The House Public Safety Committee heard testimony this week on HB 2704, sponsored by Rep. Ron Hicks (R-Defiance), which would legalize recreational marijuana in Missouri. At the hearing, Rep. Hicks testified that he filed the bill because an initiative petition is being circulated that, if enough signatures are obtained, would put the issue to voters in the form of a constitutional amendment this November. HB 2704, he said, would make recreational marijuana legal through statute that can be revised if there are problems that arise or that need to be addressed in the future.
Proponents of the bill testified about how criminalizing marijuana only leads to non-violent people crowding Missouri jails and prevents the state from capturing sales tax from the legal sale of the drug. Those opposing the bill at the hearing, most of whom currently work in the Missouri medical marijuana industry, object to the bill for technical reasons that would impact their current business model. The MCC testified about the social costs of legalizing the drug for recreational purposes, including the risk of increased use among teens/minors, the likelihood of increased impaired driving incidents, and the costs to society due to increased worker absenteeism, the inability of employees to pass employer drug screenings, and worker safety in general. The committee took no action on the bill.