With the legalization of medical marijuana by Missouri voters, Jackson County will no longer institute legal proceedings in marijuana possession cases, with some exceptions, the Prosecutor’s Office announced.

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker announced the decision one week after the general election. By an overwhelming margin, Missourians cast their ballot in favor of a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana. Cannabis remains illegal federally.

On November 6, 2018, Amendment 2 was approved by more than 65 percent of voters while two other measures that would have also legalized medical marijuana — Amendment 3 and Proposition C — were soundly rejected. In Jackson County, Amendment 2 won even stronger support, with three of four casting their ballot in favor.

“Voters were discerning in considering the issue,” Baker said. “That mandate from voters is directing this shift in our office. This changing attitude toward marijuana is something we have been seeing anecdotally from our juries for some time.”

Exceptions to Jackson County’s new policy on prosecution of marijuana possession will be cases in which facts show the person is selling or distributing the drug without proper authority. For example, the office will still evaluate for prosecution cases where the offender is found to be in possession of items that are routinely associated with the illegal sale or distribution of marijuana, such as individually packaged bags of the drug, a scale or large of cash or firearms.

The Prosecutor’s Office will continue to prosecute cases in which the possession of marijuana results in drugged driving or where possession of marijuana results in harm to a child.

“We wholeheartedly support the announcement today that the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office will no longer be prosecuting simple marijuana possession cases, said Jack Cardetti spokesman for New Approach Missouri, the campaign that backed Amendment 2. “Obviously, the announcement today goes beyond medical marijuana, but we appreciate the respect and deference Prosecuting Attorney Jean Peters Baker has shown the voters of Jackson County. Missourians came together last week to overwhelmingly provide historic relief to patients and veterans, and we are thrilled that Amendment 2 is already bringing positive changes to our state.”

Baker also announced that her office will undertake two public safety awareness campaigns in Jackson County.

The first will warn caregivers to keep packaged edible marijuana away from children as some states have seen increased incidents of children ingesting marijuana, otherwise, they may face prosecution.

The second will focus on “drugged driving,” stressing that marijuana users cannot drive under the influence – that remains illegal.

“Voters spoke very clearly and overwhelmingly,” Baker stated. “But we need to keep the drug – like any drug – away from the kids, and driving while high is a serious crime that puts us all at risk.”

Alisha Shurr is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine. She joined the Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University. Contact Alisha at alisha@themissouritimes.com.