Pubdate: Sat, 18 Feb 2012
Source: Columbia Missourian (MO)
Copyright: 2012 Columbia Missourian
Author: Chris Roll


COLUMBIA - A low turnout didn't keep Missouri cannabis supporters 
from discussing marijuana legalization on Friday.

The Show-Me Cannabis Regulation ballot initiative campaign held a 
signature drive outside the Missouri state Capitol in Jefferson City.

The drive aided the campaign in its goal to obtain 144,000 valid 
signatures by May 4. The signatures, gathered by about 1,000 unpaid 
volunteers, are required to qualify the campaign's proposed 
constitutional amendment. Signatures from six out of nine 
congressional districts are needed.

The amendment would legalize marijuana use for adults age 21 and 
older, release prison inmates convicted of nonviolent marijuana 
crimes and allow for a tax of up to $100 per pound of non-hemp cannabis.

"I personally believe that cannabis prohibition is the greatest 
failed policy of our time, because there is so much money spent 
enforcing it with no tangible results," campaign director Amber Langston said.

Echoing Langston's statements were fellow speakers Betty Taylor, a 
former chief of police from Winfield, and campaign board chairman and 
Columbia defense attorney Dan Viets.

They addressed their audience from the steps on the south side of the 
Capitol building, standing below the statue of Thomas Jefferson, whom 
they referenced as being a hemp farmer himself.

One key point of all three speeches was the idea that law 
enforcement's time and resources are wasted policing marijuana usage.

"You go into law enforcement to make a difference, and you only 
enforce the laws that can be enforced," Taylor said. "You cannot 
eradicate drug activity because it is profitable."

Currently, Columbia law enforcement has misdemeanor marijuana 
possession cases listed as one of its lower priorities, although 
felony amounts are given higher priority.

"We need to put people like me out of work," Viets said. "I've spent 
25 years seeing people go away for victimless crimes."

Viets called marijuana prohibition a "true evil," and said people 
will look back on that prohibition with the same horror and disgust 
that they looked at other prohibitions in the past.

"We're not encouraging you to use, but if you're going to use, use 
responsibly," Langston said.

About 30 people attended the event, with people coming and going as 
each speaker took the podium. Langston, however, wasn't fazed by the 
low turnout.

"I would just as soon have all my petitioners out gathering 
signatures on this beautiful day than crowded around the capitol," 
Langston said.

Campaign officials have high hopes that cannabis prohibition will be 
overturned, if not this November, then at least in years to come. 
Langston said the concern is about individual liberty, since in a 
free society, people should be able to decide what they do in their own homes.

"It's about the policy, not the plant," Langston said. "We want even 
people who hate marijuana to vote 'yes' on this."
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