State Rep. Kelly to speak at town hall meeting about legalizing marijuana

Wednesday, September 18, 2013 | 8:42 p.m. CDT; updated 10:42 a.m. CDT, Thursday, September 19, 2013

COLUMBIA — State Rep. Chris Kelly said he hopes to discuss "both the philosophical aspects and practical realities" of legalizing marijuana at a town hall meeting he plans to attend Thursday night at Daniel Boone Regional Library.

The meeting will start at 7 p.m. and is sponsored by Missouri's chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Show-Me Cannabis Regulation and the Missouri Civil Liberties Association. Along with Kelly, the Columbia Daily Tribune's publisher, Hank Waters, and columnist Bob Roper will participate in the town hall.

Town hall meeting

State Rep. Chris Kelly will discuss the aspects and realities of legalizing marijuana. 

WHEN: 7 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 19

WHERE: Daniel Boone Regional Library 

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Kelly said he is "thinking very seriously" about introducing a legalization and regulation bill to the Missouri House of Representatives in the 2014 legislative session, depending on whether the state's pro-legalization advocates tell him they feel ready to help campaign successfully for the bill if the legislature makes it a ballot issue.

"One of the real possibilities is that the question of whether marijuana should be legalized or decriminalized is that it goes to the people," Kelly said. "It would be foolish to pass a bill, which required a vote of the people, when the supporters of the legislation are not ready to engage in that. I'll see if they think they're ready."

One of the state's most prominent marijuana legalization supporters will be moderating the town hall — Columbia attorney Dan Viets. Viets is the Missouri coordinator of National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and the chair of the board of directors for Show-Me Cannabis Regulation. He said he plans to circulate a petition to put a marijuana legalization bill on the state ballot in the next few years, an attempt he made in 2012.

The 2012 petition didn't get enough signatures to land on the ballot, which Viets attributed to Show-Me Cannabis Regulation not having enough money to promote the petition. He said it is "possible, but not likely," that Show-Me Cannabis Regulation tries to put a legalization bill onto the 2014 ballot but that he expects 2016 to be the most likely year when Missouri voters see marijuana legalization on the ballot.

Even if the petition isn't ready for 2014, Viets said Show-Me Cannabis Regulation plans to ask Kelly to submit the group's draft of a legalization bill in the 2014 legislative session. The group's proposed amendment to state law is modeled after the legalization amendment Colorado voters passed in 2012. Viets said the proposal will be "not exactly the same, but similar" to the petition he circulated in 2012.

His 2012 petition would have amended Missouri law to legalize possession of cannabis for adults 21 years old or older and created a licensing and taxing process for the sale of marijuana. It also would have released and expunged the records of anyone incarcerated in Missouri for "nonviolent, cannabis-only" offenses.

Driving under the influence of marijuana, which is detectable through a blood test, would have remained illegal under the petition. Selling marijuana without a license would have remained illegal, though the growth of marijuana for personal use would have been permitted.

The possession of 35 or fewer grams of marijuana is a class A misdemeanor in the state of Missouri, punishable by up to a year of imprisonment. In 2004, Columbia passed a law setting the punishment for possessing 35 or fewer grams of marijuana in the city at a maximum $250 municipal fine with no imprisonment.

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Michael Williams September 19, 2013 | 7:41 a.m.

Rep Kelly: This is quite odd. We just finished a legislative veto session where you argued Missouri's vetoed gun law was a violation of the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution.

And yet you seem quite willing to promote a Missouri state law legalizing weed....a law is direct conflict with federal law stating weed is illegal.

You need to explain your principles to me because right now one of your constituents is rather confused about where you stand on this nullification business.

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle September 19, 2013 | 9:45 a.m.

Because the nullification law was pure grandstanding histrionics by a group of immature narcissists; cannabis legalization is a very real and palpable issue.

Gun use has killed roughly 400,000 American citizens since 9/11/2001; cannabis use has killed Zero. What was your point about equivalency, again?

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams September 19, 2013 | 11:04 a.m.

Derrick: You missed the logical point. I'm surprised at that.

