When it comes to marijuana reform, Missouri is rarely in the national conversation about targeted states and likely prospects for reform and future legalization. But that is a mistake.
Reformers here like Show Me Cannabis and Missouri NORML are quietly and effectively laying the groundwork for a very serious legalization ballot initiative in 2016, and Missouri is likely to catch a lot of people by surprise. Or at least, surprising to people who haven’t been paying attention.
A legalization petition drive to get on the ballot for 2016 will begin this January 2015. (There had been some reports that the petition language was already approved by the Missouri Secretary of State, but I emailed Dan Viets of MO NORML and he confirmed that it hasn’t happened yet) .
Pundit roundup stories about potential states for legalization like this one typically ignore the efforts by activists here in Missouri.
The reasons why are somewhat understandable. There hasn’t been a lot to be excited about, and progress has been disappointing for reformers here thus far.
A number of bills by state legislators were introduced this year, but didn’t go anywhere.
The 2014 ballot initiative didn’t happen, the support to put they money and effort into it was put off. Similar to the thinking of organizers in California, the 2016 election cycle just makes more sense, as more supportive general election voters are likely to turn out in a presidential election year.
Marijuana laws under the state criminal statute are still pretty tough. Possession of any amount of pot is a Class A Misdemeanor, which carries up to a year in jail, and is considered more serious than a DWI.
Nationally, there is still a perception that the state is trending “red”, politically. Although, conservative or Republican politics are not necessarily correlated with support for marijuana legalization, which is generational more than anything else.
Are Big Improvements to Marijuana Reform Support on the Horizon?
The ground looks to be rapidly changing for marijuana reform.
The city of St Louis decriminalized marijuana last year.
John Payne of Show Me Cannabis is quoted as saying the number show that 52% of likely Missouri voters in 2016 would support Colorado-style legalization. That’s not a big cushion, but in 2 years those numbers are likely to improve.
Nationwide trends for legalization support continue to hit new all time high’s every time it is polled. It’s up to 54 or 58% depending on how you ask the question.
By 2016, we’ll have had more that 2 solid years of legal marijuana sales in Colorado and Washington state. The voters of Missouri will see for themselves that the sky hasn’t fallen, crime hasn’t skyrocketed, and those states are collecting significant tax revenue from legal weed sales.
The obvious question will be “Why not us?”
When it happens here, it will look like it was always inevitable.
And maybe it was. But it still takes people doing the actual grunt-work to get minds changed and laws passed.
Show Me Cannabis has been organizing individuals on the ground and talking to state lawmakers literally for years, thanklessly.
As many have said, it takes years to become an overnight success.
But 2016 could be the year marijuana reform finally makes it in Missouri.