Cannabis Becomes Legal for Missouri Foster Parents

Stephen Andrews
11 Sep 2023

Missouri legalized cannabis after voting on the ballot last year. With Amendment 3, Missourians can freely purchase and possess up to three ounces of weed. Home-growing up to six mature marijuana plants for personal use is also legal. However, the bill did not permit foster parents of about 14,000 children to participate in legal cannabis. Now that has been corrected.

A new provision in the law has enabled Missouri foster parents to be able to legally possess and grow cannabis at their homes. The legal change resulted from an emergency rule motioned by the state Department of Social Services. 

Normally, there are rules on how foster parents can keep and use cannabis at home. For example, cannabis must be stored in a manner that is “inaccessible to the children.” Consumption in the presence of infants and minors is against the law, as well as releasing smoke or vapor inside the home. If a foster parent chooses to homegrow, that must take place “in an enclosed, locked facility” in alignment with law. This legal provision is important because it now includes thousands of foster parents in legal cannabis, previously overlooked.  

Missouri adopted the change to its legislation in order to address “physical and environmental standards” for foster care on an emergency basis as the current guidelines conflict with the approved constitutional amendment, says a statement in the emergency rule text. 

“Rule 13 CSR 35-60.040 presently provides that foster parents shall not use or possess marijuana or marijuana-infused products,” the statement reads. “A regulation that conflicts with the Missouri Constitution is invalid.” 

Missouri launched its legal cannabis market in the beginning of 2023, barely three months after the November ballot vote. Legal weed has been a huge success there this far. Data shows that the state has been selling about $4 million worth of marijuana per day on average, with Missourians spending a record $121.2 million in cannabis purchases in the month of June. 

Legalization Linked to Drop in Foster Care Admissions

Overall, legalization appears to generate a positive trend related to foster care. A recent study has shown that legal cannabis is associated with an approximate 10 percent decrease in foster care admissions on average. It has identified that there are reductions in placements due to physical abuse, neglect, incarceration of parents and misuse of alcohol or other substances. 

The investigators assessed data from several different sources, comparing trends in foster care systems in both legal and non-legal states.

“Our most conservative estimates imply that legalization causes at least a 10 percent decrease in total admissions to foster care, with larger effects in years further after legalization and for admissions into foster care due to specific child-welfare concerns,” says the study, which was carried out by researchers at the University of Mississippi. 

The study further suggests that if cannabis was legalized at the national level, hundreds of millions of dollars would be saved for the foster care system yearly. A single foster care placement costs $25,000 on average, the research points out. A nationwide legalization would “reduce the financial burden of the foster-care system by about $675 million, annually,” it says.

With the main data taken from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis Reporting System for the period between 2000 and 2017 (but also other sources), the study notes that there are insignificant differences between states before legalization. However, foster care placements gradually started going down in every state that eventually introduced cannabis reform. 

“Legalization may impact foster-care admissions directly by changing the welfare of children or indirectly by changing policies and attitudes towards marijuana use in the home,” the researchers wrote. “Direct effects may arise because marijuana use itself causes behaviors that affect child welfare, or because it changes the likelihood of using other drugs.” 

For example, as previous research has implied, permitting adults regulated access to marijuana seems to be associated with decreased alcohol use. In this regard, marijuana reform could be leading to less parental neglect or maltreatment because of alcohol abuse. 

With these insights in mind, Missouri’s decision to include foster parents in legal cannabis feels like a step in the right direction. The law, after all, should be equal for everyone and no one should be left out. Hopefully, all legal states that do not have regulation or legal protections for foster parents who use cannabis for medicinal or other reasons, will follow suit with Missouri swiftly. 

Also read on Soft Secrets:

- Missouri's Legal Market Had an Extremely Successful Start 

It's Important to Protect Minors from Exposure to Cannabis

- Are Minors Allowed to Ingest Medicinal Marijuana? 

Stephen Andrews