The Supremacy Clause says NOTHING about death rates, gun use, car use, flu shots, histrionics, narcissists, real things, or palpable things, or any other caveat you can think of just because Derrick sez so.

It says anything in the US Constitution cannot be nullified, and it says any federal law promulgated in pursuit of the US Constitution cannot be nullified (i.e., the law must be Constitutional).


And federal law says weed is illegal.

Do you disagree with this fact?

Rep Kelly was against the veto override because, in part, he believed it nullified federal gun laws. He said that is not allowed. It was part of his public argument.

And then, only a few days later, he wishes to promulgate a state law that does the same damned thing??????

That's neither a consistent nor logical posture. In fact, if I read his position on the veto override correctly, he was simply picking-and-choosing his logic regarding the Supremacy Clause, using it to further his real agenda which was something still unstated.

And now he wants to pick-and-choose nullification in favor of weed legislation.

Nope to him, and nope to you. You take a position on the Supremacy Clause and nullification and either stick with it or shut the hell up about using it in your argument. Otherwise, you (and he) look like a illogical fool.

Oh, and PS: I favor legalization of weed. I DON'T favor folks who choose an argument today, then change their argument tomorrow on an EXACT SAME PRINCIPLE! Picking-and-choosing your arguments when it suits purposes is a faulty position. Until Rep Kelly clarifies his position, I'm not happy with him at all.

(Report Comment)
Chris Kelly September 19, 2013 | 11:20 a.m.

Michael, The two positions are not inconsistent.

My thinking on 436 is this:
1. It is now and has been the law for two centuries that no State may nullify a Federal law. Only the Courts may do that. There have
been literally dozens of Court opinions holding that without any opinion to the contrary. This is not simply my opinion. It is also the opinion of at least three important conservative think tanks;
Cato Institute, Heritage Foundation and Goldwater Institute. It is also the
view of the NRA which did not support the bill because it did not want to look dumb and extremist when (as is certain) the bill would have
been struck down.

2. HB 435 specifically sought to nullify several Federal Statutes.

3. Hence, 436 is unconstitutional.

On the other hand, states are not prohibited from passing their own laws as long as they do not seek to nullify a Federal law. States and the Feds can and often do have inconsistent and even contradictory laws. For example, under Missouri law abortion is illegal but not so under Fed law. There are many examples like this. The state has no obligation to enforce Federal law. It just cannot directly contradict it.
Assume the legalization of pot by a State. The Feds could still enforce Fed law. The State does not have to help but it cannot interfere with the Fed enforcement.
Think about the position of the law after the repeal of Prohibition. Under Federal law alcohol was legal. At the same time many States had dry laws.
The two were philosophically inconsistent but not legally impermissible. The same thinking applies to pot laws.

None of this goes to my opinions. For example, I believe that the Feds are way too expansive and intrusive. We still must follow the law (constitution) regardless of our personal or political opinion.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams September 19, 2013 | 12:21 p.m.

Chris: Here is the Supremacy Clause:

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.

The phrase after the first comma specifically states that federal laws shall be made in pursuance of the US Constitution. That is, the federal law MUST be constitutional.


Can states test a federal law's constitutionality by passing a state law that, on the surface, violates the Supremacy Clause in that it directly contradicts federal law?

You bet. How often have you seen that, and how often are you seeing that happen right now with things like immigration, voting laws, and the like?

And yet you are saying that if Missouri passes a law legalizing weed, a law in direct conflict with current federal law, that this does not seek to nullify that federal law?

BTW, it is no excuse that "There are many examples like this". That just means we're lazy and like to pick-and-choose how we (and the Attorney General) interpret the Constitution.

You seek to create a state law making weed legal, a law in direct conflict with current federal law. And THAT is an attempt to nullify. I see no other conclusion no matter how much I try to pretzel my thought process.

The vetoed bill was a test, pure and simple. It may have been a poorly written test, but it was a test nonetheless. The next one will be better.

(Report Comment)
Chris Kelly September 19, 2013 | 2:32 p.m.

Michael, Let's separate guns from pot.

