By John Payne
In the past week, we have seen dramatic and, in many ways, unexpected progress towards ending the war on cannabis.
CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta's kicked off the week with his special report "WEED," which attracted a great deal of attention before it even aired Sunday evening. The report didn't really break any new ground for those of us who follow the subject closely, but it introduced those who don't to people who benefit from medical cannabis. Those individuals include an Israeli Holocaust survivor, who uses cannabis for tremors in his hands, and six-year-old Charlotte Figi, who uses a low THC, high CBD strain of cannabis to prevent constant, life-threatening seizures.
I'm sure it was also the first time many viewers heard that early research indicates that cannabis contains a number of compounds with cancer-fighting properties, but the federal government has stood in the way of conducting the research necessary to fully explore the possible applications of those compounds. Gupta's report has made a profound impact on the public debate already, and if you didn't catch it when it aired, you can watch the whole thing online.
And we continue to shift the terms of the debate here in Missouri, as well. Check out the coverage of our Rolla town hall meeting that ran on the front page of The Rolla Daily News on Tuesday. The article gives readers a very factual and thorough description of the meeting, along with a couple pictures that capture the size of the crowd. Anyone who reads that article will see that the movement to legalize marijuana in Missouri is large, organized, and informed.
The same article in the Post-Dispatch or Kansas City Star would certainly reach more people, but I think good coverage of local events in smaller papers has a greater impact on that smaller audience. Local papers are trusted sources of information in their communities, and, in some places, the exclusive source of local news.
Reformers also won judicial and legislative victories nationwide this week:
- In New York, a federal judge ruled that the New York Police Department's policy of stopping and frisking anyone they deem suspicious violates the rights of minorities in New York City. Minorities are disproportionately stopped and frisked by the police, and cannabis is the most common contraband found --- instead of the weapons police for which police claim they are searching.
- In Oregon, our allies at the National Cannabis Coalition played a major part in passing a bill that will allow medical marijuana dispensaries in the state. You can read more about that effort in the article by NCC Executive Director, Show-Me Cannabis Regulation board member, and Missouri native Anthony Johnson below.
- At the federal level, Attorney General Eric Holder has announced the federal government will no longer pursue harsh mandatory minimum prison sentences for low-level, nonviolent drug offenders. He is also expected to support bipartisan legislation sponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D - VT), Mike Lee (R - UT), Dick Durbin (D - IL), and Rand Paul (R - KY) that would remove those sentences from federal law.
- Holder's speech was also important for what he didn't say: He still has not announced any new guidelines for how the federal government will deal with cannabis legalization in Colorado and Washington. That does leave a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the issue, but it also means that the federal government is unlikely to directly challenge the legality of legalization in those states.
Even with all these victories, there is much to be done, and now is the time to press our advantage and keep up a relentless offensive.
In just over a week (Monday, 8/26), we will be screening the Reason Foundation's film America's Longest War at the Christman Center in Joplin (501 S. Main Street, 64801). I've also heard through the grapevine that some anti-reform groups are organizing to attend the event to show that not everyone supports legalization. I welcome them to attend, learn, and debate the issue, but that also makes it even more important that we have a large turnout and show that we are the majority. Please join the Facebook page and invite your friends in the area!
We also hope to run radio ads in the area to promote the event and awareness of the issue generally, but we can't do it without your help. Please contribute now to help us purchase radio ads for our meeting in Joplin!
The following Saturday, August 31, is our kickball tournament Kick It for Cannabis Reform. Our work at Show-Me Cannabis is very serious, but it's nice to have an event that is both fun and supports the cause, and if you are anywhere near the Saint Louis area, you should make a point to be there. The event is open to the public, so even if you don't have a team or don't particularly want to play kickball, you can come out, get some Show-Me Cannabis merchandise and literature, and take part in some of the yard games like washers and beer pong!
The event starts at 11:00 A.M. at Bingham field in south Saint Louis City near the intersection of Gravois and Bingham avenues. You can find more information and register your teamon the website and invite your friends on the Facebook page!
Finally, Show-Me Cannabis will be sharing a booth with Missouri NORML at Mid-Missouri Pride on Sunday between 11:00 A.M. and 6:00 P.M. in downtown Columbia near the intersection of Fifth and Cherry streets. If you're in the area, join us there and pick up some Show-Me Cannabis literature and merchandise!