Legal Weed Week: Alcohol comparison and uncertain future

Missouri's Amendment 3, in a lot of ways, put Marijuana use in the same category as alcohol. You have to be 21, and you're urged to use it responsibly
Published: Feb. 10, 2023 at 10:00 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 10, 2023 at 10:19 PM CST
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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) - Missouri’s Amendment 3, in a lot of ways, put marijuana use in the same category as alcohol.

You have to be 21, and you’re encouraged to use it responsibly.

But there are differences between the two.

While Missouri has state laws and even local ordinances regarding alcohol use, those simply don’t exist for legal weed.

“We’re not knocking on people’s doors to see how many bottles of alcohol they have in their house. And don’t intend to do the same thing with marijuana.”

Cape Girardeau Police Chief Wes Blair said that’s one way his department can make a pretty good comparison between legal alcohol and legal weed.

“When I’ve had citizens ask me about this, as a police officer, I tell them the same as everything else,” said Lieutenant Joey Hann. “Don’t drive impaired. Don’t allow this to fall into the hands of anyone under the age of 21. Be responsible with this. Just the same as you would with alcohol.”

“This is not a protected class where now you just get to smoke marijuana and the actions related to you being intoxicated are no longer applicable to you,” said criminal defense attorney Russ Oliver.

He said even though Missouri adults now have a constitutional right to smoke pot, don’t think you’ve got rights without consequences.

“And it’s similar to what people think about employment. Some people think, I now have the constitutional right to smoke marijuana and my employer can’t fire me. And that’s not true. The amendment specifically says that it doesn’t make this a protected class. That employers can discriminate against you if you use marijuana, just like if you’re a chronic alcoholic.”

Throughout our in-depth look at Amendment 3, we’ve learned that, until local towns and counties pass specific ordinances against smoking while driving or smoking in public, you can legally do that.

However, this measure does restrict your use of legal weed on one way.

“It specifically says a shop owner, or a restaurant owner. He can specifically say, no smoking tobacco in my restaurant and no smoking marijuana in my restaurant. And he would be well within his legal rights to say you can’t smoke marijuana in his restaurant.”

We’ve also shown you the civil penalties it lays out for having too much weed will not apply until the state assigns someone or some agency to take on that role.

That has the law enforcement leaders I talked to wondering and waiting for some kind of guidance.

“We are still trying to interpret it. We are still trying to come up with ideas as to what this means for us. As to how we police. How we keep the community safe.”

“We are very law-centric in our profession; and, so, when there’s a whole lot of unknowns and you’re waiting for clarity, sometimes that makes our job a little more difficult as we try to navigate that.

“In this area here, back in the early ‘90s, there was a grow there of more than eleven-hundred plants.”

In Wayne county, where illegal marijuana operations cropped up all the time in years past, Sheriff Dean Finch said they remain dedicated to upholding the law.

”I’m going to still pursue the drugs in my county,” Sheriff Finch continued. “I ran on that. That I wanted Wayne County to be drug-free. And I knew me and 10 other sheriffs couldn’t do that. But that was my goal. And I’ve kind of prided myself in working on that.”

So now, they wait for state and local governments to provide that roadmap, so your right to use legal weed exists, but its abuse comes with real consequences.

“We’re police officers,” Chief Blair said. “And we’re not attorneys. So, navigating some of that legalese is at times difficult. And so that’s why we are really hopeful that we can get some of this cleared up this legislative session.”

“The world with regard to marijuana is different,” Oliver added. “And it’s now enshrined in our Constitution. And if we don’t like it, we should have paid attention in the election. But this is the law now.”

We’ve covered a lot of ground on legal weed. You can find past reports below.

And we will be tracking any steps taken locally, or in Jefferson City, that impact the use of legal weed.