The Missouri House Public Safety Committee approved an adult-use cannabis legalization bill last week, but not before one lawmaker included a controversial amendment that could ultimately doom the legislation.
Rep. Nick Schroer, R-St. Charles County, amended House Bill 2704, the Cannabis Freedom Act, March 31 to bar transgender women from accessing no-interest loans for women- and minority-owned cannabis businesses, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The amendment drew criticism from both sides of the aisle, the news outlet reported, but the legislation still cleared the House Public Safety Committee Thursday in a 5-4 vote.
Schroer voted no on the bill, however, citing last-minute changes that took place before the vote.
“He literally either was showboating and needed his sound bites in the committee or he was deliberately trying to kill that piece of legislation,” Rep. Ron Hicks, R-Defiance, the bill’s sponsor, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Schroer said his intent was not to kill the bill, according to the news outlet, and House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, who co-sponsors the Cannabis Freedom Act, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that she is “hopeful” lawmakers can remove Schroer’s amendment on the House floor.
“It is frustrating that one member will take a bipartisan-supported bill and use it simply for campaign fodder,” Quade told the news outlet.
Schroer, who is running for state Senate, has expressed opposition to the loan program included in the legislation, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported, and initially said he wanted the entire provision removed from the bill.
Questions about whether and how to limit the number of adult-use cannabis businesses in the state have also dominated negotiations on the Cannabis Freedom Act, according to the news outlet. Lawmakers have expressed support for opening the market after a flurry of lawsuits were filed against the state when Missouri rolled out its medical cannabis program in 2020.
Rep. Shane Roden, R-Cedar Hill, who chairs the Public Safety Committee, put forth an amendment to allow the state to limit the total number of adult-use cannabis business licenses to the number of current medical cannabis licenses in the state, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Ultimately, an amendment proposed by Rep. Ashley Bland Manlove, D-Kansas City, won out to address licensing limits; Bland Manlove’s language would allow twice as many adult-use business licenses as medical business licenses, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
While the Cannabis Freedom Act makes its way through the legislative process, there are three adult-use cannabis ballot initiative campaigns in Missouri that have until May 8 to submit 160,199 valid signatures to put the issue before voters in the November 2022 election.
Jack Cardetti, a spokesman for the Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association (MoCannTrade), which has endorsed an adult-use cannabis ballot initiative put forth by Legal Missouri 2022, told the St. Louis Dispatch that the organization has concerns about the Cannabis Freedom Act as written, noting a lack of automatic expungements for past nonviolent cannabis-related crimes as an example.
“I was trying to do everything for the people of Missouri, and now it’s starting to get swayed by politics, which is not a surprise to me,” Hicks told the news outlet. “It’s just when you work so hard on something and then you’re in that last stage in a committee hearing and then the poison pill gets slammed on it.”
House Speaker Rob Vescovo, R-Arnold, has referred a second adult-use cannabis legalization proposal to committee. That bill, House Joint Resolution 83, was introduced by Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-Ballwin, to place a legalization measure on the November ballot.
The Missouri Legislature will adjourn on May 30.