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Initiatives could legalize marijuana in November

Colorado, Michigan, Montana and Washington have activists seeking signatures for similar initiatives.

Washington state election officials have approved new marijuana reform laws to go on November's ballot. If passed, all criminal penalties will be removed for adults over the age of 21 possessing no more than one ounce of marijuana.

Lauren Kastner/Senior Staff Photographer
Casey Purcella/Graphic Designer

Feb. 10, 2012

Marijuana could become legal in Missouri, contingent upon two initiatives to put legalization on the ballot in November.

The measure, sponsored by Show-Me Cannabis, would legalize possession, use and cultivation of marijuana for adults over 21. It would also allow for commercial distribution, both for medicinal and non-medicinal purposes.

Columbia attorney Dan Viets, the Missouri coordinator for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said he doesn’t see weed popping up on every street corner.

“If people are allowed to grow their own and share with their friends just like people grow their tomatoes and share, then we really don’t need marijuana retail stores,” Viets said.

Under federal law, marijuana would still be illegal. Despite the legalization of medicinal marijuana in many states, the Drug Enforcement Administration hasn’t shied away from raiding medical dispensaries.

Authorities raided a state-legal medical growing operation inside a Detroit warehouse Saturday, according to the Detroit Free Press. Viets said by emphasizing individual cultivation, the conflicts between state and federal laws can be avoided.

“They wouldn’t attempt to go after individual consumers,” Viets said. “They don’t have anything approaching the resources to do that."

If passed, Missouri law enforcement personnel or state funds could not be used to enforce the federal laws.

“As a law enforcement officer, I have no opinion (on the initiative),” MU Police Department Capt. Brian Weimer said. “Our job is to enforce the laws that are set forward by the legislature.”

A clause in the initiative also calls for the release of all people incarcerated under non-violent, cannabis-only charges and expungement of any records pertaining to the crimes.

Viets kept other states in mind when choosing the timing for the initiative. California Proposition 19, which would have legalized marijuana fully, was defeated in 2010, a non-presidential election year. According to the Federal Election Commission, 56.8 percent of the voting age population turned out in 2008. In 2010, the turnout dipped to 37.8 percent.

“The experience has been, not only with this issue but with many (others), you will get far more of the voters that support this in a presidential election,” Viets said. “I wish they had waited in California.”

Many other states are seeking to get marijuana on this year’s ballot as well. Colorado, Michigan, Montana and Washington have activists seeking signatures for similar initiatives. Colorado fell 3,000 signatures short last week but was given 15 more days to collect the rest necessary, according to an article in TIME Magazine.

The initiative can make its way to Missouri’s November ballot by either an initiated constitution amendment or an initiated state statute. The difference lies in the state legislature’s ability to override the new law, if passed.

A statute can be overturned by state legislature, despite being voted in by the people. If an amendment is made to Missouri’s constitution, it cannot be overturned.

“We have no doubt they would undo marijuana legalization in a heartbeat,” Viets said. “It made no sense to do anything other than pursue a constitutional amendment.”

The trade-off is an initiated amendment that requires approximately 150,000 signatures, which is roughly 50,000 more than required for a statute. All necessary signatures are due May 6. So far, more than 15,000 have been collected.

To aid the initiative, support can sign up online to become a petitioner. just added an online training program that will allow any United States resident of voting age to collect signatures. Valid signatures can only be collected by those certified. Previously, classes were only available in person.

The Missouri Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers has provided additional support by unanimously voting to endorse the measure. Lawyers across the state, including Viets, could lose many clients if marijuana is legalized. The board took the same stance as Viets, who stressed the importance of improving society rather than lining their pockets.

“If we were to oppose marijuana legalization on the grounds that we would lose our case load, it would be like a doctor saying ‘I don’t want to cure cancer because I’ll have fewer patients,’” he said.

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Article comments

Feb. 10, 2012 at 5:55 a.m.

Maryjanesuncle: 40 years of war on its own citizens, 1 million arrests and a trillion dollars spent. Cannabis is now more popular than ever. Research show it to be nontoxic and not habit forming. Stop this racist war and useless spending. Regulate Cannabis like wine..For more info go to L.E.A.P.

Feb. 10, 2012 at 7:27 a.m.

Regina Henry: I dont see anything wrong with smoking weed. its grown out of the ground out of dirt. its nothing like meth.

Feb. 10, 2012 at 8:08 p.m.

Jose: This says it all: "If passed, Missouri law enforcement personnel or state funds could not be used to enforce the federal laws." And if it doesn't pass, juries are quickly learning about jury nullification. I don't think European-style jury laws will make it into US law anytime soon to stop jury nullification.

Feb. 11, 2012 at 7:32 p.m.

TonyD: PLEASE stress the importance of ACTUALLY voting on this's dismal turnout numbers in the 30% range that causes the defeat of legislation such as this. I like to smoke, but GET YOUR STONED ASS OFF THE COUCH AND VOTE, PEOPLE!!!! Nothing will ever change if we remain complacent...

Feb. 13, 2012 at 6:31 p.m.

Jimbo: You MUST get REGISTERED to vote, then SIGN the PETITION, Then if everyone signs and this initiative makes the ballot then you MUST VOTE! Get others to go with you. This will take a group effort. Dont sit on the couch and wait for it to fall in your lap. That will never happen. See SMCR on Facebook or Hurry! Time is running short.

March 27, 2012 at 10:06 a.m.

anonymous1725: it is not a question of if marijuana should be legal. the question is do states have the right to make choices for the people. marijuana has always been and will continue to be a question of morality. just as alcohol is a question of morality. our government, our constitution, ourl laws were ment to protect the people not to dominate or choose for us but to protect. when over 50 percent of the us population favors legalization on any law it's not only be considered ratified as well.

May 9, 2012 at 11:17 p.m.

john andrews: get to the and vote yes

July 9, 2012 at 12:58 a.m.

justapersonwitapoint: if weed were to be legalized itd be amazing//there are benifits to it being legalized no risk of being sent to jail >obvious but crime rates would def go down witch could possibly make an inprovment in the econemy

Oct. 7, 2012 at 11:45 a.m.

travis: Genesis2-5 states this. God created all of the seedbearing plants, but government says It's wrong. If we can grow corn, we should be able to grow marijuana. It's ALL about money. If they can't imprison people for it, they don't want legalization, when they could profit more off legalization than the money they get from people smoking and getting caught and fined. I'm all for legalization, always have been, always will be.

Feb. 1, 2013 at 11:17 a.m.

alica williams: I believe marijuana is a gift from got and also it makes me feel like the goverment is taking away people free will well I hope that it does get legalized cause I know how many people drive drunk and kill people but that's ok get with the program!!

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