Missouri legislators gave first-round approval Wednesday to a bill that would allow medical marijuana patients to expunge pot-related offenses from their records.
It’s an outgrowth of a voter-approved decision in November legalizing marijuana for medicinal use.
Currently, Missourians can seek to get two misdemeanor and one felony marijuana-related convictions expunged from their record. Rep. Ron Hicks’ legislation would allow anyone who receives authorization to use the drug for medicinal use to ask a judge to wipe out marijuana-related offenses.
Hicks, R-Dardenne Prairie, noted the bill is primarily dealing with people convicted of possessing marijuana, adding that it excludes people who are convicted of driving under the influence of the drug.
“You can now legally treat yourself the way you’ve been treating yourself for years in the past,” said Hicks, alluding to how Missourians legalized medical marijuana in 2018. “And you’ve been in trouble for something of such, and it’s legal now, you should be able to have your record expunged.”
Among other things added to Hicks’ bill during floor debate was a prohibition against a state agency sharing any information about people who have medical marijuana cards to the federal government.
“Now with the passage of medical marijuana and the ability of people to obtain this medical marijuana license, we’re now struggling with the state’s rights and federal rights,” said Rep. Nick Schroer, R-O’Fallon.
Hicks’ bill had fairly broad bipartisan support, with members of the both parties believing that the legislation was a matter of fairness and compassion.
“When we think of the word and the idea of criminal justice reform, that means going back and paying attention to those policies that disproportionately affected certain communities and the people as a whole and fixing them,” said state Rep. Bruce Franks, D-St. Louis.
Others, like state Rep. Lane Roberts, R-Joplin, were less enthusiastic about Hicks’ bill.
“It was against the law when people made the decision,” said Roberts, who previously served as director of the Missouri Department of Public Safety. “If we want to talk about putting some time parameters demonstrating the people convicted of these crimes had abided by the law … I could live with that. But an open-ended expungement merely because it’s related to marijuana, ignoring all of the other things that could with this industry and the impacts it’s had on your life, is simply not palatable to me.”
Hicks’ bill still needs another vote before moving on to the Senate.
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