By John Payne
The Downsizing State Government Committee of the Missouri House of Representatives held a listening tour across the state this week, and they heard from Show-Me Cannabis supporters at most stops. The committee visited Saint Louis, Cape Girardeau, Poplar Bluff, Joplin, Springfield, Independence, Saint Joseph, Columbia, and Jefferson City.
This is the same committee that gave a very favorable hearing to a decriminalization bill at the end of this year's legislative session. After that hearing, committee chairman Paul Curtman (R - Pacific) and vice chair Mike Kelley (R - Lamar) both told reporters that they favor the bill. Furthermore, Rep. Curtman spoke at our conference and one of our town hall meetings.
In my testimony to the committee in Saint Louis, I thanked the legislators for considering decriminalization. I also encouraged them to consider any decriminalization or legalization bills introduced next session as both would substantially reduce the size and scope of Missouri's government. Several other attendees at the Saint Louis meeting voiced support for reforming the state's marijuana laws including Saint Louis City Republican Committeeman Curtis Farber and Sgt. Gary Wiegert.
After the hearing, I spoke with Jo Mannies of the Saint Louis Beacon, who gave the event some nice coverage, mostly discussing the economic impact of cannabis legalization. The Missouri Times also published an article on the hearing mentioning both Gary's and my testimony.
Show-Me Cannabis supporters also testified at hearings in Poplar Bluff, Springfield, Joplin, Columbia, and Jefferson City, with the local media covering their comments at almost every stop. In Columbia, Show-Me Cannabis Regulation Board Chairman Dan Viets testified that the prohibition on cannabis is "futile, pointless, damaging, and counterproductive."
After that hearing, Rep. Curtman told the Columbia Daily Tribune that he hopes the discussion on marijuana policy continues in his committee, which bodes well for our ability to advance cannabis law reform in the legislature next session!
Senator Claire McCaskill's staff is also holding a series of "kitchen table talks" across the state, and I attended one on Wednesday with SMCR board member Abhi Sivasailam. We told the staffer who ran the meeting that we would like the Senator to support the industrial hemp amendment to the federal farm bill and the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act, which would allow states to pursue medical marijuana or even legalization without interference from the federal government. The staffer told us that we must be well-organized, because he had heard that from people at other meetings!
As long as we stay active and continue to put pressure on Missouri's political establishment, they cannot ignore us. However, organizing advocates across the state takes time and resources. Please help us keep up the fight by contributing now or make a lasting impact with a recurring contribution!