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Has Missouri decriminalized marijuana?

The decriminalization of marijuana has slowly been moving across the United States. It started with the recognition of legal medical marijuana, and now many states -- such as Colorado -- have even decided to make small amounts of recreational marijuana legal.

So, where does Missouri stand? Has marijuana been decriminalized to any degree?

Medical marijuana

As of now, medical marijuana is still illegal in Missouri. There was an effort to get the measure on the ballot in 2016, and it failed, though proponents are making an effort again in 2018.

There is support for medical marijuana. Those trying to get the new law passed focus on allowing use for diseases that are painful and incurable. Some see it as a positive for pain medication, in comparison to high-strength painkillers and other strong prescription medications -- which are sometimes addictive.

The majority

In some senses, it's surprising that a medical marijuana law hasn't gotten passed yet, as the majority of states have done so. There are 29 right now, and 30 if you count Washington D.C. That's slightly over half, as the decriminalization continues to spread. It includes two of Missouri's border states in Arkansas and Illinois. There are also nine states -- again, 10 if you count D.C. -- allowing recreational use.

There are still restrictions within these states. Massachusetts, for instance, allows just a 60-day supply of medical marijuana for personal use. New York allows just a 30-day supply, and it has to be non-smokable marijuana. In Nevada, you can have up to 12 plants, but just 2.5 oz of usable marijuana.

First-time fines

There is one way in which Missouri has "decriminalized" marijuana, however. For minor first-time offenders, the penalties are not harsh. In essence, you can think of them like traffic violations.

Many who study decriminalization use this term to mean a situation where first-time possession for personal use, when dealing with just a small amount of a banned substance, does not result in a criminal record or time behind bars. That's not to say the substance isn't still illegal. It is. It's just that the ramifications are minor.

Going 10 miles per hour over the speed limit is also illegal, but you're not going to jail. That's the way Missouri law treats first-time offenders. You get a misdemeanor for up to 10 grams, which has a max fine of $500.

Serious penalties

Don't assume that means serious penalties don't exist, though. A second offense could lead to thousands of dollars in fines and a year in prison. If you have over 35 grams, you could get felony charges. Things ramp up in a hurry, which is why it's so important to know your legal rights.

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