A New Year Brings New Laws to Missouri
Feb 17, 2017
It’s still a new year, and along with resolutions to lose weight, exercise more and function in 2017 on the right foot, Missouri passed several new laws.
Effective January 1, possessing a small amount of marijuana carries lower penalties and citizens can now carry a weapon without a permit in some jurisdictions. To get a better understanding of these laws and what they mean for Buckner, The Buckner Clarion spoke with Chief of Police, Mike Buffalow. He has been with the Buckner Police Department since 2015, and worked for the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office for more than 40 years.
Marijuana is illegal in Missouri, but penalties are less severe
Missouri has moved to decriminalize marijuana by eliminating jail time for first-time offenders possessing less than 10 grams of the substance. Previously, one could face up to a year in jail for having 35 grams of marijuana or less. In addition, it's now a misdemeanor, not a felony, for possessing this amount.
Despite lower penalties, possession is still illegal and subject to fines. According to the Chief, “In Buckner, possession of any amount of marijuana – be it a bag or a cigarette – is a violation of our city ordinances. Typically, we don’t take small amounts to the state, so this doesn’t really change anything for us. It’s not a significant issue in our community.”
Anyone caught with marijuana in the City of Buckner is sent to City Court. From there, a judge determines the appropriate penalty for each case.
Across the U.S., several states have legalized marijuana for recreational and/or medicinal use. The new laws in Missouri reflect that trend, placing emphasis on larger drug possessions and moving away from criminalizing personal use.
Increased drug use, alone or combined with alcohol, is a concern for public safety on the road. Anyone who drives under the influence of alcohol, marijuana or other drugs, puts themselves and others at risk.
“Someone using marijuana is just as dangerous as someone who is driving drunk. With the technology we have today, it’s more time consuming and more expensive to evaluate the impairment of drivers under the influence of marijuana. If you are drunk, we can do a field sobriety test with a Breathalyzer. When marijuana is involved, we have to do a blood test at a local hospital,” Buffalow said. “Fortunately, there are improvements coming that will enable us to make a quicker determination in these situations in the future.”
Laws allowing concealed carry without a permit do not apply to Buckner
The other law that became effective in January is the ability to carry a concealed firearm without a permit, unless prohibited by local ordinance. Buckner has such an ordinance, which means open or concealed carry is illegal within the City unless you have a permit. Chief Buffalow stated, “In the City of Buckner, you can only carry a weapon if you have a Carry Concealed Weapon, or CCW permit.”
“It is a right – protected by the Second Amendment to the Constitution – to bear arms in this country, and I have no problem with gun ownership. On the other hand, I strongly recommend you receive training if you purchase a gun.”
According to Chief Buffalow, the CCW permit required by the City of Buckner requires completion of eight hours of training. The training instructs owners how to safely use a firearm and when it is legal to do so. “It would be like purchasing an airplane and flying it without any training,” he said. “If you buy a gun, you need to know how to operate it. Training makes you and those around you safer.”
Missouri’s new concealed carry law does not require this type of training. Of course, anywhere “no firearms” is posted, weapons of any kind cannot be brought onto the premises. This restriction also applies to schools, courtrooms, jails, police stations, sports stadiums, the airport and hospitals.
Missouri gun laws in the state of Missouri are complicated, but several things remain the same. You must be at least 19 years of age to purchase a gun, or 18 if you or your spouse is a member of the U.S. Armed Forces. You must be a citizen or permanent resident of the United States, and prior criminal offenses may restrict ownership.
If ever stopped by a police officer for a routine traffic stop or something more serious, Chief Buffalow offers some good advice. “Keep in mind, when we approach someone, we don’t know who they are or what their purpose is. If you are stopped while driving, please keep your hands in plain view on the steering wheel. Don’t reach into your console or under the seat of your car for your wallet or paperwork without asking the officer if it’s okay to proceed. And finally, if you have a firearm tell us that, including whether you have a permit. This lets us know whether you have had training.”
While gun ownership is legal, Chief Buffalow acknowledges guns are a leading cause of violence, including suicide. If you have a gun in the home, keep it locked and out of reach of children. If you know someone who is in crisis, the Buckner Police Department has the resources to assist individuals with medical or mental health services if needed. In an emergency, residents should call 911.