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Columbia, MO 65203
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News

State of the Law

Contrary to popular belief, possession of marijuana has not been decriminalized in Columbia, Missouri or surrounding areas. Presently possession of marijuana, including synthetic marijuana such as “K2,” is a violation of Section 195.202 Revised Statutes of Missouri, and Columbia Ordinance Section 16-253.

The possible penalties associated with violation of the state and city marijuana laws are dependent on the amount of the substance possessed. At present, possession of thirty-five (35) grams, or less, of marijuana is a class “A” misdemeanor, and carries a range of punishment of up to one (1) year in jail, and/or fines of up to $1,000.00.

Possession of greater than thirty-five (35) grams of marijuana is a class “C” felony under Missouri law, and carries a range of punishment of up to seven (7) years in the Department of Corrections, and/or fines of up to $5,000.00.

Civil Consequences of Marijuana Convictions

A conviction for possession of marijuana, including misdemeanor convictions, can also result in serious civil consequences to a person’s driver license and federal student loans.

Missouri has enacted “Abuse and Lose” which applies to minors convicted of violation of the state marijuana laws. Under Abuse and Lose, any person under the age of twenty-one (21) who pleads to or is convicted of possession of a controlled substance under Section 195.202 RSMO., is subject to a mandatory ninety (90) day license suspension for a first offense. A second offense is subject to a mandatory one (1) year license revocation.

Missouri has also enacted a lesser known license revocation provision which applies to person’s over the age of twenty-one (21) which is codified at 577.505 RSMo. Under this provision any person over the age of twenty-one (21) who pleads to, or is convicted of possession of marijuana while operating a motor vehicle is subject to an automatic one (1) year license suspension. There is no requirement that the person have consumed marijuana or be in an intoxicated state while operating the vehicle. Mere possession of the substance is enough.

In addition to hardship of lose of driving privilege, a person whose license is suspended or revoked under the above-provisions must also complete the Substance Abuse Traffic Offender Program (SATOP). This program includes outpatient substance abuse treatment which can range from a weekend intervention up to fifty (50) hours of outpatient treatment. The program also carries a substantial expenses, which at the time of this writing, is a minimum of $625.00.

A conviction for possession of marijuana can may also disqualify a person for receipt of Federal student loans. Presently, a first offense can lead for ineligibility for student aid for up to one (1) year.

What Constitutes Possession?

Possession of a substance involves a finding of two (2) elements:

  1. Actual knowledge of the nature and presence of the substance
  2. The ability to assert physical control of the substance

The second prong of this definition can become important in instances were a person is present in a room or vehicle that contains marijuana belonging to another persons. In such circumstances, mere presence in the location without the ability to assert physical control over the marijuana (i.e. it is in another person’s pocket etc) can be a defense to a charge of possession.

Is Medical Marijuana Legal in Missouri?

The City of Columbia has passed City Ordinance Sec. 16-225 which provides, “Seriously ill adults who obtain and use marijuana and/or marijuana paraphernalia for medicinal purposes pursuant to the recommendation of a physician shall not be subject to arrest, prosecution, punishment or sanction.”

CAVEAT: Despite the passage of Columbia, Missouri’s medical marijuana ordinance, possession of any marijuana, including medical marijuana, is still a violation of State law. This means that any citation or arrest for medical marijuana issued by a State Highway Patrol Officer or County Sheriff Department is still a class “A” misdemeanor. Additionally, even Columbia Police Officers have discretion to ignore the City of Columbia Ordinance, and to issue a state law citation for possession of marijuana. As such, despite the above city ordinance, it is best to assume that possession of medical marijuana will still result in a criminal offense.

What Can an Attorney Do for Me?

  1. Determine and litigate whether any search or seizure of your person leading to the discovery of a controlled substance was was unlawful for lack of probable cause;
  2. Determine and litigate any factual defenses in your case, including whether, despite the presence of marijuana, that it was actually possessed by the suspect;
  3. If a plea is necessary, ensure that it is to an amended offense which will not trigger the civil consequences discussed above, such as license suspension or student aid ineligibility;
  4. If a plea is necessary, ensure that the disposition does not result in a criminal conviction on your criminal record;
  5. Diligently fight to preserve your rights and freedom in any criminal case.

Attorneys at Vessel Bridges Murphy are ready to assist you. It is our hope that you find these materials useful. When you are ready, contact our offices to schedule an appointment.