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New bill to legalize marijuana could be on MO 2012 ballot

The government spends roughly $14 billion per year on prohibition

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According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2007, 14.4 million Americans admitted to using marijuana at least once in the month prior to the survey. In addition, marijuana continues to be a top-earning cash crop, worth $35 billion. 

Photo Illustration by Andrew Welch

Nov. 15, 2011

Legalizing the illegal substance marijuana has been a hot topic for the past decade. A synthetic weed, K2, drug cartels and an increase in potency have put pressure on the government to construct a plan for legalization. Conversely, negative health associations and some law enforcement groups have put pressure on the government to continue the criminalization.

Today it is the top cash crop in the world, worth $35 billion, beating out such staples as wheat and corn combined, according to an article on abc.com. In 2007, 14.4 million Americans ages 12 and older used marijuana at least once in the month prior to being surveyed, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Fourteen states have decriminalized cannabis and 17 have medical marijuana programs, including Washington, D.C. States are coming up quickly with their own view on the drug in order to appease the public, according to medicalmarijuana.procon.org.

In the federal sector, on June 23, 2011, a bill to fully legalize marijuana was introduced in the House by Ron Paul, R-Texas, and Barney Frank, D-Mass. The bill would remove marijuana from the controlled substances list.

The government has denied medical marijuana has any medical benefits, but they hold the patent for the medical use of the plant. U.S. Patent 6630507 is titled “Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants,” an indication that the government recognizes the possible medical benefits in the drug.

According to Scott Lauher, MU National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws co-director, there are numerous positive effects to legalizing marijuana, but the main reason is because prohibition just doesn’t work.

The government spends nearly $14 billion each year on prohibition, according to the Marijuana Policy Project on Capitol Hill. In just two years time that would provide America with enough money to secure all loose nuclear weapons in the former Soviet Union. Five-hundred and thirty economists agree the government is sitting aside, watching millions of dollars be wasted on marijuana prohibition.

If marijuana was legalized and taxed, Missouri alone could potentially collect $15.6 million dollars in tax revenues in one year, according to an article on cnnmoney.com. The state and federal governments are not only able to obtain funds through taxes, but from other sources as well.

Not only are there economists backing up the plans, but the country becoming more in favor of legalization than it was in the past. In a Gallup poll released in September 2011, 50 percent of Americans are now in support of legalization and regulation of the marijuana trade. When the ability to petition the government through the White House’s official government website become live, the marijuana legalization petition was the first to post. Eighteen thousand signatures were received in just one day to decriminalize the widely-used drug.

Local lawyer Dan Viets has dealt with marijuana cases for the past 25 years and has proposed the two Initiative petitions relating to cannibas approved for circulation for the 2012 Missouri ballot.

“I’m in favor of it — I think it’s insane to put otherwise law abiding people in jail for using, growing or selling marijuana,” Viets said. “The pot smokers tend to not bother anybody.”

Viets said he thinks the laws sending people his way are outrageous.

K2 creator John Huffman, who made millions of dollars off of his compound, believes marijuana should be legalized.

“You can’t overdose on marijuana, but you might on (K2),” Huffman said. “These things are dangerous, and marijuana isn’t, really.”

Some health studies have shown marijuana to be associated with negative health effects.

According to Streetdrugs.org a marijuana joint contains 50 to 100 percent more tar than that of tobacco, therefore smoking just one joint is equal to smoking 7 to 10 cigarrettes.

By legalizing marijuana, the general public could be exposed to yet another known carcinogen option, according to streetdrugs.org. Marijuana smokers could experience the same respiratory problems that tobacco smokers have due to the excessive amounts of tar.

Not only is the marijuana smoke harmful, but so are the chemicals. There are more than 400 chemicals in marijuana and some are known to affect your memory, sex drive and problem solving skills, according to the American Council for Drug Education.

Although some argue the legalization of marijuana will lead to less drug dealers, or harder times for cartels, it could actually lead them to focus on more dangerous trafficking in order to make up the lost income.

Antonio Martinez, attorney general for Northern Baja California from 2001 to 2007, said at the McGeorge School of Law symposium on marijuana and legal issues that sanctioning marijuana use in California would force cartels to increase other forms of drug trafficking.

