Missouri State Rep. Brandon Ellington’s HJR 15 would give voters a chance to put an end to the failed experiment of marijuana prohibition, and would replace it with legalization, taxation, and regulation for adults 21 and over.
A companion bill also sponsored by Rep. Ellington, HB 166, would expunge some marijuana-related convictions if voters approve the constitutional amendment.
The Missouri-based Show-Me Cannabis is also in the process of preparing for a similar voter initiative in 2016. If approved, that measure would not only allow and regulate retail sales for adult use, it would also provide unique protections for medical marijuana patients. In addition, the measure would allow individuals to remove harmful marijuana-related convictions from their records.
In the coming years, there will be several opportunities for Missouri to join the four states that have moved away from failed and wasteful marijuana prohibition policies.
On Tuesday, Gov. Jay Nixon made Missouri history by allowing the state to join the ranks of 18 others that have eliminated the possibility of jail time for the possession of marijuana. The new law made several significant reforms to the state’s criminal laws, including protecting people caught with up to 10 grams from incarceration for choosing a substance that is safer than alcohol.
The governor decided not to sign SB 491, instead allowing it to become effective without his signature. In addition to “decriminalizing” simple possession of marijuana, this new law also reduces possible sentences related to the sale and cultivation of marijuana, including the current ban on probation or parole for those with 3rd felony offenses.
Unfortunately, the law is somewhat limited. It will not take effect until January 1, 2017, and the protections against jail time only apply to people without prior marijuana convictions. Also, a possession charge — even without the possibility of jail time — is still a crime and can mark a person for life, affecting housing, employment, and future employment opportunities.
Nonetheless, this represents several major improvements, and now statewide law is beginning to reflect those of both St. Louis and Columbia, which previously decriminalized possession of up to 35 grams of cannabis.
MPP wishes to thank Missouri attorney and activist Dan Viets and Show-Me Cannabis for their strong contributions to the new law!
On April 24, the Missouri House and Senate passed a bill that would eliminate the possibility of jail time for people caught with up to 10 grams of marijuana — at least the first time. The bill, SB 491, was sent to Gov. Jay Nixon for his signature on April 28. He has until May 13 to sign the bill or veto it.
Nearly half a million Missouri residents already live in cities, including St. Louis and Columbia, which have local ordinances that treat possession of 35 grams or less as a non-arrestable offense.
SB 491 isn’t the only marijuana-related bill on the move.
Earlier this month, SB 951 passed out of committee; it may soon receive a vote in the Senate. While far from perfect, it would allow a broad range of severely ill patients to use medical marijuana products that include THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids. A second, very limited bill, HB 2238, would allow some patients to access CBD-rich cannabis oil with trace amounts of THC. It passed both houses and will be sent to Gov. Nixon for his signature. For an overview of the bill, click here.
The Missouri Legislature made significant progress this year to improve marijuana-related laws, due in large part to the hard work from groups like Show-Me Cannabis.
According to the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch, Sgt. Gary Wiegert, a 32-year veteran of the St. Louis police force (SLMPD) and former Show-Me Cannabis lobbyist, is suing the department for violating his first amendment rights.
The phrase “lobbyist activities in Jefferson City” did not raise any eyebrows last month when Sgt. Wiegert filled out the necessary forms to work a second job. However, after word of Sgt. Wiegert’s off-duty activities spread, the SLMPD rescinded its permission.
The police veteran was told that he would need to obtain a business license if he wished to continue lobbying for the marijuana reform organization. Interestingly enough, the department took no issue with Sgt. Wiegert’s politicking three years ago when he began working for the St. Louis Tea Party.
Sgt. Wiegert’s attorney, Albert Watkins, alleges that his client’s superiors further infringed on his free speech rights when they issued a verbal “gag order” last Friday, requesting that he refrain from making any political statements until they could meet to discuss his lobbying.
Seeking a court injunction to prevent officials from quieting Sgt. Wiegert, Watkins filed a lawsuit Wednesday in federal court against the city’s Board of Police Commissioners and its five members.
“Gary Wiegert is not advocating that anybody break the law,” stated Watkins. “He is advocating as a lobbyist for an organization that wants to create a new law ... and that falls soundly within his First Amendment constitutional rights.”
Sgt. Wiegert is not alone in his advocacy. On February 7, multiple lawmakers co-sponsored a bill that would reform Missouri marijuana possession penalties, which are currently some of the strictest in the nation. More recently, Rep. Mike Colona (D-St. Louis) sponsored legislation that would allow patients with debilitating conditions to use and possess marijuana for medical purposes if their doctors recommend it.
When a dedicated group of activists hoping to reform Springfield, Missouri’s punitive marijuana laws turned in thousands of signatures they had collected fair and square, they thought the next step would be for voters in Springfield to decide whether or not to support their proposal. In other words, they thought the initiative process works like common sense says it should. They were wrong. What happened next is an example of disenfranchisement so egregious it belongs in a work of fiction.
The Springfield City Council, as is their legal right, went ahead and passed the ordinance, meaning it would not be placed on the November ballot. Their stated reason for this was that they didn’t want the city to have to front the cost of printing the issue on general election ballots. In other words, they were just trying to save the city some money, they said. Normally, at this point, the story would be over. But this is Springfield.
Immediately after the council passed the ordinance, they voted to “table” it, so they could amend the law to their liking. Some wanted to raise the $150 fine, which they thought was too low. Others wanted to remove a provision establishing a “citizen oversight commission.” It gets worse. After 150 people showed up to offer their testimony—the overwhelming majority in support of the original ordinance—four of the nine councilmembers moved forward with a plan to repeal the entire ordinance, stripping citizens of their fundamental right to vote on the proposal. Here’s a quote from one of those councilmembers, and I promise I’m not making this up: "I'm going to support passing, and then gutting, the entire ordinance," said Councilman Jeff Seifried. "This is the fiscally responsible way to do business."
Last night those oligarchs councilmembers followed through on their intentions and repealed the ordinance. The petitioners from Show Me Cannabis Regulation who gathered the signatures are assessing their options now. They have 30 days to gather more signatures to repeal the council’s vote (which, of course, could then be overturned by the council). More likely, they’ll sue to challenge the council’s action as violating the city charter’s initiative language. Either way, one thing is clear: the Springfield, Missouri City Council does not care about your voting rights.