Foster parents in Missouri can now legally possess and grow marijuana in their homes under an emergency rule filed last week by the state Department of Social Services. Consuming cannabis in a manner that emits smoke or vapor, however, is still not allowed inside the house.
Missouri voters in November 2022 passed a ballot initiative, Amendment 3, to legalize and regulate marijuana for adults 21 and older, allowing the purchase and possession of up to three ounces of cannabis and, after registering, the growth of up to six mature plants for personal use. But until Monday, the foster parents of roughly 14,000 children in the state were prohibited from exercising those rights.
The changes to the state rule addressing “physical and environmental standards” for foster care in Missouri were adopted on an emergency basis because the existing policy was in conflict with the voter-approved constitutional amendment, according to a statement attached to the rule’s text.
“Rule 13 CSR 35-60.040 presently provides that foster parents shall not use or possess marijuana or marijuana-infused products,” it says. “A regulation that conflicts with the Missouri Constitution is invalid.”
As an emergency rule, the change is set to expire February 23 of next year.
Foster parents must store marijuana products in a way “so as to be inaccessible to the children,” the rule says, similar to how items such as matches, medication or alcohol must be stored. Further, those who choose to grow their own cannabis must do so “in an enclosed, locked facility” as defined by law.
Social Services spokesperson Caitlin Whaley told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the new rule is intended to safeguard foster children.
“This is to protect the foster child from the hazards of second-hand smoke,” she said. “Foster parents may smoke marijuana and tobacco outside the premises but not in a vehicle while transporting a foster child and not in the presence of a foster child.”
Researchers in a University of Mississippi study published last year found that marijuana legalization led to at least a 10 percent decline in foster care admissions.
Meanwhile in Missouri, State Auditor Scott Fitzpatrick (R) has begun an investigation into the state’s marijuana program. He’s vowed to assess whether regulators are operating “in a manner that is efficient, accountable and transparent,” asserting that cannabis provisions “now make up more than one-fifth of the language in our state constitution.”