Marijuana arrests in state parks drop after policy changes

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Marijuana arrests in Missouri state parks dropped nearly 60% last year after changes in enforcement policies prompted by the legalization of medical marijuana.

The Department of Natural Resources said 51 people were arrested in 2020 for possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana/synthetics in state parks, a decline from 120 similar arrests in 2019. 

The department changed its enforcement policies in April 2020 after the Missouri voters approved legalizing medical marijuana in 2018.

People who have cards certifying that they are medical marijuana patients are allowed to use the drug in private settings at state parks. Consuming marijuana in public settings, such as around campfires, is still prohibited, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. 

The DNR policy gives rangers discretion in enforcement, and says they should emphasize education over enforcement for medical marijuana consumed in public places in parks or historic sites. 

The Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association said more than 100,000 people have signed up as medical marijuana patients since the start of the program.

And more dispensaries are coming online. As of last Friday, 106 dispensaries had been approved to operate, up from 17 dispensaries in December.