By John Payne
Last Wednesday, February 26, state Senator Jason Holsman (D - Kansas City) introduced a medical marijuana bill (S.B. 951). The bill would give patients with a "debilitating medical condition" access to medical cannabis and allow for the creation of regulated dispensaries and the ability for patients to grow up to seven plants (four immature, three mature). This bill would put the question before the voters of Missouri this year, so it is our best shot at placing a reform measure on the ballot this November.
The very next day, state Representative Mike Colona (D - Saint Louis) introduced H.B. 2054, which would exempt industrial hemp from the list of controlled substances and make it "legal for anyone who has not been convicted of a drug-related crime to cultivate such hemp." Representatives Galen Higdon (R - Buchanan County) and Paul Curtman (R - Pacific) also signed on as co-sponsors to the bill, and that bipartisan support will certainly increase the bill's chance of passage.
Until the end of the legislative session in May, promoting these bills along with the reform bills introduced earlier in the session will be our primary focus. Please take a moment to email your state legislators regarding all of these bills, if you have not already done so.
As the legislative process plays out, we will also be preparing for the launch of our 2016 campaign, which will likely happen near the end of this year. Fortunately, the most important thing we can do to promote passage of these bills and prepare for 2016 is to wage an effective public education campaign.
Of course, a public education campaign will cost money, so I hope we can count on your support to spread the word to every corner of the state.
So, what kind of education campaign do we need and how much will it cost? Here is what I think will make a good starting point, and I hope to make a reality by the end of the month:
- Steady radio advertising in both major markets. During the legislative session, this should focus on demographics that are already supportive, so that we can pressure the legislature to take action. Over the summer, it should switch to other demographics that are less supportive but can be persuaded. I'd like to start with $1,000 per month in each market, so $2,000 total monthly.
- Billboards highlighting people who are being hurt by the current system. These should be located near where those people reside (or resided if they are currently imprisoned). I think we should start with a billboard on I-70 near Sedalia featuring Jeff Mizanskey and another featuring a family who would benefit from medical cannabis, and that would likely cost around $750 a month. Ultimately, I'd like to see similar billboards in every part of the state, but this is a starting place.
- Identifying medical cannabis patients (former, current, or potential) with the most sympathetic stories in each legislative district and organizing them into a political force. Ben Rediger has already done a great deal of hard work in this area, and two of the families he works with were recently featured on Fox 2 in Saint Louis. These are the stories legislators and the people of Missouri desperately need to hear, and I think we can start this process with $1,500 a month to hire Ben part time to coordinate the patients and pay for the patients' travel expenses to Jefferson City to speak with legislators.
- Organizing and promoting our town hall meetings. We have routinely budgeted $500 to promote each town hall in the local area, and I hope to continue that. However, we can make these events even bigger if we can pay a part time staffer to thoroughly work each event by promoting it online, contacting local press and legislators, engaging local civic groups, and making sure all the events are live-streamed. I estimate the total for holding and promoting our town hall meetings each month will be approximately $1,000.
All said, I hope to increase our monthly expenditures by about $5,000 to promote these bills and educate Missourians about cannabis law reform more generally. This amounts to nearly doubling our monthly budget, but I am confident that we can do it together.
Please take a moment and sign up for a recurring contribution now! I do not mean to discourage anyone from making a one-time contribution, but to make this plan work effectively, we do need a steady stream of revenue that will allow us to prepare reliable monthly budgets.
If you want to advance cannabis law reform in Missouri by bring a new cash crop to our farmers, preventing cannabis users from facing arrest and imprisonment, and finally giving medical cannabis patients much needed access to their medicine, I urge you to make a monthly pledge now! Even a pledge for as little as $10 can improve our ability to operate on a month-to-month basis. I hope we can count on your support!