To date, Missouri’s Secretary of State has approved two initiative petitions to legalize marijuana for medical, commercial and recreational use. Each requires approximately 160,000 valid signatures.
The filing deadline for signed petitions to qualify for a place on the November 2016 election ballot is 5 p.m. on May 8, 2016.
Petition 2016-009 by Columbia, Mo. attorney Dan Viets, Chair of the Board of Show-Me Cannabis Regulation, proposes to amend the Missouri Constitution to:
- allow the production, sale, distribution, and consumption of marijuana and hemp products by persons at least 21 years old;
- permit the state to establish a tax and authorize regulations and licensing procedures;
- change criminal provisions for marijuana offenses;
- allow individuals who have certain marijuana-related offenses to apply to have the records relating to the offenses expunged; and to
- allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes.
Petition 2016-013 by Nicholas Raines, president of KC Chapter of National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) proposes to amend the Missouri Constitution to:
- legalize marijuana for personal, medical, and commercial purposes;
- release all persons who have non-violent, marijuana-related offenses from incarceration, probation, and parole, and expunge the records of their offense; and
- prohibit state funds and law enforcement from being used to enforce federal marijuana laws.
Gradual change in Missouri laws
Jeff Mizanskey spent more than twenty years of a life term in prison for three non-violent marijuana-related crimes.
Missouri’s three strikes law was repealed in 2014, and in September 2015, Mizanskey was released on parole a few months after Governor Nixon commuted his sentence.
Missouri’s current laws and penalties will undergo one relatively small change effective January 2017. Penalties reduce to a fine only for possession of up to 10 grams although it will remain classified as a misdemeanor.
Medical marijuana use is legal in twenty-three states and the District of Columbia.
In Missouri, on July 14, 2014, Governor Nixon signed HB 2238 into law allowing use of one ingredient only – cannabis oil – to treat intractable epilepsy. This “hemp extract” is defined as:
- composed of no more than three tenths percent tetrahydrocannabinol by weight;
- composed of at least five percent cannabidiol by weight; and
- contains no other psychoactive substance.
Among other restrictions, the bill requires a neurologist to certify that the patient did not respond to at least three treatment options to be eligible to use the marijuana extract.
Veteran support for legalizing medical marijuana
Tom Mundell, president of the Missouri Association of Veterans Organizations says about the petition he and another activist filed with the Missouri Secretary of State on behalf of New Approach Missouri:
Not only will it provide veterans suffering illnesses much-needed relief, but it will provide invaluable resources for our underfunded veterans’ health care programs throughout Missouri.
NORML sponsored a veterans’ conference in Houston on November 14 to discuss medical marijuana for service-related injuries, chronic pain and PTSD.
Potential changes in federal law
The Veterans Administration, however, prohibits its doctors, under VHA Directive 2011-004 from even discussing, let alone prescribing medical marijuana (cannabis).
The directive expires at the end of 2015. It could be replaced by a policy more or less compatible with the U.S. Senate-passed amendment that, if enacted, would permit doctors to prescribe medical marijuana in states where it is legal.
Pew Research Center survey in March 2015 showed 53 percent of Americans overall favor legalizing marijuana.
More Democrats than Republicans approve; by age groups, Millennials (18-34) approve at 68 percent while among those 70-87 years old only 29 percent approve.
Sixty-two percent do not approve of smoking marijuana in public, yet 57 percent have no problem with a business selling marijuana in their neighborhoods.
A new career opportunity
The October 2015 edition of Accounting Today magazine tells about a certified public accountant (CPA) in Colorado whose business serving the marijuana industry there is booming.
The relatively new accounting field has its problems and challenges but also the advantage of requiring an expertise that not too many professionals have achieved thus far.
Several organizations oppose legalizing marijuana
The political action committee, Citizens against Legalizing Marijuana (CALM), has all- volunteer outreaches in California and Ohio, but informs and encourages citizens Nationwide to oppose legalization.
CALM’s website quotes organizations including the American Psychiatric Association, the American Medical Association, and American Cancer Society to expose the dangers inherent in marijuana use. Further, the American Society of Addiction Medicine states that:
Marijuana is a mood-altering drug capable of producing dependency. While popularly thought to be a fairly benign ‘drug,’ marijuana can have adverse effects on memory and learning, perception, behavior and functioning, and on pregnancy.
The International Faith Based Coalition website in its Recent News column links to the Parents Opposed to Pot website and the testimony of an epileptic who wrote that smoking marijuana made seizures worse!
That individual asks marijuana users to smoke at home, not in public places where others can be affected, even intoxicated by the second-hand fumes. (He) says:
One man’s medicine can be another man’s poison.
The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) 2015 edition of its Drugs of Abuse report includes a section on marijuana’s origin, abuses and its effects on users.
Full speed ahead
NORML’s mission is to move public opinion sufficiently to legalize the responsible use of marijuana by adults, and to serve as an advocate for consumers to assure they have access to high quality marijuana that is safe, convenient and affordable.
After securing required signatures, activist organizations like NORML will concentrate on ad campaigns. Ads will target new voters among Millennials, in particular at universities like MU where NORML has an active chapter.