Nationwide criminal networks coming from Mexico and China are fed by the illegal distribution and sale of marijuana, according to Sylvia Longmire of the New York Times. The drug provides a significant source of revenue to large-scale criminal enterprises, gangs and cartels. The Mexican cartel is almost completely fed by smuggling tons of marijuana over the border each year. Although legalizing marijuana may upset drug lords profiting off of the cannabis, it could lead the drug cartels into focusing on increasingly dangerous activities.

The following people could not be reached for comment: Mothers Against Drunk Driving Parents. The Anti Drug Columbia Police Department spokeswoman Latisha Stroer Wellness Resource Center assistant Director Kim Dude

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Article comments

Nov. 15, 2011 at 7:49 a.m.

cannibaslover: I feel it should be legal because it does nothing bad to your body. I think cigarettes should be illegal because they stink and u can get addicted to it.

Nov. 15, 2011 at 1:42 p.m.

Turner Johnson: Yes! Here's hoping it happens and passes!

Nov. 15, 2011 at 2:43 p.m.

Buzzby: The largest study ever conducted on smoking and lung cancer showed that marijuana is not a causative factor and even reduces cigarette smokers' incidence of the disease. The market for hard drugs is very limited. Most people have better sense than to get involved. The idea that the cartels could make up their 60% - 70% revenue loss by pushing hard drugs is ludicrous. The needs of that limited market are already being fulfilled. The idea that we should continue marijuana prohibition so the cartels won't focus on "increasingly dangerous activities" cracks me up. Let's continue to arrest 800,000 Americans every year because marijuana is more benign than cocaine. Really?

Nov. 15, 2011 at 3:25 p.m.

Flutie: "By legalizing marijuana, the general public could be exposed to yet another known carcinogen option, according to streetdrugs.org. Marijuana smokers could experience the same respiratory problems that tobacco smokers have due to the excessive amounts of tar" This is a lie. Donald Tashkin, professor emeritus at UCLA, has been researching the effects of tobacco and marijuana smoke for 30 years and is the world's leading authority on the subject. In the largest longitudinal study ever conducted, he found that EVEN HEAVY MARIJUANA SMOKING CAUSES NEITHER CANCER NOR EMPHYSEMA. In fact, he found that incidents of cancer in even heavy marijuana smokers to be LESS THAN in the general non-smoking population - suggesting that cannabis has a protective effect.

Nov. 15, 2011 at 4:33 p.m.

Nate: Regarding the assertion that marijuana is more harmful to the lungs than cigarettes, the latest studies suggest that there is no correlation between lifetime heavy use of cannabis and the incidence of lung cancer. Cannabinoids, the chemical compounds contained in the marijuana plant, in fact seem to have properties that combat the proliferation of cancer cells.

Nov. 15, 2011 at 4:37 p.m.

kbpaintings: the bottom section is all propaganda. it sounds like our borders should be a bit tighter to huhhh?

Nov. 15, 2011 at 5:23 p.m.

John: Good article. Well written. Gives both sides fair interest. I think the health risks are far less dangerous than what was listed, but even if they are true id rather have my friends see that than smoke risk getting caught and still have the health risks down the road, which there is no proof of marijuana hurting you long term. Find it and il change my position. Legalize Mizzou 2012!

Nov. 16, 2011 at 11:32 a.m.

Vincent Von Dudler: I hope Missouri can pull it off. I want the federal government to be forced to change its policy. I feel ashamed for my current state of Texas. Supposed reputation for civil liberties and small government and yet they have the worst marijuana laws in the country - in line with the federal government. Prohibition is a waste of police resources in my opinion. Growing, possessing, and using marijuana is a civil liberty in a free society. People should not have to justify their civil liberties to the government. Regardless of how you feel about local law enforcement cracking down on marijuana. I hope we can all agree that it should be a state level decision and not a federal prohibition. Here's how we can end the federal prohibition and restore power to the states. The proposed legislation is called H.R. 2306 and everyone should support the federal government getting out of state business. Tell your representatives -> http://pvox.co/CdiFqY "[Prohibition] attempts to control a man's appetite by legislation, and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes." - Abraham Lincoln As an fyi - the article cites synthetic marijuana. DO NOT SMOKE THIS GARBAGE! It's been linked to heart attacks in teens. Unlike actual marijuana this stuff looks pretty harmful.

Nov. 16, 2011 at 6:46 p.m.

Richard P Steeb: The prohibition of Earth's most potentially beneficial plant species is nothing short of a crime against humanity. It shall NOT stand.

Nov. 17, 2011 at 1:25 p.m.

