JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri Senate passed a ban on synthetic marijuana without the House provision that makes possession of any amount a felony.
The House amended the ban in early March to make any K-2 possession charge a Class C felony, but the Senate reversed that move Wednesday by making possession of 35 and more grams of K-2 a felony. Anything less would be a misdemeanor.
This would make the treatment of K-2 the same as marijuana.
"What I'm hearing from businesses who have employees -- some those employees work at schools, they operate heavy machinery -- who are going out at lunch, getting stoned on this stuff and coming back in and saying, 'Yeah, bought some K-2 at the gas station, smoked it,'" said the sponsor of the Senate version, Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia.
The disagreement among senators wasn't over the ban.
"If I were to speak directly to the youth ... I would tell them No. 1 stay off K-2. It will kill you. That's what I would say," Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Jackson County, said, in a joking conversation with Sen. Scott Rupp, R-St. Charles County. "No. 2: do not ever buy K-2 because you will get a felony if this passes and that will ruin your chances of getting an education in the future and having a meaningful job."
Some Democrats said a felony charge for any possession amount was too harsh.
"I don't think we need more felonies. I don't think we need more teenage kids running around with felonies on their records," Justus said, adding that felonies can cost otherwise hardworking people their jobs.
She said making all K-2 possession charges a felony did not make sense at a time when the state is trying to reduce the number of non-violent offenders in prisons.
Schaefer disagreed, comparing K-2 more to methamphetamines instead of marijuana because K-2 is a chemically synthesized drug.
The Senate passed the overall bill 32-0 as well as an emergency clause, which would cause the bill to go into immediate effect after receiving the governor's signature.
The revised bill needs House approval, or a compromise needs to be reached on the differences in a conference committee.
Missouri Digital News is produced by Missouri Digital News, Inc. -- a non profit organization of current and former journalists.