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.
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
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.