Residents packed into East Hills Library Wednesday night to hear about a hot-button issue: marijuana legalization.
The gathering was a town hall meeting held by Show-Me Cannabis, a group dedicated to changing Missouri marijuana laws.
One of the panelists was Amber Iris Langston, a member of the group’s board of directors. She said the event was about getting the word out.
“We are basically trying to bring awareness to the issue, let people know that we are out there and we’re trying to make a positive change. We want to get input, get people on the same page so that we can get this done, make a better policy in Missouri,” Ms. Langston said.
The group is seeking to bring a tax-and-regulate ballot initiative to Missourians, possibly as early as 2014, and to introduce bills addressing decriminalization, medical marijuana and hemp production before the Missouri General Assembly, Ms. Langston said.
She said the group is aiming to reform broken drug policies.
“It’s not controlled, that’s the ironic thing of calling it a controlled substance,” Ms. Langston said. “It’s a black market. There’s no transparency, there’s no accountability and this policy has not worked.”
Ms. Langston was joined by the organization’s executive director, John Payne, and Brian Leininger, a Kansas City defense attorney who formerly served as an assistant district attorney.
Mr. Payne said the group began in 2011 with the goal of regulating marijuana, similarly to alcohol.
“It’s not just going to be some sort of free-for-all where it’s legal for anybody. It would be a a regulated market where if you are 21, you could purchase it,” he said, noting that education and regulation have helped reduce the harms of alcohol and tobacco.
Mr. Payne believes the tide is turning in favor of the cause, noting a jump in public opinion polls after marijuana in some forms were legalized in Colorado and Washington.
Ms. Langston agreed.
“There’s a lot less propaganda than there used to be around this issue,” she said. “People are taking it seriously, and it’s not just a joke about Cheetos anymore, thankfully.”