J. K.: Marijuana should be legalized, for those who argue it’s got more tar and other chemicals, forget that if legal, a joint could be filtered like cigarettes. Another point people argue is it’s a gateway drug, yet they do not understand that pot smokers have to buy these drugs from drug dealers. So, when a drug dealer loses their supply of pot, the dealer then offers the pot smoker another option, and that is how someone who smokes pot might try another drug. The financial reasons should get everyone on board as we. We waste billions fighting this drug, that is not addictive, and no one has ever gotten high and robbed stole or killed anyone after smoking marijuana. The tax revenue along with the focus on more dangerous and addictive drugs is what the country should be doing. Our country is going broke, so why not do what a business would do find ways to create more revenue instead of wasting money on an obvious lost cause. If 50 percent of Americans support it, let’s legalize it. Prohibition on alcohol cost the government millions while making criminals filthy rich. When we ended that ridiculous law, the country began making money again, and it spawned a lot of new companies, and those companies produced jobs for American people. That is what we need today.

Nov. 19, 2011 at 8:39 a.m.

ralphie: cannibas has been here for 10's of thousands of years, there must be a reason it thrives. to the post from John, what right does the government have to dictate my euphoria?. when compared to its closest equal, alcohol, i gave your post some thought and immediate heath risks came to mind....like the guy who got drunk last night then went to the house and beat on the wife and kids, (those immediate healt risks) as opposed to his neighbor that smoked a joint, ate, settled in for a movie and finally fell asleep

Nov. 22, 2011 at 11:46 a.m.

marty : I was talking to a good friend of mine who never has smoked weed. He blatantly told me that even if marijuana was made legal for adult recreation use that he still would not smoke it. I know he is not everyone, but he told me he don't think its right to be imprisoned for something natural like marijuana. He hopes maybe this will help with state funding. He is a criminal law major with his B.A. degree.

Nov. 22, 2011 at 2:50 p.m.

Brandt Hardin: Marijuana is the safest drug with actual benefits for the user as opposed to alcohol which is dangerous, causes addiction, birth defects, and affects literally every organ in the body. Groups are organizing all over the country to speak their minds on reforming pot laws. I drew up a very cool poster featuring Uncle Willie Nelson and The Teapot Party for the cause which you can check out on my artist’s blog at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2011/01/vote-teapot-2011.html Drop in and let me know what you think!

Nov. 30, 2011 at 11:18 a.m.

robert golden: i think u guys need to just stop talking about legalizing it and do it now

Dec. 4, 2011 at 7 p.m.

sandra Reed: i think it should be legalized. f what anybody else says.!!

Dec. 7, 2011 at 9:05 a.m.

marty: I was at the Springfield NORML meeting last night and signed the petition. There was only like 100 people there. I see you guys and gals want this to happen, well get up off your butts and go sign the petition so we CAN VOTE on this issue next fall. They only need 23,000 valid signatures by May 2012. If you don't sign the petition then we will not have this great opportunity to make ourselves heard in Nov 2012. PLEASE PLEASE.....

Dec. 7, 2011 at 9:09 a.m.

marty: Correction on my previous post. That number 23,000 only pertains to the 7th district, which is the Springfield area. Check to see what judicial district you live in. Sorry about that. Thanks..

Dec. 8, 2011 at 8:21 p.m.

Sylvia: Alcohol and cigarettes are legal yet the government wants to keep the use of marijuana for pain illegal. Really? I don't think I have ever heard of anyone getting violent or killing others while driving a car under the influence of marijuana but I read about people of the influence of alcohol doing it daily. I think the government should wise up as legalization of marijuana may help our economy. The bad guys are selling as we speak.

Jan. 10, 2012 at 7:26 p.m.

J-man: i think it's odd how everyone is calling marijuana a drug... it is in fact an herb that has been used since ancient times and is even talked about in the old testament. i for one am voting for the legalization of cannibus!

Jan. 24, 2012 at 11:09 a.m.

scott: of course the government knows weed isnt bad for you theyr not stupid its about money. they publicly say theyv found no corelation to medical benefits yet they hold the patent for medical marijuana. its all about money weed being legal means hemp being legal means textile companies are gonna get destroyed because hemp is a stronger cheaper everything. $14 billion a year on prohibition are you kidding me. kids goin to jail for smokin pot? POT? yet i can go to the store and buy alcohol and die of alcohol poisoning if i drank enough or i could go to the store and get cigarretes. CIGARETTES. we kno things things 100% give you CANCER yet i can smoke as many cigarettes as i want. cafiene, alcohol,tabacco,prescription medicine, over the counter medicine; all of which are exponentially more dangerous than pot. i can smoke 10 joints in a row and i would be super high and then pass out. i could take 10 advil or tylonol and possibly DIE. now tell me how it makes any sense that marijuana is a banned controlled substance.

