Citizens or lawmakers enacted medical marijuana programs in Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska long before voters legalized the plant for adult use. Many prominent targets for legalization in the next election cycle, such as California, Nevada, Arizona, Maine and Vermont, also allow medical marijuana.
In a move that may be seen more often in coming years, pro-pot advocates in Missouri want to skip the medical marijuana phase and go straight to legalization. (Editor’s note: Missouri passed a medical marijuana law in 2014, but it is limited to CBD and only for intractable epilepsy.)
Show-Me Cannabis, a Missouri marijuana activist group, filed the petition last week to put a legalization initiative on the 2016 ballot. To earn a place on the ballot, Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander has to provide his approval, then petition backers can launch a drive to collect 165,000 signatures from registered voters. The group’s director thinks they can do it and he’s not alone.
“We still have a long road ahead of us,” says Show-Me Cannabis Executive Director John Payne. “But we can feel the wind at our backs.”
Other marijuana advocacy groups, a newly-elected state representative and the editorial board of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch agree that the time is right for Missouri legalization.
Trish Bertrand serves as president for the Springfield, Mo. chapter of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). She hasn’t forgotten that legalization attempts in 2012 and 2014 failed to gather enough signatures, but she thinks 2016 will be different.
“I really think it will pass here,” Bertrand said.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch Editorial Board published an article on November 13 making its case for legalization. The newspaper pointed to civil rights issues as a significant factor. They reference a 2013 ACLU report showing that blacks are almost four times more likely to be arrested than whites for marijuana in Missouri. The numbers get worse when you look at St. Louis.
“The disparity in the city of St. Louis in that study was a whopping 18 to 1,” according to the editorial.
Missouri Representative-elect Shamed Dogan attended the Fall Cannabis Reform Conference on Saturday. Show-Me Cannabis organized the event in downtown St. Louis and Dogan explained his thinking on the issue.
“It is a state versus federal thing,” Dogan said. He argues that just because marijuana is prohibited by federal law doesn’t mean Missouri can’t have its own laws.
Will a full legalization proposal make it onto Missouri’s 2016 ballot? Only time will tell.