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After man's arrest, attorney wants state to clarify medical marijuana law to police departments

Posted at 5:58 PM, Jan 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-23 20:43:52-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo.  — Joani Harshman is one of the attorneys representing Jamie Wilson, a man from Trenton, Missouri, who was put in jail for having marijuana in his car although he’s a medical marijuana card holder.

Now she wants the state to openly clarify the law.

"[The law] creates immunity status for criminal prosecution," Harshman said. "If you pretty much ask anybody in the industry, attorney or not, that is very clear given the language in Article XIV and the rules."

She and attorney Aubrey Gann-Redmon are asking the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services to reiterate to law enforcement that you can have medical marijuana even though dispensaries aren't open yet. The state does not mandate where card holders are supposed to get their marijuana from.

They are not asking the state to say whether their client is guilty or innocent; they say the state speaking up will prevent other people from landing in the same situation.

"I am aware of other scenarios situations where marijuana has been confiscated, where people are still being ticketed with the ten grams or less misdemeanor. Those are things that shouldn't happen," Harshman said.

Chris McHugh is an attorney specializing in marijuana possession laws. He's also a business owner who recently awarded three licenses to grow and sell medical marijuana with his company Vertical Enterprise LLC.

"I think police officers and some other authorities are legitimately confused just because this is a big change, but the law is very clear," McHugh said.

He says much of the confusion will go away once dispensaries open.

"There is a requirement that you keep the marijuana in its original packaging and the point of that is so officers can see that it came from a legitimate source," McHugh said. "Once dispensaries open up and that flow of medical marijuana starts coming through those dispensaries, I think that will help."

McHugh suggests card holders always keep their card on-hand. Although you can possess up to eight ounces of medical marijuana, he suggests not driving around with the maximum amount because that will always stand out to a police officer.

Harshman says they haven't gotten an official response from DHSS.

A DHSS spokesperson told 41 Action News they have worked with law enforcement groups addressing concerns around marijuana enforcement. The spokesperson said the issue Harshman is raising seems to be more suited for the prosecutor's office.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol says they will follow the statute.