Jan. 25, 2012 at 6:29 p.m.

Phil: I am on probation for an alcohol related incident. I know that they will drug test me using the cheapest method. Piss testing. I was a frequent Marijuana user, and using Marijuana helped me stay away from alcohol. But, when I was dry for days and I knew people who had Alcohol I got drunk, and drove around. I then got arrested. Stupid, absolutely fucked my life up. I did not know what I was doing, I had no control over my actions. Marijuana is completely different, and in fact makes you more paranoid about dangerous situations. Now I will get piss tested for an Alcohol related charge, not being able to smoke weed as it shows up on the test, I'll be more tempted to drink Alcohol as it quickly leaves the system. I've been clean from Marijuana for three weeks because I know I'll get drug tested. I love Marijuana and this sucks. I only hope they will do something about this. I cannot believe two highly dangerous toxic poisons are as legal as can be, but a scientifically proven, beneficial to society, herb like Marijuana is criminalized as a Schedule One drug, the same as Heroin. It disgusts me that America, of all countries, are like this.

Feb. 8, 2012 at 8:07 p.m.

Phinesia: My thing is, if marijuana is the biggest cash crop by $35 billion dollars and we are struggling with a $14 trillion dollar debt, Why is are we not legalizing?!?!?!?!?!

Feb. 12, 2012 at 1:30 a.m.

scott: I say mo.needs it for the tax and well help alot of lives I can tell you it helps for the pane in my back I love the plant and i hope something is done.And i say to the pepple that ar agenst it just trie it

March 1, 2012 at 6:14 p.m.

bill: Maybe we should use some of that money we will make off legalizing and taxing marijuana to tighten our borders and crack down on "hard core" drug dealers. I'm pretty sure very few people are going to switch to hard core drugs because they feel bad that we almost put them out of business haha dumb

March 30, 2012 at 12:23 a.m.

david: i have been in the viet-nam {war],and never smoked [pot] but when i did on the way back to the states,i have never stopped. yes smoking canibus should be legal,and i agree with other smokers,pot doesnt mess with your mind like drink.if this country,as messed up as it is at time with all the money we dont have,just maybe we can help with the tax that the use of marijunia will crate.also the use of hemp,which would cut down on the use of plastic,and it never leaves our soil,or water leagalise marijunia!! im for it

April 18, 2012 at 2:37 p.m.

Sandra Reed: I THINK IT SHOULD BE LEGALIZED BECAUESE WE ARE NOT HURTING YOU IF WE LEGALIZE IT AND PEOPLE ARE STILL GOING TO DO IT IF YOU DON'T LEGALIZE IT AND IT IS NOT FAIR THAT OTHER PEOPLE ARE GETTING BUSTED FOR SMOKING IT AND OTHERS ARE NOT.

April 21, 2012 at 4:35 p.m.

Sheila Odom: Legalize marijuana it is a wonderfull medication and it is much better for you than pain pills. Every pill you take has been processed from a root tree bark,leaves and or stems. The drug companys are messing up the natural ingeedence adding man made chemicals to turn it in to a pill just thing about. Going natural is best!

May 8, 2012 at 6:47 p.m.

devo: I think it should be legal, because you can't overdose on it. God made it, man made beer, an I hate the hangovers from beer.

June 16, 2012 at 6:37 a.m.

