MARIJUANA

The big news in the state this Friday is the sale of recreational marijuana. The Department of Health and Senior Services Division of Cannabis released Thursday evening, the department would start approving comprehensive licenses Friday. Only medical marijuana dispensaries could apply for these licenses, which would allow them to sell both recreational and medical cannabis. Voters approved Amendment 3 back in November, making Missouri the 21st state to legalize marijuana for those 21 and older. Missourians of age will be allowed to buy up to 3 ounces of cannabis at a time. While medical marijuana will continue to be taxed at 4%, recreational will have a state tax of 6% and then local municipalities can add on addition 3% if approved by voters. 

INITIATIVE PETITION REFORM 

How Missouri voters approved recreational marijuana is through the initiative petition process. This week, the first bill the House passed this session would make it harder for voters to amend the state’s constitution. The legislation increases the threshold of votes needed to 60% for a referendum to pass. Currently, it’s a simple majority, meaning more votes for than against. The measure now heads to the Senate, but even if it passes the General Assembly, voters would have the final say. Debate in the lower chamber lasted nearly three hours Wednesday, most of the time focused on the ballot language voters would see if approved by lawmakers. 

EDUCATION REFORM 

While the House debated on of Republicans’ top priorities, across the building in the Senate, members worked on education reform. The bill would create a Parents’ Bill of rights and a transparency portal where districts would have to post their curriculum for parents to see. This legislation would also ban educators from teaching critical race theory, but the bill doesn’t specifically define what that is. Instead, it says educators would be restricted from discussing “individuals of any race, ethnicity, color, or national origin are inherently superior or inferior.”

PROSECUTOR BILL

Representatives zeroed in on the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office Monday, where thousands of cases have yet to be prosecuted. The legislation up for discussion is to decide when the governor should be allowed to appoint a special prosecutor. Originally, the bill heard in a House Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee targeted the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office. During executive session of the committee Thursday, members amended the legislation to say to say the governor can appoint a special prosecutor if a municipality has 35 homicide cases in the last 12 months for every 100,000 people. The legislation also originally made it illegal for someone under 18 to carry a firearm in public without adult supervision, but the committee stripped that provision during committee. 

UNCERTIFIED TEACHERS

There are more than 3,000 inappropriately certified teachers in classroom across Missouri and the state’s education department says it all goes back to the teacher shortage crisis. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) said inappropriately certified means an educator that is teaching in a content area that he or she doesn’t have the appropriate certificate for. It’s been an ongoing struggle for years now in the education system, a lack of teachers. Katnik said DESE was watching the number of educators fall before COVID, but the pandemic expedited the problem. According to the Teacher Workforce Report, the content areas with the highest number of inappropriately certified teachers are in elementary education, followed by special education.