By John Payne
We held town hall meetings in Jefferson City and Columbia this week, and both drew supportive crowds eager to know how they can advance the cause. On Monday, our meeting in Jefferson City attracted more than 25 marijuana law reform advocates. Many of them expressed an interest in lobbying our elected officials at the state capitol once the legislature starts its new session in January.
The Columbia town hall was an even greater success, thanks largely to the efforts of SMCR board chair, criminal defense attorney, and longtime Columbia resident Dan Viets. I wasn't able to make it to the event, but Dan sent along this write-up:
A standing-room only crowd of more than 100 assembled at the Daniel Boone Public Library in Columbia Thursday night for a Marijuana Town Hall Meeting. They heard statements from Missouri Representatives Chris Kelly and Rory Ellinger that they are seriously considering filing bills to tax and regulate cannabis like alcohol, allow access to medical marijuana and/or decriminalize non-medical possession.
Kelly said he needs to be persuaded that the movement for legalization in Missouri is capable of putting together a winning campaign. He acknowledged that money is an important and necessary element of such a campaign, but said he also wants to see a winning campaign strategy.
His bill may ask the legislature to place the issue on the ballot and leave the final decision up to the voters. This would save the movement the need to spend great amounts of money just to get the issue on the ballot, and then have to raise more money for the campaign to pass the proposal.
Columbia Daily Tribune Publisher and Editor Hank Waters joined in, calling for full legalization, and conservative Tribune columnist and radio personality Bob Roper agreed. I offered opening comments and moderated the discussion.
Several audience members extolled the virtues of hemp as an agricultural commodity and a new revenue source for Missouri farmers. It was noted that Missouri was, and could again be, one of the major hemp producing states.
Several patients talked about their need for access to marijuana for medical reasons. Rep Ellinger has been the leading proponent of expanded expungement laws in Missouri, including allowing for expungement of cannabis offenses.
SMCR is drafting a proposal to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol which could be the basis for an initiative effort. SMCR may also ask Reps. Kelly and Ellinger to introduce the draft as a bill in the Missouri General Assembly, which could be in addition to an initiative effort or an alternative to one.
The meeting has already garnered substantial media coverage with a story in the Columbia Missourian and television coverage on KOMU and ABC 17 (although the ABC affiliate story incorrectly stated that NORML would be the group running an initiative campaign).
We don't have any more town halls this month, but we have three coming up in October, starting with our meeting in Kansas City on Wednesday, 10/9. Then we have Moberly on Tuesday, October 15 and Cape Girardeau on Monday 10/21. If you live in or around one of those cities --- or know people who do --- please join or like those event pages and invite your friends!
We are also rapidly approaching our Saint Louis Trivia Night on Friday, 10/4. This is our most well-established fundraiser, and I write all the questions and emcee the event personally. Advance tickets for a table of up to eight players costs $100, or individual advance tickets can be purchased for $15. Invite your friends to start putting your teams together! And if you have suggestions for categories, feel free to send them to me.
Of course, you don't have to attend an event to join the fight against cannabis prohibition in Missouri (although it helps!). You can strike a blow for sensible cannabis policies in this state by contributing to Show-Me Cannabis now!