Petition Circulates To Legalize Marijuana In Missouri

Amendment to state constitution targets November 2012  ballot

November 30, 2011

A petition now  circulating in Missouri would place a constitutional amendment on the November  2012 ballot to legalize marijuana for those 21 or older.

The “Show-Me  Cannabis Initiative” calls for a sweeping repeal of criminal prohibitions  against marijuana in Missouri.

The measure would regulate cannabis in  many of the same ways the state now regulates alcohol. Marijuana would be legal  and could be sold by licensed vendors or grown at home for personal use. Medical  cannabis would be made available to those with a physician’s recommendation,  including those under 21 with parental consent and physician supervision. Retail  sales would be taxed by the state (up to $100 per pound).

The petition,  approved Nov. 7 for circulation by Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, goes  further in requiring the release of those incarcerated on non-violent,  cannabis-only offenses, and would expunge all records related to such  offenses.

The measure would also allow for the cultivation of low-potency  (non-smokable) hemp, allowing for the return of a hemp industry that flourished  in this country up until World War II.

The petition was submitted by  Columbia attorney Dan Viets. Viets is Missouri state coordinator for the  National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), and a long-time  advocate for drug law reform in both Missouri and on the federal  level.

“We are now closer than we’ve ever been to repealing the criminal  prohibition of marijuana,” Viets said.

Prevailing attitudes about the  legalization of marijuana are changing, and changing rather dramatically,  according to Viets. He points to a recent Gallup poll that shows, for the first  time in this country’s history, that a majority of Americans favor the  legalization of marijuana — 50 percent agreeing with legalization to 46 percent  opposed. Some of the strongest support comes from the Midwest.

Just five  years ago Gallup reported that 60 percent of U.S. citizens opposed the  legalization of marijuana, with only 36 percent in support.

“The greatest  support is still among the youngest groups, with the lowest level of support  coming from among the older folks. The simple fact of the situation is that  demographics are changing. Dramatic increases in support will continue in the  years to come,” Viets said.

Signatures on initiative petitions, about  150,000 are needed, are due to the Secretary of State’s office by May 6,  2012.

Sixteen states have already legalized marijuana for medical use,  and 14 states have decriminalized marijuana for personal use. In addition to  Missouri, five other states are at some stage of considering similar  actions.

“We are squandering massive amounts of tax money on police, and  on prosecution and prison for people who don’t need to be treated like  criminals,” Viets said.

Even if the required number of signatures are  collected, and voters approve the measure come November, a federal prohibition  against marijuana would still be in place. Viets concedes that retail marijuana  sales in Missouri could be subject to federal prosecution since the federal  government collects taxes on retail sales.

He predicts, however, that the  federal government will do little to stop marijuana reform laws at the state  level.

“We don’t have to sign on to the federal government’s prohibition  against marijuana. If the federal government wants to march in and round up  marijuana smokers, they could, but they won’t,” Viets said.

Viets also  predicts that the Missouri Legislature will not be on board should marijuana be  legalized. Lawmakers, however, cannot pass legislation repealing a  constitutional amendment.

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