Missouri cannabis supporters hold signature drive at state capitol

Friday, February 17, 2012 | 7:17 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — A low turnout didn't keep Missouri cannabis supporters from discussing marijuana legalization on Friday.

The Show-Me Cannabis Regulation ballot initiative campaign held a signature drive  outside the Missouri state Capitol in Jefferson City.

The drive aided the campaign in its goal to obtain 144,000 valid signatures by May 4. The signatures, gathered by about 1,000 unpaid volunteers, are required to qualify the campaign's proposed constitutional amendment. Signatures from six out of nine congressional districts are needed.

The amendment would legalize marijuana use for adults age 21 and older, release prison inmates convicted of nonviolent marijuana crimes and allow for a tax of up to $100 per pound of non-hemp cannabis.

"I personally believe that cannabis prohibition is the greatest failed policy of our time, because there is so much money spent enforcing it with no tangible results," campaign director Amber Langston said.

Echoing Langston's statements were fellow speakers Betty Taylor, a former chief of police from Winfield, and campaign board chairman and Columbia defense attorney Dan Viets.

They addressed their audience from the steps on the south side of the Capitol building, standing below the statue of Thomas Jefferson, whom they referenced as being a hemp farmer himself.

One key point of all three speeches was the idea that law enforcement's time and resources are wasted policing marijuana usage.

"You go into law enforcement to make a difference, and you only enforce the laws that can be enforced," Taylor said. "You cannot eradicate drug activity because it is profitable."

Currently, Columbia law enforcement has misdemeanor marijuana possession cases listed as one of its lower priorities, although felony amounts are given higher priority.

"We need to put people like me out of work," Viets said. "I've spent 25 years seeing people go away for victimless crimes."

Viets called marijuana prohibition a "true evil," and said people will look back on that prohibition with the same horror and disgust that they looked at other prohibitions in the past.

"We're not encouraging you to use, but if you're going to use, use responsibly," Langston said.

About 30 people attended the event, with people coming and going as each speaker took the podium. Langston, however, wasn't fazed by the low turnout.

"I would just as soon have all my petitioners out gathering signatures on this beautiful day than crowded around the capitol," Langston said.

Campaign officials have high hopes that cannabis prohibition will be overturned, if not this November, then at least in years to come. Langston said the concern is about individual liberty, since in a free society, people should be able to decide what they do in their own homes.

"It's about the policy, not the plant," Langston said. "We want even people who hate marijuana to vote 'yes' on this."

Like what you see here? Become a member.

Show Me the Errors (What's this?)

Report corrections or additions here. Leave comments below here.

You must be logged in to participate in the Show Me the Errors contest.


Derrick Fogle February 17, 2012 | 10:44 p.m.

The drug war kills people. The drug itself does not. Cannabis is completely non-toxic. This, alone, is reason enough to end prohibition.

OK, Let's hear all that "Personal Responsibility" bravado now. Shall we?

When it comes to predatory lending practices, all we hear is, "buyer beware, it's your own responsibility to judge whether this works for you." The loan originators and financial mechanisms behind the financing are deemed to have no culpability. All this, despite the fact that a "buyer beware" attitude precipitated years of economic turmoil and the Great Recession.

Yet, when it comes to pot, all the sudden it's "ZOMG! We've GOT to spend billions of dollars a year, violently attack people, and deprive people of their liberty, to save them from themselves!" Nevermind that cannabis has never caused a single OD death in over 8,000 years of documented human use, it's use has never nearly collapsed a world economy (in fact is was instrumental in establishing a robust American economy in our country's infancy), or caused significant harm.

Hypocrites, hypocrites, hypocrites.

Sure, smoking pot causes problems sometimes. But cannabis is an incredibly mild drug, with mild effects, and mild addictiveness. And did I mention it's completely non-toxic? This puts cannabis in a drug safety class all it's own. I bet pharmaceuticals wish they could do that.

Cannabis prohibition is the intellectual equivalent of a computer support person insisting that an entire lab of hundreds of computers must all be destroyed, just because one of them ended up getting a virus. It's really that stupid. Cannabis prohbition is perhaps the biggest over-reaction to a minor problem our society has ever participated in. And it's time to stop the irrational, expensive, big government madness.

Legalize it, regulate it, tax it if you feel it's necessary. But for God's sake please stop violently attacking people and depriving them of their liberty for producing, distributing, or consuming such a mild, completely non-toxic drug. Because THAT is a truly consistent application of the "personal responsibility, buyer beware" philosophy.

Full legalization measures will be on the ballot in at least 5 states this fall. Support for legalization continues to increase. I know Missouri is known as the "Show Me" state, but come November, let's become the "We'll Show You" state, and end the violence and expense of cannabis prohibition.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking February 18, 2012 | 4:59 a.m.

If it is legalized (which I'm fine with), it'll be interesting to see how police handle driving under the influence. Unlike alcohol, it can be difficult for an officer to know if a subject is under the influence, and there are no field tests for THC. Further, the common, cheap blood or urine tests only indicate that marijuana has been used in the last few weeks. A quantitative HPLC/MS test must be run, and that can take weeks to get results and costs hundreds of dollars per sample.


(Report Comment)
Chris Roll February 18, 2012 | 9:00 a.m.

I'm Chris Roll, Missourian reporter, and I wrote this piece yesterday.

