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Missouri Lawmaker Files Cannabis Open Container Bill

A.J. Herrington

By A.J. Herrington

March 15, 2023

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state lawmaker has introduced a bill designed to restrict carrying open containers of cannabis in an automobile. The legislation, House Bill 295, is sponsored by Republican state Rep. Kent Haden, who says the measure is crafted after provisions of the cannabis legalization law in neighboring .  

If passed by the state legislature and signed into law by Republican Gov. Mike Parson,

would require all cannabis products in motor vehicles to be kept in a child-proof and odor-proof container. The proposal comes despite the lack of a similar ban on open containers of alcohol in Missouri. Under current state law, drivers are prohibited from consuming alcohol while operating a motor vehicle, but there is no ban on open alcoholic beverage containers, and passengers are permitted to drink alcohol while the car is operating.

Haden said the legislation was inspired by feedback from local sheriffs who are frustrated with enforcing provisions governing intoxicated driving contained in Amendment 3, the marijuana legalization constitutional amendment that was approved by Missouri voters in last year’s general election. The 38-page ballot measure prohibits drivers and passengers from consuming cannabis while driving or riding in a motor vehicle. However, law enforcement officers are not allowed to use detecting the odor of marijuana as the “basis for detention, search or arrest.”

Audrain County Sheriff Matt Oller, who testified at a recent public hearing on the bill held by the House Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee, characterized Amendment 3 as a “38-page mess” that fails to fully address driving while high and consuming cannabis on public roadways.

“Amendment 3 specifically prohibits even passengers from smoking marijuana in the car,”

as he testified in favor of the bill, according to a report from the Missouri Independent. “However, it lays out nothing as far as how we deal with that. There’s no process. Nobody knows.”

Missouri Bill Mirrors Illinois Open Container Law For Cannabis

Haden told his colleagues on the committee that HB 295 is drafted after a law governing cannabis in cars passed in neighboring Illinois in 2021. Under that

, drivers and passengers are prohibited from using cannabis in the passenger area of a vehicle while on a state roadway. The law also requires any cannabis kept in the passenger area of a vehicle to be stored in a sealed or resealable not readily accessible by drivers or passengers.

Several members of the House committee said that they support the intent of Haden’s bill. But they questioned if an open container law is an effective way to prevent drivers from driving while under the influence of cannabis. 

“I was around when open-container laws came into existence in the early ’70s, and some really foolish decisions descended from that,” said Republican Rep. Lane Roberts, the chair of the committee. “Sometimes when we don’t understand either the intent or the letter of the law, we make mistakes.”

Democratic state Rep. Ian Mackey said that provisions requiring a child-proof container are vague and likely to cause confusion and inconvenience for consumers.

“You go to the marijuana store, they don’t give it to you in a childproof container,”

. “So that requires anybody who buys marijuana to then transfer it to some other sort of [container]. That’s asking a lot.”

Republican state Rep. Jeff Myers, who served as a Missouri Highway Patrol trooper for nearly 30 years, noted that the state does not have an open-container law for alcohol, adding that law enforcement officers must see a person drinking while driving to write a citation. He also said that an open-container law for cannabis would be more complicated than alcohol because the products are packaged in a variety of different ways.

“On the enforcement side is how I look at it,” Myers said, “it’s going to be pretty difficult to be able to drill down into what’s an open container.”

Republican Rep. Bill Allen said that bill could be seen as an attempt by the state legislature to chip away at provisions of Amendment 3, noting that voters “made their choice” on the ballot measure that received more than 53% of the vote.

“Maybe we give it some time,” Allen said. “And if this does appear to be a problem, then we can come up with a mutable solution.”

A.J. Herrington

About The Author

A.J. Herrington

HIGH THERE MISSION

WE’RE A CREATIVE COMMUNITY — EXPLORING THE SCIENCE, CRAFT, AND CULTURE OF CANNABIS.
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