Police chief encourages education on marijuana regulations

As recreational marijuana sales launch in the Capital City, Police Chief Eric Wilde is encouraging residents to read the fine print and develop an understanding of what Amendment 3 entails.

The constitutional amendment passed by voters in November allowed for the sale, possession and use of marijuana for adults ages 21 and older. Possession became legal a month later, and sales began earlier this month.

The ballot measure also required the expungement of marijuana-related convictions and allowed Missourians to apply for personal cultivation licenses.

Wilde said there had been ample misconceptions and questions from the area since the amendment passed, and while the local government and police department closely studied the amendment before it even reached the ballot, the community as a whole needed to be informed of what lies within the new regulations.

Though the commercial license application process, state tax changes and criminal expungement sections may not impact everyone, he said users — and potential users — should be aware of local personal use regulations.

“All that I want as the chief of police is for people to be patient,” he said. “I want them to be educated, because there are going to be people that read the laws and the ordinances and think that it’s legal and can just be used anywhere, and that’s not the case. I’d urge people to be safe.

“Just be safe, be understanding, be patient. And please read the fine print so they know what they can and can’t do with medical and recreational marijuana.”

Sales and possession were legalized at the local level by the City Council on Feb. 6, bringing local regulations in line with Amendment 3’s state-level text. Those new regulations applied the city’s existing medical marijuana standards to facilities also selling recreational products — now known as comprehensive facilities — while other measures expressly prohibited the use, possession and sale of those products by and to minors, banned the operation of motor vehicles while under the influence and a prohibition on use in public places.

As far as the department’s understanding of the amendment, Wilde said the city and statewide police associations had been following the amendment closely as it progressed to the ballot and that it had been broken down and examined by the city attorney as well, an analysis that assisted the department as well as the council in its ordinance drafting process. He said public safety changes of that nature were always closely followed and that educating the community was a team effort.

Wilde said the department would continue to educate the community on the changes to the legal landscape. While he expects calls from members of the community that did not approve of the constitutional change, he noted the department is required to enforce and abide by the laws of its governing bodies and that recreational marijuana is now part of that requirement.

“The biggest concern is that people will see us out here enforcing these ordinances, and they don’t understand — all they know is that it’s legal, but what does that really mean?” Wilde said. “This isn’t a free-for-all, and we want to make sure there aren’t any misconceptions out there.

“All I ask is that members of our community remain patient and understanding during this time, and do your part to become aware of the legal requirements and restrictions related to medical and recreational marijuana. Personal education on this topic will certainly be a key to success for our community as we go forward.”

Wilde encouraged residents to dive into the city and state regulations for themselves and ensure they understood the changes they carried. State regulations compiled by the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) are available online at health.mo.gov/safety/cannabis, while local ordinances can be found at library.municode.com/mo/jefferson_city/codes/code_of_ordinances, sections 17 and 18.

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