I was told that if the amendment passes, cannabis will be subject to legislation similar to alcohol. For instance, the way I understood it, someone found driving under the influence of marijuana would be subject to DUI charges.

Mark, you make an interesting point that I had not considered, which is the potentially slow turnaround for THC testing, along with the cost. I'm curious: if this amendment does pass, how will law enforcement adapt to it?

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle February 18, 2012 | 7:00 p.m.

Cannabis impaired driving is a big concern for many people. But if cannabis impairment is indeed hard for police to detect, that probably indicates impairment isn't really that much of a problem.

The latest meta-research, which compiled the data from several other studies, comes off with typical "ZOMG! Almost twice as likely to get in an accident!" headlines, an gets wide media distribution. But when you look at the actual data, the statistical additional risk presented by cannabis impairment is actually substantially less than the risk presented by driving when you're well rested, alert, straight, and not distracted by cell phone use or eating, etc.

Driving is dangerous. Driving impaired by cannabis, very slightly more so.

Furthermore, since Colorado has legalized medical marijuana, they have seen a 9% decrease in traffic fatalities. Three other states with MMJ laws have also seen statistically significant decreases in traffic fatalities compared to non-MMJ states, and 3 other states with MMJ laws saw no increase. Of course this isn't because driving stoned is safer (it's clearly not). The data from Colorado points to the obvious reason: a 5% decrease in beer sales. The reason MMJ laws appear to reduce traffic deaths is because it's displacing alcohol use. Alcohol sets such a low bar for safety, almost anything else is "better" from a safety perspective.

So again, if impairment is hard to detect, it's probably not causing many problems. If impairment is obvious enough to be detected by observation, a specific "on the spot" chemical test to determine a specific level of concentration is probably quite unnecessary.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking February 19, 2012 | 5:40 a.m.

In my cannabis-impaired youth, I drove often under the influence, and I agree with Derrick - it's not nearly as dangerous as driving under the influence of a lot of alcohol (which I also did with some regularity). However, this is an age of caution, and I can't imagine legalization without some regulations on driving stoned.

However, police may well find such regulations unenforceable, unless they actually witness marijuana use while driving. And it will be difficult to set a "safe level", like we do with alcohol, because of the difficulty of quantitating THC concentration in the body.


(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle February 26, 2012 | 1:29 a.m.

Latest study: Legal MMJ reduces suicide rates:

Harm reduction. Cannabis legalization does it. This is the 2nd study that shows significant harm reduction achieved by the decriminalization of cannabis use, primarily because it displaces alcohol use.

It should, at a minimum, drive home how dangerous alcohol use is, and how safe cannabis use is, in comparison. It exposes the utter hypocrisy of having legal alcohol, but not legal cannabis. It also throws the argument that "one is bad enough, we can't have two" out the window. Legalizing the 2nd one clearly reduces the harm that the 1st one causes; it does not add additional harm.

Unfortunately, Anheuser-Busch will not be amused; beer sales drop about 5% when MMJ is legalized. It would probably drop even more if cannabis were completely legalized. Look for them to be the primary financier behind the anti-legalization campaign if the measure makes it on the ballot. They want their highly dangerous and deadly product to be the only legal option for intoxication.

Law enforcement entities that derive funding from prohibition, of course, will be the other main opponents to legalization. Prohibition has nothing to do with safety, it's all about the money.

There's also the issue of actual drug safety. Drug Overdose is the 2nd most common form of suicide. Cannabis is completely non-toxic; you can't OD on it, even if you try. Even if it's not a very effective drug, it's still by far the safest.

Alcohol prohibition ended up causing worse problems than alcohol itself, and alcohol is incredibly dangerous. The problems cannabis prohibition cause are similar to alcohol prohibition, but the drug itself is almost infinitely safer than alcohol. That means cannabis prohibition causes proportionally more harm than alcohol prohibition ever did, and legalizing pot will reduce problems even more than ending alcohol prohibition ever did.

The drug war kills people. It's way past time to stop that.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking February 26, 2012 | 7:05 a.m.

Derrick Fogle wrote:

"Cannabis is completely non-toxic; you can't OD on it, even if you try."

Actually there have been LD50's done in animals for THC. Here's a material safety sheet for it:

Alcohol can be considered a food. It gives energy similar to sugar, at a rate of about 70 calories per fluid ounce. It's metabolized through some of the same pathways that glucose is.

Most people I know that smoke it also drink alcohol. I certainly did.

Its main problem is that it is smoked, which isn't good for people. However, I've never known anyone that smokes 20 joints a day, either (well, maybe Bob Marley did).

Don't get me wrong - I'm in favor of legalizing it, even though I really have no interest in using it again. Prohibition doesn't work - it doesn't keep people from getting it, it just makes them criminals for using it. It's a victimless crime.


(Report Comment)
Eric Weed July 11, 2012 | 6:10 p.m.

Legalize marijuana and tax it!cannabis dispensary should be available for patients using it.

(Report Comment)

Leave a comment

Speak up and join the conversation! Make sure to follow the guidelines outlined below and register with our site. You must be logged in to comment. (Our full comment policy is here.)

  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Don't use language that makes personal attacks on fellow commenters or discriminates based on race, religion, gender or ethnicity.
  • Use your real first and last name when registering on the website. It will be published with every comment. (Read why we ask for that here.)
  • Don’t solicit or promote businesses.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report comment" link.

You must be logged in to comment.

Forget your password?

Don't have an account? Register here.