grams of cannabis flower, 5 grams of cannabis concentrate, and 500 milligrams of THC contained in a cannabis-infused product. Non-residents will be able to possess half of those amounts.
Illinois’ law also prohibits transporting cannabis across state lines.
If other state’s experiences are any indicators, Missouri will probably see people bring weed that is legal in Illinois across the river. After Colorado legalized marijuana, Nebraska started seeing more arrests for marijuana possession.
Nebraska and Oklahoma even sued Colorado because more people were bringing in marijuana into the two states and overwhelming police and courts. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case.
HCI Alternatives, a marijuana dispensary in Collinsville, expects to do at least $20 million in sales next year when recreational weed becomes available. Among the factors is the proximity to St. Louis. And the Green Solution in Sauget is even nearer to the river.
So what could happen if you bring your legal cannabis into Missouri?
Possessing between 10 and 35 grams of marijuana in Missouri can be charged as a class A misdemeanor, which could carry up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000, according to the Missouri Sentencing commission.
Persons caught with less than 10 grams of marijuana could face a Class D misdemeanor, which carries up to a $500 fine.
Whether to charge those misdemeanors is up to the local prosecutor.
Susan Ryan, spokeswoman for the St. Louis City Circuit Attorney’s Office, said the office doesn’t always file formal charges for possession of 100 grams or less of marijuana, and instead would try to get offenders into diversion programs.
A possession charge also may be filed if the the offense was committed in connection with another crime, such as illegal gun possession or a robbery, Ryan said.
“We’re trying not to affect casual marijuana users,” Ryan said.
If an officer finds you have marijuana, he or she has the option to write a ticket for an ordinance violation, Ryan said.
St. Louis City passed an ordinance in 2018 that reduces the fine to $25 for being caught with a small amount of marijuana.
Missouri is gearing up to allow people to use marijuana for medical reasons, however it would require people to have a medical marijuana card.
Missouri residents may start applying for medical marijuana cards, but dispensaries in the state aren’t expected to be open until the late spring or early summer of next year.
Representatives from the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department were unavailable to be interviewed about how it would handle the possibility of more people possessing recreational marijuana because of Illinois’ legal program but provided a statement.
“The police department will continue enforcing applicable local, state and federal laws which regulate controlled substances, including marijuana,” the department said. “At what point an individual becomes eligible to legally purchase, use and possess marijuana in Missouri depends on when the program is implemented by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. The police department is monitoring these changes and is prepared to adapt enforcement procedures accordingly.”
St. Louis County Police declined to comment for this story.
Joseph Bustos is a reporter for the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.
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