Pubdate: Wed, 04 Dec 2013
Source: Columbia Missourian (MO)
Copyright: 2013 Columbia Missourian
Author: Jack Suntrup


Columbia - A local attorney has created a new proposal for marijuana
legalization in Missouri that would take the issue directly to voters,
asking them to approve an amendment to the state Constitution and
bypassing the state legislature.

Attorney Dan Viets, chairman of Show-Me Cannabis Regulation, has
submitted an initiative petition to the Missouri secretary of state's
office seeking an amendment to legalize the plant.

"The legislature would repeal it if it were just a statute change," he

The proposal seeks to legalize marijuana for those 21 and older while
taxing marijuana sales to help fund law enforcement, retirement plans
for firefighters and police, education, mental health services, drug
treatment, and enforcement of new marijuana regulations.

The proposal says it "would not obstruct in the enforcement" of
federal law and would not seek to change current state laws regarding
workplace regulations and landlord-tenant agreements.

Petitioners will have to collect signatures from 8 percent of
Missouri's 4 million registered voters in two-thirds of Missouri's
eight congressional districts. The signatures must be submitted by May
4 to get the measure on the November 2014 ballot, said Kevin Flannery,
a spokesman for the Missouri secretary of state.

Viets has submitted 10 versions of his proposal to the Missouri
secretary of state's office, all with variations on the number of
plants allowed to be grown, whether to expunge convictions of previous
offenders and how to regulate advertising. He said Show-Me Cannabis
will conduct a poll to determine which proposal receives the most
support from Missouri residents.

Organizations supporting marijuana legalization have been hosting
forums across the state to gauge public opinion. At a Columbia forum
in September, Viets and others talked strategy with lawmakers and activists.

At the forum, Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, said he was open to
marijuana legalization but would rather forge a path through the state
legislature than seek a ballot initiative. On Wednesday, he repeated
that he would prefer for legalization to happen through a legislative
process and said that initiative petitions can be poorly written.

"But these methods are not mutually exclusive," Kelly said. "You can
try both. Just because the legislature is the better way, you don't
have to do it that way."

Viets said the legislature is out of sync with public opinion,
referencing a September 2012 poll commissioned by Show-Me Cannabis,
which found that 20 percent of Missourians were strongly in favor of
legalization and 30 percent were leaning toward it. Fourteen percent
of respondents were leaning against legalization, and 31 percent were
strongly against it.

"We believe the legislature is totally out of touch with voters in
Missouri on this," Viets said.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt