Recreational marijuana has come to Missouri

BVNW SROs and a dispensary owner share their perspectives on how legalized recreational marijuana will impact communities both in Missouri and Kansas.


Liz LaHood

Though still considered illegal for recreational use in the state of Kansas, the recent legalization of marijuana in Missouri may cause issue for suburbs of Kansas City, on both sides of the border.

Thomas Rose, Writer

When School Resource Officer (SRO) Jonathan Batley came to Blue Valley Northwest three years ago, drugs making their way into the school was not an unfamiliar occurrence. 

”We usually have several marijuana arrests here at the school every year,” Batley said.

Now, marijuana, a federally illegal substance, is fully legal in terms of recreational use in Missouri, a state whose border lies about six miles from Blue Valley Northwest. While the legalization was voted on in Nov. 2022, the licenses for vendors just became valid on Feb. 3, allowing sales to start.

Rob Sullivan, professional lawyer and owner of marijuana dispensaries in Kansas City and Lee’s Summit, said the legalization has positively impacted his business. 

“We got offered a lot of money for these two stores, which seemed like a lot with all the buyouts, but now that I’ve seen the economics of [recreational] use, we’ll make more than that in the first year,” Sullivan said. 

Sullivan also said the legalization has been successful in helping dispensary owners across the state keep their businesses profitable. 

“The idea was to survive until [recreational use], because medical marijuana is not that worth it,” Sullivan said. “There’s a finite number of patients; when there’s 225 dispensaries, and 225,000 patients, it just doesn’t work.” 

Batley said there has not been a noticeable uptick in marijuana use at BVNW since Missouri’s legalization.  

“I would say the biggest change that we saw was with the type of marijuana – the vaping devices really increased once it became legalized in Colorado,” Batley said. 

While the amount of arrests has kept steady, Batley said marijuana use may be higher because of these vaping devices. 

“You still get the odor of marijuana that comes through the vape, but it doesn’t stick around as long as the smoke of a joint or bong.”

When it comes to laws surrounding marijuana use in Kansas, Batley explained the basics. 

“It’s still completely illegal here in Kansas; no matter how old you are, you cannot possess it,” Batley said.

On the other hand, Kansans are technically allowed to purchase marijuana if they go to Missouri, according to Sullivan. He explained that residents of all states have to abide by some basic rules. 

“For [recreational] use, you got to be 21 or over, and you have to have a non-expired government ID,” Sullivan said. “So if you’re gonna go to a dispensary, you can’t come with an expired one, even if you can drive with it for a certain amount of time after expiring.” 

Sullivan also explained that dispensaries have certain rules surrounding payment methods due to the substance’s federal position. 

“We can only take cash, or an ATM card. We cannot take credit cards, because marijuana is still federally illegal, which means the federal government considers me a drug dealer,” Sullivan said. “Therefore, if I use a credit card, that’s a wire transaction, which is considered federal, and if you use wire transactions to deal drugs that’s considered wire fraud.”

Sullivan said that medical use of marijuana, which is also available to Kansas residents and requires a doctor’s approval, has more relaxed limits than recreational use. 

“Medically, you can be any age, with parental consent. There are a couple of 14-year-olds, they come in with their mother, their mother has to buy it and hang onto it; they give it to them when they want,” Sullivan said. “These kids legitimately do have some anxiety issues – it’s probably good for them.”

However, as Batley stated earlier, marijuana is illegal in Kansas completely, no matter where it has been obtained. Batley explained that students caught with marijuana at school will likely face legal action. 

“Possession of marijuana, if it’s in an amount for personal use… it’s going to be a misdemeanor charge,” Batley said. “Most of the time, you’ll get a ticket, like a notice to appear, and you’ll go through the Johnson County District Court to handle that charge.”

When it comes to disciplinary action from the school, Batley said that punishments typically consist of around five days of suspension, with an option to take a cessation class to lessen the punishment. Northwest SRO Cameron McClain also explained that multiple charges of possession of marijuana could escalate into a felony. He added that students who participate in school sports can expect their seasons to be affected as well. 

“You’ll miss about 30 percent of the season – depending on where you are, it could end your season, or you could miss tryouts,” McClain said. 

While Batley admitted there could be some positive impacts for Missourians, mainly increased tax revenue, McClain said that the legalization has complicated their jobs. 

“It’s almost been more [of a] conflict for us, because we are so close to Missouri that the people here are like, ‘Well, this is legal 20 miles that way.’ We’re still required to enforce the laws of this state; I get that it’s legal there, but we’re not there,” McClain said.

Batley added that because of the bistate nature of Kansas City, there has been some confusion as to where marijuana is allowed, further complicating matters. 

“Since parts of Overland Park do touch the state line, you can easily cross and not realize you’re in the state of Kansas and get pulled over… so we deal with a little frustration,” Batley said.

All in all, Batley and McClain said they do not think the new rules will overall positively impact Kansans. 

“In the end, it’s still illegal. While I guess it’s possible people may be getting a safer product, from a dispensary rather than just some guy on the street, I don’t know if there’s a way for me to really say that for sure,” Batley said.

Sullivan, on the other hand, said the legalization will help Kansans who use the substance medicinally, and that the positive effects for Missourians are numerous.

“It expunged records for marijuana [offenders]. They were non-violent; they shouldn’t have been in prison anyway,” Sullivan said. 

In addition to this, Sullivan says the legalization has also generated a lot of tax revenue for the state of Missouri and has created over 1200 jobs.

All in all, the legalization of marijuana is and will continue to be controversial. However, the positive effects for Missourians are hard to deny, according to Sullivan, who says dispensaries will eventually be a billion dollar industry for Missouri..