Missouri House Committee Discusses Bill to Mirror Illinois’ Open-Container Law for Marijuana in Vehicles

A Missouri House committee recently discussed a bill introduced by Rep. Kent Haden, R-Mexico, that would require all marijuana products in vehicles to be kept in odor-proof and child-proof containers. The bill is meant to mirror Illinois’ open-container law for marijuana.

According to Haden, the idea for the legislation came from local sheriffs who expressed frustration about enforcing the driving while intoxicated provisions under the 38-page constitutional amendment, which appeared on the November ballot as Amendment 3 and was approved by voters.

Under Amendment 3, people cannot consume marijuana while driving a vehicle or while riding in a vehicle. However, officers cannot use the smell of marijuana as the “basis for detention, search or arrest.”

While several members of the committee expressed support for the bill’s intent, some didn’t think an open-container law would get at the heart of the concerns, which are preventing both intoxicated drivers and child poisoning.

Rep. Lane Roberts, R-Joplin, who chairs the committee, expressed concern that sometimes when lawmakers don’t understand either the intent or the letter of the law, they make mistakes.

Missouri currently doesn’t have an open-container law for alcohol. It’s only a crime when someone is seen drinking while driving. Rep. Jeff Myers, R-Warrenton, who served as a Missouri Highway Patrol trooper for almost 30 years, said an open-container law for marijuana would be more complicated than alcohol because the products are packaged in a number of different ways.

Rep. Ian Mackey, D-St. Louis, said the idea of something being child-proof is vague. He pointed out that when people buy marijuana, it isn’t given to them in a childproof container, so the requirement to transfer it to another container would be asking a lot.

MoCann Trade’s lobbyist, Tom Robbins, and two Missourians testified against the bill. Robbins said they do not endorse impaired driving in any way, shape or form. However, there are some problems in terms of the application of the law. The Illinois program is statutory, while Missouri’s is constitutional, and that sets up different standards for review.

One man, Kevin Hurdle, testified that he’s worried that the legislators are attempting to walk back Amendment 3. He said, “First, it starts off as a misdemeanor. Then it’s probably going to get more strict. I’m just looking at this as kind of an encroachment, where maybe one day they can come back and make marijuana illegal again.”

Rep. Bill Allen, R-Kansas City, doesn’t think Hurdle would be alone in that fear. He said voters “made their choice,” and they would see this as legislators trying to usurp that decision. Allen suggested giving it some time and, if it appears to be a problem, coming up with a mutable solution.

The bill proposed by Rep. Kent Haden, R-Mexico, which would require all marijuana products in vehicles to be kept in odor-proof and child-proof containers, is a topic of discussion among the Missouri House committee. While some members of the committee support the bill’s intent, others are concerned that it could lead to more problems in the future. It remains to be seen whether the bill will pass or not. (Source)

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