The Missouri House voted May 10 to require state regulators to disclose the ownership records associated with the state’s licensed medical cannabis businesses, according to the News Tribune.
The state has thus far withheld this information from the public due a provision included in the medical cannabis legalization measure that voters approved in 2018, the news outlet reported. That language states that regulators must “maintain the confidentiality of reports or other information obtained from an applicant or licensee containing any individualized data, information, or records related to the licensee or its operation,” according to the News Tribune.
Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, added an amendment to a local government bill that was approved by the Senate earlier this year to require regulators to disclose the medical cannabis ownership records, the news outlet reported.
Lawmakers approved the amendment in a 128-6 vote, according to the News Tribune, and now that the full House has passed the underlying bill, it heads back to the Senate for final approval.
Legislators on both sides of the aisle argued at Tuesday’s hearing that the Missouri Department of Senior Health and Services’ (DSHS) decision to keep the medical cannabis ownership records confidential has created issues in overseeing the program.
An investigation was launched in 2020 into the roll out of Missouri’s medical cannabis program amid allegations of irregularities and conflict of interest in the licensing process.
And, lawmakers argued Tuesday, these issues will only be exacerbated if the state legalizes adult-use cannabis.
While a legislative push for adult-use legalization appears to have stalled in the House this year, activists from Legal Missouri 2022 have submitted twice the number of signatures required to place the group’s adult-use legalization measure before voters in November.
Provisions in the proposed ballot measure would give Missouri’s licensed medical cannabis operators the first batch of adult-use licenses.
“If we have a situation where all of the entities that got licenses under this existing [medical] program have an advantage in a bigger market, we have to continue doing real oversight to make sure that they were operating properly under the existing constitutional guidelines,” Merideth said Tuesday, according to the News Tribune.
The Missouri House attempted to add a similar amendment to legislation last year that would have forced regulators to release the medical cannabis ownership records to the public, the news outlet reported, but the amendment was ultimately removed after Gov. Mike Parson threatened to veto the bill.
The Senate must now act on the legislation before Missouri’s legislative session ends May 13 at 6 p.m., the News Tribune reported.