Springfield City Council recently approved new limits on recreational marijuana. Here’s what to know.
Three days before the 4/20 cannabis holiday, all nine members of Springfield City Council voted to approve a new ordinance governing recreational marijuana. This comes after Missouri voters legalized the plant in a statewide election last November. Here's what cannabis-users — and the rest of us — should know about Springfield’s new law.
The Missouri move came four years after 65 percent of state voters approved a medical marijuana amendment.
Newly revised, Article 14 of the Missouri Constitution enshrines both medical and recreational marijuana. In doing so, Missouri has altered its permanent basic law in defiance of the U.S. government’s prohibition of marijuana.
The state constitution now allows local governments across Missouri to impose regulations on recreational marijuana. Here’s what to know about the new rules in Springfield — especially if you use cannabis.
To help inform this report, KSMU read the city ordinance line by line, then interviewed Springfield-based lawyer Chip Sheppard. He’s part of the group of people who wrote the Missouri constitutional amendments for both medical and recreational marijuana.
Everyone on Springfield City Council voted for the new rules
The vote for Springfield’s new recreational marijuana ordinance was unanimous among the nine City Council members at their April 17 meeting.
In the weeks before the vote, council held a study session on marijuana and a special committee of the whole meeting before they passed their ordinance. Few members of the public attended those meetings.
General Seat B Councilman Craig Hosmer has been a vocal critic of recreational marijuana.
Shortly before voting to pass the new city ordinance, he said, "Medical marijuana has been a big issue, but recreational marijuana is going to be a big public safety issue, I believe, it’s going to be a big problem with the motoring public. The states that we’ve looked at have had more fatalities involving recreational marijuana, there’s been more criminal conduct. And so it’s something I think we’ve got to be careful with and make sure we don’t put law enforcement in a bind.”
Is your home close to a ‘public place’ like a sidewalk? The ordinance could affect cannabis use indoors
The new ordinance bans cannabis consumption in public within Springfield city limits. It also bans consuming weed “in such a manner that marijuana smoke or odor exits a residence or nonpublic place where consumption of marijuana is otherwise lawful.”
Sheppard, the cannabis attorney, questioned how enforceable that provision would be — and whether it’s constitutional.
“For them to try to say that you can't let the odor escape your property, I don't think that that is legally enforceable,” he told KSMU. “There's nothing in the Constitution that allows the locality to regulate the smell other than odor mitigation. And the mitigation is with regards to a (business) licensee such as a cultivator, manufacturer, dispensary. They're supposed to mitigate, which means limit reasonably any odor that would escape the property.”
Some observers have worried that Springfield’s marijuana ordinance defines the concept of “public place” in a very broad way. It defines “public place” as “any place to which the public or a substantial number of the public have access.”
The new ordinance says that definition “includes, but is not limited to streets and highways, sidewalks, transportation facilities, places of amusement, parks, park properties, playgrounds, parking lots, and the common areas of public and private buildings and facilities.”
Common areas of apartment buildings and other multifamily dwelling-places are also considered “public places” where consumption isn’t allowed.
The ordinance also bans consuming marijuana in any vehicle parked in a public place.
The fine for violation is $100, with a community service option.
Are you old enough to drink alcohol? Then you’re old enough for marijuana in Springfield
Springfield’s new ordinance says people 21 and older may possess marijuana. But weed is forbidden for people younger than 21 — unless you have a lawful medical marijuana card issued by the state of Missouri. With parent permission, even minors can be approved for medical cards in certain circumstances, according to Article 14.
If you break Springfield’s possession rule, the consequence is a noncriminal civil penalty including a fine of $100 and forfeiting the marijuana. If the unlawful possession includes more than 3 ounces, the fine increases to $250. To avoid paying a fine, drug counseling and community service may be options.
"21 is the drinking age,” Sheppard, the cannabis attorney, told KMSU. “(…)To make sure that this passed, we thought we would be smart to put the age limit at 21. There's nothing that keeps the (Missouri) legislature from reducing that. (…) You can serve your country at 18 and potentially die for your country at 18. So maybe at some point in the future, they would think that that should be lowered to 18. But right now, it's 21.”
In Springfield, it’s also unlawful to deliver or distribute marijuana to people younger than 21, regardless of whether payment is involved. But under-21s who have a legal medical card can use Missouri's system of dispensaries and caregivers to obtain marijuana.
Don’t take marijuana to school or a correctional facility
Springfield’s new ordinance does not allow marijuana possession or consumption at schools, from preschool all the way through the higher education level, or at or any correctional facility like the Greene County Jail.
The city ordinance says medical patients with state approval are exempt from this rule.
That said, institutions may have their rules that prioritize federal law on marijuana, regardless of any cannabis reforms approved by Missouri voters or Springfield City Council. And according to Uncle Sam, marijuana is an illegal controlled substance, just like heroin and meth.
Missouri State University offers one example. A few weeks after voters approved recreational marijuana, Missouri State announced that “use, possession, or distribution of marijuana on campus is strictly prohibited.” University officials said because MSU receives federal taxpayer money, it must comply with the Drug-Free Schools and Community Act and the Drug-Free Workplace Act.
Reforming those laws to legalize marijuana would require action by the U.S. Congress and the president.
