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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Missouri legislators, activists to helm marijuana legalization push

Legalization was one of the options presented by a panel of legislators and journalists.

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Last week at the Columbia Public Library, Dan Viets moderated a marijuana legalization panel. The panel spent the majority of the evening discussing marijuana policy reform.

Kevin Mathein/Senior Staff Photographer

Sept. 24, 2013

For those in attendance last week at the Columbia Public Library, the panel discussion of statewide marijuana legalization was an emotional one.

“I’m painful,” one woman told the crowd. “I’m painful all the time. I wish you would get it decriminalized and legalized so that I can have a joint. I’m afraid to have one because a SWAT team could end up on my porch.”

Her words came on the heels of an impassioned series of arguments by a panel of local figures. Among those was Dan Viets, the evening’s moderator and the Missouri coordinator of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Viets spoke alongside state Reps. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, and Rory Ellinger, D-St. Louis, Columbia Daily Tribune publisher emeritus Hank Waters and Tribune columnist Bob Roper. The panel spent much of the evening championing marijuana policy reform — namely, statewide legalization and decriminalization.

A criminal defense attorney and a cannabis activist since his time at MU in the early 1970s, Viets made the case for legislation that would legalize and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. In an interview, he specified that users would have to be 21 years or older and could cultivate a half dozen or more plants.

Viets’ assertions, however, were not enough to fully assure Kelly of the movement’s legislative potential. Kelly expressed uncertainty as to whether statehouse politicians would pass a legalization or decriminalization bill should he or Ellinger formally introduce one.

At present, marijuana possession, use and distribution are illegal in all cases throughout Missouri and the nation. In 2004, Columbia passed Proposition 2, which relaxed cannabis possession sentencing, but the state, Viets noted at the meeting, has yet to vote on changes to medical or recreational cannabis policy.

Ellinger, who introduced a decriminalization bill of his own last winter, cited Missouri’s “three strikes” law as problematic. That law provides sentencing guidelines that incur harsher penalties, up to a life sentence, after an offender’s third felony.

“And it’s real easy to have a felony amount of marijuana,” Ellinger said in his opening remarks. “It wrecks people’s lives for momentary pleasure.”

If such legislation went into effect, Missouri would join Colorado and Washington in allowing recreational marijuana use. Those two states passed ballot initiatives last year to fully legalize recreational cannabis, more than a decade after each had authorized medicinal marijuana possession and use for patients with debilitating conditions.

To detractors, Viets cited the examples of Oregon, which decriminalized marijuana possession in 1973, and Alaska, whose state Supreme Court in the 1975 case of Ravin v. State made possession of small amounts of marijuana legal in a private residence.

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data cited at the forum, both states were home to a number of cannabis smokers higher than the national average, though the amount of marijuana smoked remained consistent with national trends.

Missouri, Viets said in his introductory speech, would be no different.

“We don’t have to wring our hands and wonder what might happen if we were to decriminalize marijuana possession in Missouri,” Viets said. “What happens is, nothing happens. Nothing changes. There is, most importantly, no increase in marijuana use.”

Anticipating the bill’s failure in the General Assembly, Kelly suggested a ballot initiative. Yet even then, he doubted the effectiveness and preparedness of advocacy groups like Viets’ NORML or Show-Me Cannabis Regulation, both of which sponsored the night’s meeting, to get the measure on the ballot.

“None of my questions are philosophical,” Kelly said. “‘Should marijuana be legal or not?’ That’s over in my head. The only questions for me are practical.”

In a tense exchange at the meeting, Kelly made those doubts apparent.

“One of the things that I want to know that I don’t know yet or I’m not comfortable with is, ‘Are the proponents objectively prepared to go to the mat with the electorate?’” Kelly asked.

“Yes,” Viets answered.

“You are ready? Well, I want to see it,” Kelly said. “Saying you’re ready and showing me you’re ready are two entirely different things.”

Kelly specified that the campaign, not the message, was something that would take time and careful planning.

“As to this particular legislation,” Kelly said, “it would be very counterproductive to put the question on the ballot if the proponents were not prepared to conduct a campaign. For me, at least, I have to be comfortable that they’re prepared to conduct the campaign.”

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Article comments

Sept. 27, 2013 at 8:08 a.m.

Amanda : I'm just curious as to what the problem is? What questions do you still have? Ok, well if it's legalized the amount of money saved on law enforcement and jails would be nice break for us tax payers. The amount of money spent on arresting people and putting them in jail could go towards other things, like maybe fixing roads, going to the schools so their budgets aren't getting cut any more, or on energy efficiency. Another thing that needs to be done is to educate people of the real facts about marijuana. So many people say they hate it and that it's a "gateway" drug, with out knowing true facts.I would like to see more steps to the voting process and more progress to start saving our hard earned money for things that should really matter.

Sept. 27, 2013 at 10:54 a.m.

Matt: Here's a thought .... 8 BILLION dollar's tax revenue a year is what CO and OR stand to make .... how broke is our state?

Oct. 10, 2013 at 9:52 a.m.

Misty : People are already buying an selling marijuana.illegally anyway. Wouldn't legalizing it for even medical purpose cut down on the crime associated with it. And the tax revenue it would generate would far exceed the money being spent on fighting it. Jailing one will and another will take its place, The only real way to stop the big cartels from making money is to take away their profit margin and its medicinal use have been scientifically proven for glaucoma and cancer patients.

Oct. 18, 2013 at 12:38 a.m.

