Missouri marijuana legalization initiative delayed to 2016

Fifty-one percent of likely 2014 voters said they would vote against legalization.
Crystal Duan / Graphic Designer

A group that planned to put legalizing marijuana on Missouri ballot this November has postponed the initiative to 2016.

Show-Me Cannabis, a Missouri marijuana advocacy group, said in a news latter that its independent polling suggested it would be wise to put off a legalization campaign until 2016. A poll of likely 2014 voters found 45 percent would vote in favor of the proposal but 51 percent would vote against it.

John Payne, the executive director and treasurer of Show-Me Cannabis, said the fact that 2014 is a midterm election year also affected the group’s decision to postpone its proposal.

“In 2014, it is going to be a very low turnout election, and that means those people that always vote are going to be voting,” Payne said. “Those people tend to be much older and also more conservative.”

Payne said there will also be more young voters in the 2016 election and that demographic more often supports marijuana legalization.

“Basically, the young voters are most supportive of us,” Payne said. “Voters that age between 18 and 35 are expected to be doubled in 2016 than in 2014.”

Senior Benton Berigan, the president of MU’s chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said his group frequently works with Show-Me Cannabis and supports the decision to wait on the ballot initiative.

“We fully support their decisions and actions,” Berigan said. “We think it is a smart decision to not campaign in 2014 and continue to gain members and educate the public of the less harmful effects of marijuana and on our society as a whole.”

Berigan said MU NORML and Show-Me Cannabis had originally planned to hold off on legalization until 2016 but decided to test 2014 after Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana.

“We planned to start the campaign in 2016, but (based on) the recent decisions by the states of Colorado and Washington, we maybe thought the time was right, so we did a phone survey,” Berigan said. “We were hoping in getting 60 percent in favor, which we didn’t, and we decided not to pursue a campaign on that.”

Berigan said MU NORML currently has 40 active members who work to educate other students about marijuana issues.

“(At MU), we have a lot of students that are aware (of the legalization plan) and a lot of students who aren’t aware and involved,” Berigan said. “We are holding events and workshops to educate the students that marijuana is safer than alcohol and trying to reach to them and change their minds.”

Payne said he believes marijuana should be legalized because people should not be punished for behaviors that hurt no one else. He said it would also allow some law enforcement officials to shift their focus from drug offenses to other types of crime.

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