A law changing the definition of marijuana in Missouri is soon set to go into effect, and as a result, one area prosecuting attorney is saying he will no longer be litigating misdemeanor marijuana possession.
In previous years, anyone caught possessing under 35 grams of marijuana in Livingston County would be prosecuted by prosecuting attorney Adam Warren. But following the passage of Missouri Senate Bill 133 in 2018, the definition of marijuana has been complicated for the attorney, with hemp containing less than 3/10 of 1 percent THC no longer being criminalized in Missouri as of Aug. 28.
“The only way statutorily to tell what is hemp and what is marijuana is by a laboratory test,” Warren said. “That laboratory test can’t be done right now by the Missouri Crime Lab, so we have to do an outside lab, and that is too cost-prohibitive for small agencies to send every misdemeanor marijuana case to an outside laboratory.”
Because of this, Warren made the decision to stop prosecuting misdemeanor marijuana possession in Livingston County.
“Without scientific methodology, the State would be unable to meet its burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the hemp/marijuana distinction in each misdemeanor possession case,” Warren said. “The cost of outside laboratory testing is too prohibitive for the agencies enforcing the misdemeanor possession laws, and because applying the law in unequal ways is unjust, I will refuse all agency requests for misdemeanor marijuana possession prosecutions in Livingston County.”
Those found to be possessing more than 35 grams of marijuana, which pushes the charge into felony territory, or those found selling or growing the plants, still will be prosecuted. Warren said all pending cases of misdemeanor marijuana possession have been dismissed, but those who already pleaded guilty to the crime will not be affected.
“When you plead guilty, you make an admission that the substance you had did fit the definition,” Warren said. “To set aside any guilty plea would have to be on a different technicality; there are still some avenues available for people to have their records expunged.”