By Steve Elliott of Toke of the Town
A petition now circulating in Missouri would place a constitutional amendment on the November 2012 ballot to legalize marijuana for people 21 and older.
The measure would regulate cannabis similarly to the way Missouri currently regulates alcohol. Marijuana would be legal and sold by licensed stores, or could be grown at home for personal use. Medical marijuana would be available to those with a physician's recommendation, including those under 21 with parental consent and a doctor's supervision.
Retail sales of cannabis would be taxed by the state at up to $100 a pound.
?The petition, which was approved by Secretary of State Robin Carnahan on November 7 for circulation, requires the release of those jailed for nonviolent, cannabis-only offenses, and would expunge all records related to such offenses.
The measure would also legalize the cultivation of low-potency, non-marijuana varieties of hemp, allowing for the return of a hemp industry that flourished up until World War II ended.
The petition was submitted by Columbia attorney Dan Viets, Missouri state coordinator for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). Viets is a longtime advocate for drug law reform, both in Missouri and on the federal level.
"We are now closer than we've ever been to repealing the criminal prohibition of marijuana," Viets said.
Prevailing attitudes about cannabis are changing dramatically, according to Viets. He pointed to a recent Gallup poll that shows, for the first time in U.S. history, that 50 percent of Americans favor pot legalization, with only 46 percent opposed.
Just five years ago, 60 percent of U.S. citizens opposed marijuana legalization, with only 36 percent in support, Gallup reported.
"The greatest support is still among the youngest groups, with the lowest level of support coming from among the older folks," Viets said. "The simple fact of the situation is that demographics are changing. Dramatic increases in support will continue in the years to come."
"We are squandering massive amounts of tax money on police, and on prosecution and prison for people who don't need to be treated like criminals," Viets said.
About 150,000 signatures are needed on the initiative petitions, due in the Secretary of State's office by May 6, 2012.
Even if the signatures are gathered, and voters approve the measure in November 2012, the federal prohibition against marijuana will continue. Viets conceded that marijuana sales in Missouri could be subject to federal prosecution since the federal government collects taxes on retail sales.
But he predicts that the federal government would do little to stop marijuana law reform at the state level.
"We don't have to sign on to the federal government's prohibition against marijuana," Viets said. "If the federal government wants to march in and round up marijuana smokers, they could, but they won't."
Viets also predicted that the Missouri Legislature would not support marijuana legalization -- but lawmakers cannot pass legislation repealing a constitutional amendment approved by the voters.
Article From Toke of the Town and republished with special permission.