Legal Weed Week: What does Amendment 3 mean?

Friday marked a milestone in the changing use of marijuana in Missouri as recreational sales began at dispensaries across the state.
Published: Feb. 6, 2023 at 10:00 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 6, 2023 at 10:18 PM CST
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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) - Friday marked a milestone in the changing use of marijuana in Missouri as recreational sales began at dispensaries across the state.

Here we begin a five-night, in-depth look at the amendment that got us here; what it means for you, your children, your local police department and your community.

Missouri’s Amendment 3 gives adults over 21 the right to have up to 3 ounces of marijuana.

We want to show you exactly what that looks like, where people can use pot, and what, if anything, can happen if you have more than that specified amount.

“I’m going to go ahead and open the bag.”

Cape Girardeau Patrolman Bobby Newton cuts into an evidence bag to show what 3 ounces of marijuana looks like, the amount you can legally possess and consume under Amendment 3.

“So with packaging, this weighs 3.3 ounces,” he said.

This pot came from a 2019 distribution case.

“So, basically we had some information from neighbors that there was a lot of traffic in and out of the residence. They reported smelling marijuana coming from the residence,” he explained.

If that call came in now, officers will not attempt to search your home.

“At this point, no. I mean, we can ask you about it. Whether you want to indulge, give us information about how much marijuana you have, it’s in your home. It’s up to you, you know,” he continued.

Amendment 3 specifically lays out its intent: to prevent arrest and penalty for personally having or growing a limited amount of weed.

“Think about how this amendment was crafted. It was crafted by the marijuana dispensary industry. They wrote this how they wanted to write it.”

Criminal defense attorney Russ Oliver became very familiar with the measure during his time as Stoddard County’s prosecuting attorney.

“They didn’t really go around and have roundtable discussions with everybody else to say, ‘what do you guys think should be in this,’ right? They spent the money. They got it passed. The world with regard to marijuana is different,” he said.

And that means law enforcement’s role as it relates to marijuana changed practically overnight.

Wes Blair serves as Cape Girardeau’s chief of police.

“I think really, initially, the biggest impact is just for us to figure out the do’s and don’ts and how to navigate that,” he said.

Let’s take a closer look at that 3-ounce possession limit. What if you have more than that?

“So, possession of more than 3 ounces is subject to what the amendment calls civil penalties. And the question that raises in my mind, who’s going to enforce those civil penalties?”

Chief Blair wondered the same thing.

“That’s not typically something that police departments enforce are civil penalties,” he said.

A third violation does result in a criminal misdemeanor. However, Oliver said it’s not clear how that would even happen.

“If somebody has 500 pounds of marijuana. The first time it’s a civil penalty. He gets caught a second time with 500 pounds, it’s still a civil penalty. But if nobody is enforcing those civil penalties, it will never even get to a misdemeanor charge,” he continued.

Oliver said the state government will have to decide who handles that enforcement. And local governments will need to pass their own rules.

“It’s going to take local municipalities and counties setting rules as to where its use is permissible and where its use is not permissible,” he said.

“Right now, our understanding is, yes, you can drive down the street smoking marijuana. We just don’t know. There’s nothing in the amendment that articulates that you can or cannot.”

Over in Wayne County, Sheriff Dean Finch said residents are bending his ear about open pot use.

“I’ve had several people come up to me and say, ‘Oh my God, I was in Walmart and the stench like to kill me from the marijuana.’ ‘I was in this store and could smell it. They were smoking it,’” he said.

“With regard to the law, whether officers like it. Whether people on the street like it or not. The law has changed with regard to marijuana,” Oliver said. “And it’s going to be allowed unless local municipalities restrict it in some way.”

Now, here’s something the Amendment does make clear. You cannot smoke or use marijuana where tobacco, under Missouri law, is already prohibited.

So, if you cannot smoke a cigarette inside a shop or at your office, same goes for pot.

But smoking isn’t the only way to ingest marijuana.

THC-infused edibles come in all shapes and sizes; and most of them resemble the candy and gummies you give your children.

Get a closer look at edibles, what Amendment 3 has to say about them and what it’s going to take to hold someone responsible if a child gets their hands on what is now legal weed.