Marijuana legalization activists meet at MU

Saturday, November 3, 2012 | 6:20 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Several dozen marijuana legalization activists gathered Saturday at MU to denounce what they call a "marijuana prohibition," and expressed excitement for a march on Washington D.C. planned for April.

"We are winning in the heartland; the public wants reform more than ever before," said Doug Fine, author of "Too High to Fail," which makes an economic case for the legalization of marijuana.

Fine talked to people in Allen Auditorium about obstacles to ending the nation's "war on drugs" and on a lighter note, his appearance on late-night talk show, "Conan."

This issue isn't divided into left and right; it's bipartisan, Fine told Conan O'Brien in July.

Fine said on Saturday that law enforcement's profiling tactics are unfair.

“I’ve been told the only way not to be profiled as a marijuana user is to be a woman,” Fine said, laughing. “I need to be a 45-year-old woman in a Subaru. No suspicion there.”

Carla Mills, a respiratory therapist from Bowling Green and audience member, fit the stereotype.

“Honestly, I have never used marijuana in my life,” Mills said. “But as a member of a rural community and the medical profession, I find that there are many benefits.”

Mills’ son began doing research on the topic of legalization a few years ago and told his mother about its "positive uses."

“I used to be against marijuana because I just didn’t know enough,” Mills said. “I think education and getting the word out there about marijuana’s positive medical use is very important.”

The day began with remarks from Missouri’s Coordinator of The National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws and Show-Me Cannabis Regulation’s Board Chair, Dan Viets. Viets is an attorney in Columbia who specializes in cases regarding the defense of marijuana possession and use.

“I could talk about marijuana all day long,” Viets said to the audience in a discussion after a documentary.

Viets said he's excited about a march on Washington that will take place on April 20, 2013, or "4/20."

Criminal defense lawyer Joseph Welch traveled to Columbia from St. Louis for the event. Welch is a director for the St. Louis branch of The National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws.

He is currently working on a case for a Navy veteran who was arrested for marijuana use, though he said the man was using it for medicinal purposes.

Welch said legalization in Missouri is possible.

“I don’t think it’s going to happen this year, but there’s hope for 2014," he said.

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