Edit: On November 8, 2022, Missouri voters approved Amendment 3, legalizing recreational marijuana. This new law obviously negates much of what is written below. For information on how Amendment 3 changes the law, please take a look HERE. For a warning about how regular users are in danger of being arrested for DWI, see HERE. I will keep the post below as an informational piece about Missouri law before the change.
Missouri has medical marijuana, and over 100,000 residents have cards. This blog post is not for them. I want to explain, from my perspective as a St. Louis area criminal defense lawyer, the ramifications of illegally possessing different forms of “marijuana” and why having edibles is a bad idea.
Possession of marijuana is covered under RSMo 579.015. If you have no prior controlled substances convictions, possession of 10 grams or less is a class D misdemeanor, punishable only by a fine. If you have priors, it is a class A misdemeanor with up to a year in jail. Possession of between 10 and 35 grams is also a class A misdemeanor. Possession of over 35 grams is a class D felony and can be punished by up to 7 years in prison.
Some of the larger municipalities, including St. Louis city and county, Kansas City, and Columbia, have passed legislation that decriminalizes some marijuana possession to a certain extent. St. Louis has gone so far as to refuse to prosecute for possession of under 100 grams as long as there is no intent to distribute or weapons involved. They also do not automatically charge edibles as a felony.
Edibles Are Automatically a Felony in Some Jurisdictions
Edibles with THC are not specifically mentioned in RSMo 579.015 or the ordinances. The statutory definition, at 195.010 (24), includes “every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the plant, its seeds, or resin.” To my mind, that should include gummies, which are clearly a compound, manufacture, or preparation. Some of the larger jurisdictions agree with me. Many counties, however, are still charging any amount of edibles as a felony.
The way they justify this is by claiming that THC, the active compound in marijuana, is listed in the controlled substances schedule as a substance with the highest potential for abuse and no accepted medical use. It is, therefore, a controlled substance like cocaine or heroin that is charged as a felony for possession of any amount. All this despite the fact that Missouri has a medical marijuana law and marijuana itself contains THC but is clearly treated differently in the statutes.
Edibles vs. Flower, Gram for Gram
So, some jurisdictions charge having even a small amount of gummies as a felony. Even if they treat gummies as a marijuana product and charge based on weight, they can still be a bad idea. Per the statute, having more than 35 grams of marijuana is a felony. This includes any mixture that contains marijuana. 35 grams of flower is a fair amount, enough to make up to 100 decent size smokes. 35 grams of gummies is not very much; each piece usually weighs about 5 grams. Given that, in a very broad sense, each gummy is supposed to be the equivalent of an average size joint, you don't even get 10% of the punch from a felony weight of gummies as compared to the plant form.
Weed-to-gummy equivalence is a complex issue, and people have a lot of different opinions. Edible THC certainly has a delayed and prolonged effect, and many say the high has a different quality. This is because, with edibles, the liver metabolizes the THC into a form that crosses the blood-brain barrier more easily. The easiest way to compare apples to apples, from a legal standpoint, is by using MMEs. These are Missouri Marijuana Equivalency Units, established by the Department of Health and Senior Services to determine how much marijuana a person can buy in different forms under the medical marijuana laws.
According to this standard, 3.5 grams of marijuana and 100mg of THC-infused product are each equal to 1 MME. Gummies usually have 10 mg each, and a joint usually contains between .3 to .5 grams of weed, so we see that one MME is roughly equivalent to around 10 doses, whether it is gummies or weed. One MME of weed at 3.5 grams is well under the 10-gram limit for a class D misdemeanor. One MME of gummies will weigh around 45 to 50 grams, easily a felony.
Under Either Standard, Edibles Are an Easy Felony
Unless you are in one of the large jurisdictions that do not aggressively pursue marijuana charges, THC-infused gummies are a dangerous way to get high. In some places, one gummy, the rough equivalent of a single joint, can be enough to get you a felony. In others, it takes a little more, but still much less than the equivalent if it was in flower form. Either way, it is a discrepancy that not a lot of people are aware of and one that can cause serious consequences.
If you find yourself in a bad situation because of marijuana edibles, it is important to hire a lawyer who knows how to fight these charges. St. Charles-based defense attorney Ruth Beerup has over 25 years of experience defending clients. Call her at 636-940-1111 to see if she can help you with your case.