Livingston County Prosecuting Attorney Adam Warren said that following the passage of a new Missouri law, which goes into effect today, Aug. 28, he will no longer prosecute misdemeanor marijuana cases in Livingston County.
"This new policy reflects the new definition of hemp in Missouri Statutes," Warren said.
During the most recent legislative session, Missouri lawmakers passed, Senate Bill 133 which, in part, gives a new definition for publicly marketable hemp, including seeds, stems, roots, leaf or floral material which contains less than .03% THC.
"Although this definition of hemp, in fact, is not enough to get high, the Missouri Highway Patrol Crime lab currently posses no methodology to distinguish hemp from marijuana based on the new statutory definitions," Warren stated. "It is simply not possible for a crime lab, at this point, to determine if they have hemp or marijuana at those levels, which means it is not possible for them to give me the option to prosecute or not since there is no scientific testing, to determine which substance it is, with the new statutory language."
Private or outside laboratories will be able to complete the testing, however, it is costly and not feasible for misdemeanor cases. Warren says he will use those labs for distribution cases. "The cost of outside laboratory testing is too prohibitive for the agencies enforcing the misdemeanor possession laws, and because applying the law in unequal ways is unfair," Warren said he believed. Because of this Warren will refuse to prosecute for misdemeanor possession fo marijuana, until and unless the Legislature makes changes to the law, or the Missouri State Highway Patrol Crime Lab can complete the testing needed.
Area law enforcement says they understand the need to make this decision based on new Missouri law, however, they said it will not change their ability to seize misdemeanor amounts of the drug.
"We will, in Chillicothe City limits, continue to seize misdemeanor amounts of marijuana," Chillicothe Police Chief Jon Maples said. "We will not make arrests for that crime but we will seize the drug because it is still illegal to possess."
Livingston County Sheriff Steve Cox said that his agency works diligently to control drug use and especially distribution in the county, and while marijuana is not a huge problem, there are instances where individuals have, even recently, been caught driving under the influence.
"Recently I pulled over someone on Highway 36 who was traveling at a high rate of speed and was under the influence of high-grade marijuana," Cox said. "He was arrested for DWI - drugs and they marijuana pens in their possession were confiscated, to aid in the prosecution of the larger crime, DWI - drugs."
Warren noted that he is finalizing a no-refusal policy to "offset any upticks in impaired driving cases." The policy will require a blood sample to be sought in all suspected driving while impaired cases, even if consent is denied and law enforcement has to obtain a search warrant.
Maples also stressed that his agency is working hard to ensure that the distribution of drugs is handled and they will continue to make arrests and submit charges for prosecution in those crimes.
"Recently we received calls about a home on Borden Street where neighbors were concerned about distribution," he said. "Following our investigation, we arrested several people on distribution charges and were able to take care of that situation. We will continue to make sure our city is safe and will work to stop and suspected distribution."
Maples also noted that there is a discussion of a city ordinance that will address the smoking of marijuana in the city, he said he and the council plan to create ordinances to keep drugs out of public places and spaces.
Senate Bill 133, also known as Missouri Statute 195.010, went into effect today, Aug. 28. Warren said he has already dropped all of the pending misdemeanor possession of marijuana cases in Livingston County.