Cannabis Arrests Decline in Missouri’s State Parks

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Thanks to the legalization of medical marijuana, cannabis-related arrests in Missouri’s state parks have dropped by 60% last year.

The department changed its enforcement policies in April 2020 after the Missouri voters approved legalizing medical marijuana in 2018. Now, people who have cards certifying that they are medical marijuana patients are allowed to use the drug in private settings at state parks. Consuming marijuana in public settings, such as around campfires, is still prohibited, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

The Department of Natural Resources said 51 people were arrested in 2020 for possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana/synthetics in state parks, a decline from 120 similar arrests in 2019.

The DNR policy gives rangers discretion in enforcement, and says they should emphasize education over enforcement for medical marijuana consumed in public places in parks or historic sites.

The Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association said more than 100,000 people have signed up as medical marijuana patients since the start of the program.

And more dispensaries are coming online. As of last Friday, 106 dispensaries had been approved to operate, up from 17 dispensaries in December.

The decline in marijuana-related arrests in Missouri is representative of a national trend. The latest FBI reports showed an 18% decline in cannabis arrests in 2019 compared to the year prior, and reports from other states where cannabis is becoming legal at some level also show a significant decline in arrests. Still, the number of cannabis-related arrests in the U.S. that year (545,602) was higher that year than the number of people arrested for violent crimes (495,871.)

The Associated Press contributed to this report.