KL: Cigarettes are legal and those kill people but marijuana on the other hand increases you appetite or make you sleepy Alcohol cause unfuctional behavior marijuana makes you laid back relaxed and happy My only question is Which one should be legalized Me personally I think marijuana is the safest one because you cant over does nor does it harm you in any way

Oct. 22, 2013 at 9:58 a.m.

Kodi Alcorn: I have a life of love from my girlfriend, we have a great day all the time smoking marijuana in missouri. Do I feel like the scarcity is intense for the legalization of cannibus yes, are ou afraid crime will go up are you afraid the people will forget perscription drugs, are you afraifd of loosing alchol taxes? I don't understand I could write a million facts ive herd from marijuana, but realy it's time for a change people it's a drug yes but everted into nothing more than a grinded up supstance that isn't chemically changed or lab manufactured. We need an example not for people to want to do drugs and get high , but to proove a choice of life or crime, people drink people smoke , Enjoy but don't abuse is my answer to this, but the meer voice of a old soul in a young body is to no form of power im on facebook Kodi alcorn send me a subscription you know the vote ill tend to. I live with somebody that has glocoma.

Oct. 29, 2013 at 9:58 a.m.

nick: you guys don't realize how much weed is already being moved and smoked, you might as well legilize it because you won't stop it. consider that a challenge

Nov. 9, 2013 at 9:57 p.m.

Cjmacintosh: A new study finds that the development of bullous lung disease occurs in marijuana smokers approximately 20 years earlier than tobacco smokers. A condition often caused by exposure to toxic chemicals or long-term exposure to tobacco smoke, bullous lung disease (also known as bullae) is a condition where air trapped in the lungs causes obstruction to breathing and eventual destruction of the lungs. At present, about 10% of young adults and 1% of the adult population smoke marijuana regularly. Researchers find that the mean age of marijuana-smoking patients with lung problems was 41, as opposed to the average age of 65 years for tobacco-smoking patients. He added, "Marijuana is inhaled as extremely hot fumes to the peak inspiration and held for as long as possible before slow exhalation. This predisposes to greater damage to the lungs and makes marijuana smokers are more prone to bullous disease as compared to cigarette smokers." Patients who smoke marijuana inhale more and hold their breath four times longer than cigarette smokers. It is the breathing manoeuvres of marijuana smokers that serve to increase the concentration and pulmonary deposition of inhaled particulate matter – resulting in greater and more rapid lung destruction. This paper is published in the January 2008 issue of Respirology.

Nov. 16, 2013 at 6:36 p.m.

Shadow: January 2008 issue of Respirology: Bullous lung disease... Too bad it's a weighted study to prove what that "doctor" wishes to prove with a total of 10 patients. Shall we look at that study and those patients, rather than listening to a couple of fear mongers? I think so: the study is based on a sample of 10 patients, all of whom initially presented with symptoms (rather than randomly selected). All admitted to at least 1 year of "chronic" usage. They found 10 sick people, who happened to smoke Marijuana for 1 year, with a mean age of 41 (+/- 9) and concluded that any respiratory illness they suffered must be from marijuana use. There was no control group, no random sampling, no controls for other health risks such as vocational exposures or tobacco smoking, thus it is impossible to draw any real scientific conclusions. Next time you copy and paste something, make sure you see what the opposition, with sense, had to say that disproves it.

Jan. 11, 2014 at 3:41 p.m.

John: I grew up when smoking cigarettes could not be proved a health risk no matter how many people it killed. And the age where outright lies about the dangers of smoking marijuana were widespread to induce fear of something relatively harmless. Any real medical marijuana study has always discouraged, prevented, and never funded. The truth about the danger or non-danger of smoking marijuana was never of any concern to the prohibitionist. The truth never mattered. Marijuana has many medical uses, and recreational smokers know the value of its relaxing effect, how it calms aggressive tendencies, and promote a sense of well being. A great way to relax after a stressful day with none of the bad effects associated with alcohol or cigarettes. We have plenty of lists showing the number of people those kill but where is the list of the people marijuana killed? It's time to let the lie die, and let the truth out of the bag. But no, prohibition still exists. They don't want any studies of marijuana, won't accept any positive results of them, prohibition has grow into a big business at the sake of the generally peaceful pot smokers. Google "Run From the Cure," watch the video, and see how they still treat people and doctors with evidence willing to testify to the truth. The lies of prohibition has become big business and the truth is a danger to their money making machine. Generally, adult pot smokers are peaceful, non-aggressive, health minded people. And they have paid the price and suffered the consequences of the prohibitionist's deceptions and lies for profits, political and otherwise until this very day. Enough is enough.

Feb. 28, 2014 at 1:25 p.m.

debra sapp: where in Missouri do you sign up for study groups?

March 24, 2015 at 10:20 p.m.

Caleb: I have had a traumatic brain injury, 8 broken ribs, a broken collar bone, and a broken pelvis bone for seven and a half years and I need something that would really help me. And I think that this would be the answer. And I don't understand how if the whole United States we can take the 18th Amendment having to do with allowing people 21 years of age or older to drink alcohol, then why can't we allow us people that are needing help in life that is having to suffer through broken bones and traumatic brain injuries not be able to use medical marijuana to? It would help the pain go away and help us dramatically. I'm just asking with all of the help that I can get from the Governor of Missouri to pass this bill to help me and everyone in the state of Missouri

Aug. 10, 2015 at 3:41 p.m.

Concerned: It's ironic that Dan Viets is included in an article decrying the drug cartels when his own pockets are lined with Sinaloa cartel cash. I personally witnessed it.

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