Pubdate: Thu, 27 Mar 2014
Source: Southeast Missourian (MO)
Copyright: 2014 Southeast Missourian
Author: Scott Welton


SIKESTON, Mo. -- About 50 people attended the Show-Me Cannabis town 
hall meeting Tuesday at the Clinton Building in Sikeston to discuss 
the possibility of legalizing marijuana.

John Payne, executive director of Show-Me Cannabis, said his efforts 
are not motivated by a desire to legally get high -- he doesn't use 
cannabis. His motivations include freedom, human-rights issues, 
meeting medical needs and economic development.

The sale of hemp products is a $500 million-a-year industry in the 
U.S., according to Payne.

"It is perfectly legal for us to buy the products, but it's not at 
all legal for our farmers to grow hemp, and that doesn't seem to make 
a whole lot of sense," he said. "So we'd like to give Missouri 
farmers that opportunity as well."

But the organization does not plan to put an initiative for the 
legalization of recreational marijuana use on the ballot until 2016, 
when it has the best chance of being approved.

Larry Kirk, Old Monroe, Mo., chief of police and a member of Law 
Enforcement Against Prohibition, said his support for the 
legalization of marijuana developed over time.

Kirk said he began looking into why there was so much effort put into 
the eradication of marijuana.

"It seemed like we were using a lot of time, a lot of effort and a 
lot of money and resources," he said, when they were seeing "an 
explosion" of heroin and methamphetamine issues.

The goal of prohibition is to cut supply and demand, Kirk said, but 
"we are not cutting the demand for it; supply is definitely not being 
cut. As a matter of fact, supply is getting better. So at this point, 
we are asking ourselves, what are we really spending $20 million per year on?"

Kirk said there is the fear if it is legalized, that "everyone is 
going to run out and become marijuana addicts." But he doesn't think 
that will happen.

"I believe that anyone who wants to smoke marijuana currently in the 
state of Missouri is smoking marijuana," he said.

Kirk said he wouldn't use marijuana if it were legalized and doesn't 
use alcohol or tobacco.

"I know a lot of people that used marijuana" in school, he said, but 
they didn't grow up to be drug addicts. He said they achieved 
advanced degrees and went on to careers in medicine, law and even law 

Education and regulation are working to bring down underage drug use 
that to him seems much more "evil," he said, and those same programs 
will have the same results if marijuana is regulated.

Gary Wiegert, a police sergeant in St. Louis, made clear he was 
speaking as an individual and his views did not represent those of 
his department.

Wiegert said he had to win a lawsuit defending his First Amendment 
right to free speech and, the day after the courts ruled in his favor 
so he could lobby for the legalization of marijuana, was called in 
for a urine test at work -- and passed.

"I've never smoked marijuana in my life," he said. "I have no 
intention to smoke marijuana when this passes."


Wiegert said usually officers in the St. Louis Police Department 
"have much more important things to do" than bust people for pot, and 
when he did make those arrests, other officers would make fun of him 
and tell him to go get a worthwhile arrest.

Good law enforcement is about priorities, Wiegert said.

"Right now in the state of Missouri, our problem really isn't 
marijuana," he said. "In St. Louis right now, it is heroin."

Wiegert, as a lobbyist for the St. Louis Tea Party, also feels it is 
"not fiscally responsible" to focus on marijuana -- and it is unconstitutional.

"It is not up to the federal government to tell us what to do in 
Missouri," he said. "It is up to the state of Missouri."

Wiegert said there also have been scandals related to asset forfeiture laws.

"You focus on the money and not the actual crime," he said, "You have 
police departments out there actually chasing the seizure of money," 
and "priorities are focused away from where it should be."

Wiegert, who has 34 years of law enforcement experience, said he has 
seen plenty of crime.

"Little old ladies get knocked down for their purses," he said. 
"Nobody ever knocks down the little old lady to buy marijuana. It is 
always done to buy heroin, it's done to buy meth, it's done to buy cocaine."

Brandy Johnson of Bernie, Mo., discussed how her youngest son has 
medical issues including cranial duplication, a severely abnormal 
brain and suffers from seizures.

She has tried every legal medication -- most of which have harsh side 
effects -- and every available surgery.

"Trace was having over 300 seizures a day," Johnson said.

Cannabidiol oil treatment has been proven to help dramatically, 
according to Johnson. "We should be able to get all the available 
treatments," she said. "This is the only other option for treatment 
there is in the world."

Specific properties can be bred in marijuana "just like any other 
plant," Johnson said.

For her, "this isn't about passing a law so somebody can sit on their 
porch and smoke a joint. ... If they want to that's fine, but I am 
here to save my son and all those who don't have a voice."

During a question-and-answer session, Payne noted there was a 9 
percent decrease in driving under the influence arrests in areas with 
medical marijuana as compared with places where it has not yet been 
approved "because there was also a decline in alcohol use."

Also noted was crime statistics are showing legal marijuana is 
financially hurting Mexican drug cartels and local street gangs.

Pertinent address: Sikeston, Mo.
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