Prior drug charges won't restrict medical marijuana users and employees

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COLUMBIA- Over a month has passed since Missourians voted to pass Amendment 2, legalizing medical marijuana across the state.

However, since the passing of Amendment 2, questions have begun to emerge about the finer points of the amendment as the Department of Health and Senior Services and New Approach Missouri work to pass regulations. One question that has remained relatively unanswered, is what is the role those who have prior drug charges will have in the medical marijuana industry and getting a card.

KOMU 8 spoke to a man who convicted was convicted of drug possession in 2015 who expressed his concern about not being able to get a medical marijuana card or participate in the industry because of his prior charge. He wished to remain anonymous because of employment reasons.

"I was a freshman in college, the police came to my dorm and I was arrested. I got charged with possession," he said. "It's potentially a risk for my future but it's unknown yet."

He expressed his concern over not being able to potentially access medical marijuana if he needed it when older or the charges would deny him access to becoming involved in the medical marijuana field.

However, there are only restrictions for those looking to get involved with the industry who have felony charges.

"The only disqualification comes from people who are employed or who own a medical marijuana business," said Dan Viets, Board President of New Approach Missouri. "There is no restriction on patients applying to become eligible to purchase and consume cannabis."

KOMU double checked that and found provisions stating that people with a "disqualifying felony offense" could not participate in the medical marijuana business but still get a card.

The expectations to this rule are if the person's conviction was for the medical use of marijuana, a non-violent crime that did not have any jail time and was more than 5 years old, or more than 5 years had passed since a person had been released from parole or probation and no subsequent crimes had been reported.

However, one area of Amendment 2 that will be met with potential criminal repercussions especially in regards to the homegrow aspect of Amendment 2.

Homegrow allows those with a medical marijuana card to grow up to 6 flowering plants per patient in their home at at time.  

Many critics have spoken about homegrown in fear that this will promote crime, with people growing extra on the side for money.

Viets said that this will “subject them to harsh criminal punishment” but both him and Dodson agree that this isn’t the most pressing concern for medical marijuana.

“What if someone has a prescription for oxycodone and they don’t actually use all their prescription,” said Viets. “They might give some of their prescription away, but that’s not enough reason to give patients access to a drug then need.”

Daniel Dodson, a criminal defense lawyer of more than 30 years, agrees.

“It's being sold on the streets now,” said Dodson. “Any concern that someone might grow more than they need for medical use and sell some on the side, just really isn’t that big of a concern.”

Regardless, KOMU 8’s anonymous source is still concerned that things could change in the time between now and regulations are implemented.

“I would be upset if I can’t get it. But I get it,” said the anonymous drug charger. “At the ends of the day, it's the law.”

KOMU 8 reached out to DHS for an interview to further discuss the amendment and potential regulations but DHS declined the interview. They said were unable to answer specific questions, something which worries Dodson. 

"You already start to hear stories of both the federal government and state and local government trying to set up as many roadblocks as they can for the legitimate use of medical marijuana," said Dodson. "That's not what the people have asked for. The people of Missouri have spoken about it.”

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is expected to start evaluating and accepting medical marijuana cards applications from patients in July.