By John Payne
Approximately 100 people attended our Cape Girardeau Town Hall meeting on Monday. In addition to Rep. Paul Curtman (R - Pacific), who spoke on the panel, we were joined by Representative Donna Lichtenegger (R - Jackson) and state Senator Wayne Wallingford (R - Cape Girardeau).
Senator Wallingford primarily listened to the proceedings, but Rep. Lichtenegger took an active role in the discussion. She didn't commit herself to any specific legislative action, but she said that cannabis clearly has medical properties that we should utilize and seemed very open to the discussion of further reforms, as well.
Retired narcotics agent Kevin Glaser, who worked with the SEMO Drug Taskforce for many years, also attended to oppose legalization, and we engaged in some debate. Glaser contended that no country in the world had legalized cannabis, and I corrected him that Uruguay had in fact legalized and regulated the cannabis market recently.
He also argued that the taxes generated from legalizing cannabis would not equal the social cost of cannabis use. I countered that since prohibition does not actually prevent anyone from using cannabis -- a point with which he agreed -- whatever social cost there is to cannabis use is still there under prohibition. Consequently, new revenues under legalization would still be a net gain. I'm sure Glaser still believes in cannabis prohibition today as he did yesterday, but he did concede that some of our cannabis laws are too heavy-handed.
The event also generated substantial media attention, including advance coverage on KMOX in Saint Louis, a fairly thorough article in The Southeast Missourian, a story on Southeast Missouri University's NPR affiliate, KRCU, and a leading story on KFVS 12's 10:00 news! I may have mentioned this before, but as a native of Poplar Bluff, appearing on KFVS 12 is a big deal for me. That is the station for local Southeast Missouri news, and it reaches hundreds of thousands of Missourians in a very conservative area.
Many attendees are already organizing a local activist group, SEMO Cannabis Law Reformers, and they plan to hold their first meeting in the same room at the Cape Public Library (711 N. Clark) next Tuesday, 10/29 at 6:00 p.m.! Check out their page, like it, and share it with your friends to spread the word. Let's keep this momentum going!
Since Show-Me Cannabis was founded in 2011, we've held scores of events across this state, but there is an obvious difference between the crowds back then and the crowds now. When I go into a room packed with people who want to change our oppressive cannabis laws now, the people are full of hope. Hope that wasn't there a couple years ago, and hope that Show-Me Cannabs has helped create.