MARYVILLE, Mo. — Two years from now, Missouri voters could have a chance to follow the lead of those in Colorado and Washington.
Show-Me Cannabis discussed marijuana legalization during a town hall meeting Thursday at the Maryville Community Center.
The group hopes to put a question on the November 2016 ballot to legalize marijuana statewide, similar to legislation that has already passed in other states.
Amber Langston, executive director of Show-Me Cannabis, said the group hopes to show potential voters the wisdom of taxing and regulating marijuana like alcohol.
“By taking marijuana out of the illegal marketplace, we can make it transparent and accountable,” Ms. Langston said.
Ms. Langston and Dan Viets, chairman of the board for Show-Me Cannabis, worked together to decriminalize marijuana in 2004 in Columbia, Mo., where Ms. Langston was a student and Mr. Viets works as an attorney.
Mr. Viets said the issue enjoys support from a broad coalition of liberal progressives and libertarian conservatives. The challenge, however, lies in convincing a large block of people who believe marijuana is a harmful drug that prohibition has done more harm than good.
“We won’t win if we only have pot smokers voting for us,” Mr. Viets said. “We have to convince the people who have never and will never smoke a joint that they should stop arresting the rest of us.”
Shane Steeley, president of the Northwest Missouri State University College Democrats, said current marijuana legislation was too harsh on students who receive federal student loans.
“FAFSA needs to be changed so it can’t be taken away from you because of a joint,” Mr. Steeley said.
Brian Leininger, a former prosecuting attorney, now speaks on behalf of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). Mr. Leininger described the War on Drugs as a failure that has cost taxpayers billions of dollars without results. He also said it had placed undue hardship on people who had committed nonviolent drug crimes.
“The biggest side effect of marijuana is arrest and prosecution,” Mr. Leininger said. “It’s really the only bad thing that can happen to you from it.”