Article 14 of the Missouri State Constitution provides residents with the right to access medical cannabis, a seemingly straightforward proposition.
But while the article became effective July 4, 2019, the legal standing of those with medical marijuana cards is in dispute.
The arrest of Jamie Wilson serves as an example. Court records indicate Wilson was granted a medical marijuana license because he has “a chronic medical condition that causes severe, persistent pain or persistent muscle spasms, including but not limited to those associated with multiple sclerosis, seizures, Parkinson’s disease and Tourette’s syndrome.”
According to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services’ website, other qualifying conditions include cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, migraines, psychiatric disorders, human immunodeficiency disorders, conditions that could lead to prescription medication dependence, a terminal illness or other conditions as determined by a doctor.
“You have to first have something from your current doctor about the qualifying condition that you have,” Chris Nigh, a member of the Northwest Missouri Chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said. “You take that diagnosis to one of the clinics participating in the medical marijuana program that will get you a physician certification.”
A medical marijuana card will allow patients to buy marijuana from approved dispensaries, but those licenses have not yet been approved. The DHSS recently released the schedule for approval for testing facilities, transportation facilities, dispensary facilities and other types of facilities.
Dispensary facilities licenses’ should be approved around Jan. 24, according to the department. Officials have not released a firm date for when dispensaries will open to the public.
Wilson was arrested for delivery of a controlled substances, but his lawyer, Public Defender Kyle Fisher, said Wilson already should be receiving legal protection under Article 14.
“It’s pretty remarkable that he was charged,” Fisher said.
According to emergency rules authored by DHSS, medical marijuana card holders are allowed to possess up to a two-months’ supply of cannabis, determined to be 8 ounces. Fisher argues that because those rules are already in place, Wilson should not have been arrested.
In court filings, Daviess County Prosecuting Attorney Annie Gibson argued that Article 14 doesn’t allow for the public use of marijuana, and that Wilson was not in compliance with, “limited production or purchase of marijuana.”
In a probable cause statement, Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper Matthew Neely said 232 grams (slightly more than 8 ounces) of marijuana was found in Wilson’s truck, though Fisher said Neely testified to weighing the marijuana in the containers in which they were found.
Additionally, court records indicate Wilson also has a cultivators license.
Gibson wrote that the cultivator’s license allows Wilson to possess 12 ounces of cannabis (a three-months’ supply) but only, “so long as the supply of medical marijuana cultivated by the qualifying patients remains on property under their control.”
“Though the defendant is a valid cultivator, entitle to have several plants at his residence, there has not been sufficient time from the issuance of his licence to Nov. 1 for his plants to produce marijuana,” Gibson wrote.
Fisher argues that the source of Wilson’s marijuana shouldn’t legally matter under current law and regulation.
“I am of the opinion that it’s separate and independent,” Fisher said.
Nigh said that Missouri residents shouldn’t be scared off by the idea of smoking marijuana, as there are other ways to ingest the plant.
“The medical part is not about smoking,” he said. “The real medical part is in the tinctures and the edibles.”
According to DHSS, the cost to apply and maintain a medical marijuana card is $25 annually.