A trio of top officials overseeing the fledgling medical cannabis program in Missouri have been subject to questioning by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The Kansas City Star reported Wednesday that the three officials, all members of Republican Gov. Mike Parson’s administration, described the interviews, which took place over the last several months, as “not investigative in nature,” but rather “routine meet-and-greets the FBI requested to get to know the people in charge of the new — and potentially lucrative — industry.”
Missouri voters approved Amendment 2 last November to legalize medical marijuana by a massive 66%-34% margin, joining more than 30 other states that have legalized the treatment. Under the new law, physicians can prescribe cannabis to patients suffering from 10 different medical conditions, which include cancer, epilepsy and glaucoma, among other debilitating illnesses. Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) began accepting applications for such prescriptions late last month. Qualifying patients will receive an identification card, which will enable them to purchase up to four ounces of marijuana per month.
Although the interviews between the FBI and the Missouri officials were routine in nature, they do underscore the unique status of marijuana in the country. While cannabis remains illegal on the federal level, a raft of states and cities continue to implement measures allowing for recreational or medicinal use, if not both.
Lyndall Fraker, who was appointed by Parsons to oversee the program earlier this year, told the Kansas City Star that it was a “a very friendly, casual conversation” with the FBI that didn’t delve much into specifics.
“Just (to) get to know each other and who they were going to be working with potentially down the road in this new industry that’s now legal that’s been illegal, and still part of it is illegal,” Fraker said.
Fraker was interviewed alongside Randall Williams, the director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, who said that the FBI agents told them that medical marijuana programs “can involve large sums of money, and when there are large sums of money we tend to pay attention.”
Williams added that the FBI seemed receptive to Missouri’s vetting process, which will ensure that the third-party company reviewing applications won’t see the names of applicants, a process designed to prevent corruption.
“I think that gave them great comfort, as it does us,” Williams told the Kansas City Star. “I don’t want to speak for them, but I think that was reassuring.”
Pot remains illegal in Missouri, though the state legislature approved a bill in 2014 to decriminalize marijuana possession. The bill, which became law after former Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon allowed it to take effect without his signature, eliminates the possibility of incarceration for those busted with up to 10 grams. The measure also relaxed penalties for sale and cultivation of marijuana.