Pot first.
You say that because the Feds have a law making pot illegal the state cannot repeal its law also making pot illegal. That is inaccurate.
We all agree that both the State and the Feds may have laws making pot illegal. Neither must have such a law. Simply because the Feds chose to have a pot law does not mean that the state must also have one. The state could chose to have a more or less stringent pot law or no law at all.
If a state chose to have no law on the subject that would not impinge upon the right and power of the Feds to have a such a law. It would in no way be a nullification of the Federal law. The Feds could enforce their own law without any help from the state. The state could chose to use its resources on other things.
What the State cannot do is interfere with Federal officers enforcing Federal law. The state is not required to help the Feds enforce Federal law but it cannot interfere.
There is no nullification of any federal law in my example. The state is simply choosing to not have a law on the subject.

Now guns (HB 436)
Here the State attempted to actually render the Federal law unenforceable and to prevent its enforcement in Missouri by Federal officers; clearly an attempt to nullify the Federal law and very different from the pot example where the State just choses to not have a law on the subject. There is no attempt to nullify the Federal law in that instance.

Your "this is just an attempt to test the Federal law" ploy fails because the issue has been so thoroughly litigated from the beginning of the Republic until very recently. It is settled law. That approach has appeared in the proponents arguments recently since every other rational line of
reasoning has been attempted. That dog won't hunt.

Come to the library this evening if you chose. You can bring more
of these lazy, non hunting rhetorical pooches.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith September 19, 2013 | 3:47 p.m.

Our federal Constitution is obviously a very strange document. Why? Because quite a few of our citizens, some having much formal learning, selectively champion some of its provisions (both in the original body and amendments) while at the same time acting as if other provisions do not exist or have previously been nullified*.

No - wait a minute! It's not the Constitution that's so strange, it's those very same citizens. :)

*- I believe the only portion of the Constitution officially nullified is the Eighteenth Amendment. I'LL DRINK TO THAT!

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams September 19, 2013 | 6:26 p.m.

"You say that because the Feds have a law making pot illegal the state cannot repeal its law also making pot illegal."

If I said that, my typing fingers went awry.

I'm saying because the feds have a law making pot illegal, a state cannot make a law making it legal.

How else can one interpret "This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof...shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby...?"

This seems pretty darned plain language to me!

Of course, I don't think the feds should be in the drug war business anyway....quite frankly, I no longer care what folks put into their bodies so long as I don't have to pay for the ramifications. But, the fact is that we have a federal anti-weed law, and so long as that law is considered constitutional, the states should follow and enforce it. So should the feds. In my opinion, your support for a weed legalization law in Missouri is an in-your-face nullification of a federal law.

As for your "Here the State attempted to actually render the Federal law unenforceable and to prevent its enforcement in Missouri by Federal officers", that's true. I still think it's a test of whether the original federal laws in question are constitutional given the wording of the 2nd amendment (remember "shall not"!). States test such federal laws all the time as we have so recently seen. My dog does indeed hunt...unless the wording of the Supremacy Clause is perverted beyond all understanding by subsequent court decisions. It affects me not-at-all that prior court cases say posture is that those prior decisions were a perversion of the Constitution in the first place. For example, I think DC vs Heller partly corrected a few such past perversions in what also proves to be an extraordinary national history of gun-thought available in the US today.

As for bringing "lazy, non hunting rhetorical pooches".....I submit to you that interpretation of the Constitution is NOTHING but rhetoric. I, as a citizen, have the right and responsibility to read the Constitution and, using the English skills learned during high school and college (yes, I paid attention), I can read sentences and interpret what they say in plain language. I'm not lazy in mind or body and my life demonstrates that fact. Nonetheless, I won't be attending your soiree; after all, the discussion is about a state weed law you might support plus probable preaching to an enthusiastic choir, not my disagreement with your selective enforcement of the Supremacy Clause as it is is so plainly written. I'd just take up time with off-topic stuff.

PS: If you wish to enhance the continuing ire of rural voters against Columbia in this state, go for it.

(Report Comment)

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