jason: while i have only smoked pot a few times in my life, i am not a user of it. But i believe it should be leagelized. For one when i did somke it, it was the most relaxed i've ever been in my life. What gets me though is why is it when someone kills, or rapes, or molest children thay usually end up going to prison for a few years, and then get probation when thay get out, yet if thay get caught with a joint BOOM life in prison. Seriously?! WTF is wrong with this picture here. Let's look at this for a min. Thay say pot is a gateway drug to harder drugs. Really?! Ilve known a lot of people that smoke pot and thay still smoke it, but that the only one thay do. Thay say smoking it leads to traffic accidents, because it impaires your judgement. Ok every single fatal accident i've seen and read about that wasent due to driver error, was caused by alcohol. When was the last time someone was killed on the road because the driver was stoned? I sure havent heard of it. Oh yea thay also said that the ones who were involved in wreaks did test positive for pot. Ok what thay dident say, was the driver never said that thay just smoked before going for a drive. Pot stays in your system for up to 30 days, alcohol 24 hours. Thats pretty unfair. Also how many people do you know that get violent after smoking. I don't know of any, now what about people that get violent after drinking, in fact look at domestic violence in this country alone. A vast majority of it was alcohol related, while thay do say some of it was caused by substance abuse, thay always list your hard core drygs i.e. Coke, meth, crack, etc. But no mention of pot. Lastly, look at the hippies. All thay did was smoke pot. Look at the first woodstalk. It was a 3 day fest of smoking, sex and music. And no one was killed. Now look at the last one we had. Yes u understand the conditions were bad, but most of those people were drunk. I can keep going on and on, but i made my point. I really feel that if the goventment leagalized pot, our economy would recover in just a few years. Hell you know them, thay get off watching people suffer. Oh and on an unrelated matter. For those of you whose to blame for high gas prices. It's the govenment. Reason i say this, is because every 4 years like clockwork when itls an election year gas prices bottom out. Think back to 2008. Gas were i live (texas) for regular was 4.50 at it's peak. This was in aug. By nov. It went down to 1.55. Now how is it in just 3 months time, it dropped nearly 3 bucks? Hmmmm.. I wonder. Now it 2012, and its happening again. Just something to thibk about

June 22, 2012 at 7:43 p.m.

missoruigirl: YOU DON'T HAVE TO SMOKE IT

June 28, 2012 at 11:56 a.m.

BRANDII[WEEEEED]: LEGALIZE THAT SHITTTTT! NOW ;]]

July 6, 2012 at 4:13 a.m.

nineeyedspider: fuck the feds they wont tell you that marijuana seedds could and can end world hunger because they are only 2nd to soy beans as a source of protien of which more of the cannabis seed protien is more usable and beneficial so just fuckem in their lying necks

Sept. 4, 2012 at 4:22 p.m.

Rodney: It helps me with my seizures, HURRY UP TEXAS.

Sept. 14, 2012 at 1:12 p.m.

Valentine: Amy wine house=Alcohol dead whittney Houston legal rx=dead CHEECH AND CHONG= STILL SMOKING

Nov. 1, 2012 at 9:39 a.m.

A jones: I would have to agree that moste people that smoke the substance do stay away from people, and that there are many befits to smoking. Personally I will admit hat I have smoked I the passed and it could potentially help those with PTSD. I have this , and I would rather smoke a bowl then to be on all the other chemicals that the doctors have me on. I would vote for this legislation in a heart beat.

Nov. 6, 2012 at 11:32 a.m.

josh: The government is stupid alcohol and cigs kill more people than pot.there are no related deaths from pot. But I can say that I have burried my best friend Bc a fucken drunk driver hit him and killed him.

Nov. 8, 2012 at 8:18 a.m.

conserned user: God gave us all rights to crops and everything else on earth, and if we so happen to smoke say crops that should not be a crime. Precription drugs and achaol kill more people than anything and yet those are leagal. Tell me one person who died "from" weed? Yeah you cant so why would we spend trillions of dollars on probation and and funerals when we all know that everyone would choose weed over drugs and achaol. Hopefully yall get my point.

Nov. 11, 2012 at 10:01 p.m.

evan: it means no harm...one love

Nov. 19, 2012 at 10:44 p.m.

(LEGALIZE IT): I think that marijuana should be legal because there are very many people out there dying everyday and this could be the key to fixing the Border wars if it was legal what would the cartel trade for guns then exactly and im only 16 and never smoked it before but im pretty sure it could help doctors cure people who have diseases and could be dead in less than a couple of hours from now who knows nobody start expeirementing plus its a nautural herb its on earth for a reason figure it out (LEGALIZE IT)

June 25, 2013 at 8:44 p.m.

Bellasue02: They should legalize it so it will be less expensive to people who need it medically. My nephew has spasms and it offers some relief and I know older people that it helps with arthritis. They are afraid people will use this natural substance for med problems instead of paying half their salary for pharm. meds. Legalize it! Too many people doing time for this .I knew people in college smoked and they were just as smart as anyone else and a lot more harmless than drinkers

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