Will Springfield get ‘consumption lounge’ businesses in the near future?
Marijuana consumption lounges, also known as cannabis cafes, have been around in Missouri since 2019, when a private, members-only lounge opened in St. Louis. Other lounges already do business in Missouri’s biggest metro. Over in Kansas City, plans for an entertainment district with marijuana-smoking areas and a 420 Fest were announced last year.
With its prohibitions on public consumption, Springfield’s new marijuana ordinance doesn’t allow for a public weed consumption business in the Queen City, said Sheppard, the cannabis attorney.
“This ordinance does not allow that,” Sheppard told KSMU. “But I think that this ordinance doesn't stop someone from asking for a tweak to the ordinance after somebody (...) wants to do a consumption-type lounge or some sort of an event where consumption occurs.”
Sheppard said that characterizing a “consumption lounge” as a private setting might work under the new city law, but it’s yet to be determined.
He said, “I think that you would have to make it a private event. And so the question becomes, how are you going to, you know, how are you going to do that? What's the interpretation of ‘public’ versus ‘private’? I think Oklahoma did that, you know, decades ago with alcohol, where they had private clubs, you paid $5, you gave them a little bit of information, you answered a few questions, and you became a club member. So things like that may be necessary for people to actually have a consumption lounge, or to have some sort of a festival like a 4/20 festival, anything like that, where they want to consume.”
This could be tested soon in Springfield. In the days immediately following the passage of Council’s new ordinance, one Springfield concert promoter talked up a music show on social media for including a “dab bar that will be a separate room for vip only.” (Dabs are a form of concentrated cannabis vaporized for consumption.) Meanwhile, a local gourmet chef began advertising a pop-up dinner with several courses of cannabis-infused cuisine.
Is your car running? Don’t use marijuana inside
Under the new rules, nobody is allowed to consume marijuana in any form while operating a motor vehicle in Springfield. While the vehicle is “being operated,” even passengers may not smoke marijuana.
Council decriminalized items like weed pipes and roach clips
Springfield city code now states that illegal “‘drug paraphernalia’ shall not include any ‘marijuana accessories’ as defined” in the recreational marijuana amendment of the Missouri Constitution.
But nobody 21 and younger can possess “marijuana accessories” unless they’re a legal medical patient, and violations can be punished with a $100 fine, drug education or community service.
Nobody can possess “marijuana accessories” at a school or correctional facility, and the ordinance as written doesn’t state an exception for lawful medical cardholders.
Here’s what to know about Springfield's 3-ounce rule for possession
Under Springfield’s new rules it’s not legal to possess more than 3 ounces of weed, unless you have the proper medical marijuana approvals from the Missouri Division of Cannabis Regulation.
Under Missouri rules, qualifying patients holding a medical card may purchase up to 6 ounces of marijuana in a 30-day period, unless they have a physician approval for more than 6 ounces. People approved to homegrow marijuana may possess living cannabis plants, within state limits.
Violations of Springfield’s 3-ounce recreational weed rule can be punished with forfeiture of the marijuana and a civil penalty of up to $250 for a first offense, $500 for a second offense or $1,000 on a third offense. Again, community service may be an option, instead of straight-out paying a cash fine.
St. Louis, Kansas City and Columbia voted for new sales taxes on recreational marijuana this month. Will Springfield residents end up paying more at dispensaries?
Three of Missouri’s biggest cities voted to add a 3-percent sales tax to recreational marijuana sales in the April election. The new state constitutional amendment allows these taxes, and local governments can use the money for whatever lawful purpose they choose.
Taxation wasn’t addressed by Springfield’s latest marijuana ordinance, but in the future, Springfield and Greene County could ask voters to add a 3-percent tax.
One area of debate is whether the taxes could “stack,” meaning that if you bought recreational weed inside Springfield, you could pay 3 percent city tax plus 3 percent county tax, if both levels of government chose to adopt a recreational weed sales tax.
Sheppard, the cannabis attorney who helped draft the medical and recreational amendments, noted that Missouri’s taxes on legal cannabis purchases are generally low, by nationwide standards.
“You're still half the tax of Illinois and less than any other state that I know of,” he said. “Because most of the states that did this early on were the more liberal (Democratic Party-run) states, and they just taxed it to the point that the black market still has a great opportunity to thrive, because they just got too greedy.”
He said that the 3-percent sales tax on recreational marijuana isn’t intended to be city-county “stackable.”
Sheppard explained, “The consensus of the attorneys that practice in this industry — and I've spoken as well with some municipal attorneys that represent cities and counties — is that it's not stackable. I think there is a desire on the behalf of several counties to reach into the city and grab — you know — stack those tax dollars, even though the dispensary is not located (there).”
The Missouri Cannabis Trade Association is the biggest industry group in Missouri. They sent KSMU a statement strongly opposing “stacked” sales tax for recreational weed. Spokesperson and political consultant Jack Cardetti said the recreational amendment — sometimes called "adult-use" — is “very clear” on the question.
“Municipalities can tax adult use cannabis sales inside the city limits up to 3 percent if approved by voters,” he said, “while counties can tax adult-use cannabis sales in unincorporated areas. Attempts by some Missouri counties to stack these taxes are unconstitutional and bad for cannabis customers.”