Today's Edition About us Local Opinion Obits Sports Things to do Classifieds Newsletters Podcasts Contact us

Jefferson City attorney: staff working to gauge changes from recreational marijuana

by Anna Watson | January 1, 2023 at 4:02 a.m.
Sally Ince/ News Tribune photo: Jefferson City Counselor Ryan Moehlman stands in an office Thursday August 15, 2019 at City Hall.

Voters settled the issue in November: recreational marijuana is now legal in the state of Missouri.

What's unsettled is what legalization of marijuana means for municipalities, like Jefferson City.

Since early December, possessing up to three ounces of marijuana has been legal. Voters passed Amendment 3 last November, legalizing adult-use for recreational purposes, though purchasing it has yet to become available.

How exactly legalization changes governance for Jefferson City is yet to be fully determined; however, a city official says they are preparing for the emergence of this "new industry" and its potential amalgam of civic effects.

City Attorney Ryan Moehlman said he knows two dispensaries in Jefferson City are looking to convert their businesses for selling marijuana to both patients and consumers.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is not currently accepting applications for brand-new facilities, but, instead, is allowing pre-existing medical marijuana dispensaries to apply for selling it recreationally. It requires qualifying businesses to become what the DHSS website calls a "comprehensive facility."

The city only has two facilities equipped with the proper licensing to sell medical marijuana, Shangri-La and Missouri Health & Wellness.

The DHSS said, based on its timeline of approving requests, recreational purchases could be available in some places as early as February. Though, according to the department's website, it really depends on when or if dispensaries submit a recreational application, because there's a 60-day period before receipts are notified of approval.

In the meantime, Moehlman said, staff continues reviewing what changes are needed at the city level. The amendment in terms of words per page, he said, is voluminous and pretty dense.

"A lot of it is reviewing new constitutional amendments and figuring out what actions cities can take, what things we can't do anymore and then trying to marry that with our existing code and regulations," he said.

The "back and forth" between the code and the Missouri Constitution poses some pretty unique challenges.

"The industry sells a product that is not available to the population under the age of 21, and like liquor stores, you can't regulate a liquor store in the same way you can a store that sells general goods available to everyone of any age," he said.

This relates to secondary effects industries restricted to adults could have, he added. Moehlman said, for example, there needs to be some kind of mechanism in place ensuring businesses aren't selling or distributing marijuana to minors, a mechanism city staff is currently working over.

While understanding dispensaries have the means to operate in a fair and comprehensive manner, they also impose a greater obligation, Moehlman said: "It's really no different than any of type of business that is restricted to adults (of a certain age)."

Another mechanism he added might be adopting a formal bill listing regulations the city imposes on marijuana, which would require approval of the City Council. A preview of what wording it could entail was offered during the Public Safety Committee meeting held Dec. 29.

Some of the 13 regulations proposed by the legal team deal with personal cultivation rules and also prohibiting the use and possession by anyone younger than 21, by any person in public or while operating a vehicle or other motorized transport.

To regulate or to prohibit public use

Moehlman said staff recommends the City Council vote to prohibit adult-use of marijuana in public as a "starting point" in a larger conversation about regulating the public sphere.

"Essentially starting with the position: if you're partaking in this particular substance it needs to be -- not on the public streets, restaurants, businesses -- but in private situations," he said.

Moehlman noted later the City Council could revisit the topic if there happened to be desire for allowing it in certain types of public places, because there are "some licensing schemes Amendment 3 contemplates."

The council must also decide whether it approves posing a question to Jefferson City voters in April about enacting a 3 percent sales tax to all recreational marijuana purchases citywide.

The council will consider the bill Tuesday on whether to add it to the ballot, but its voters who ultimately hold the final decision.

Medicinal marijuana purchases are not taxed by the city and would continue not to be taxed even if a future tax is places on recreational use.

The state taxes medical marijuana at 4 percent; the state will tax recreational marijuana at 6 percent.

Moehlman said city staff believe a tax on recreational use is appropriate because a surge in work it adds to City Hall officials and public safety personnel.

See also:

Jefferson City Council to weigh bringing marijuana tax to voters

Print Headline: Jefferson City attorney: staff working to gauge changes from recreational marijuana


Sponsor Content