Missouri Advocacy Groups Renew Fight for Marijuana Reform
After failing to get enough support for marijuana reform in 2012 and 2014, advocacy groups are once again pushing for changes to marijuana laws in Columbia.
A new petition aims to make the cultivation of up to six marijuana plants legal for medical purposes within the city limits. Next month, advocacy groups including Show-Me Cannabis and Mid-Missouri NORML plan to begin collecting signatures. If they get enough support, the measure will go on the November, 2016 ballot.
Last year, advocacy groups tried to go through Columbia City Council to decriminalize marijuana. When that effort failed by a 4-3 vote, the groups shifted their focus to the general public.
“Last time  we tried to work through the City Council, they refused to fix the broken laws and move more toward a rational system of dealing with cannabis. So, we’re going to put it directly to the people,” said Josh Chittum, Executive Director of Mid-Missouri NORML.
If residents vote for reform in 2016, the measure would go back to a City Council vote. The Council can then decide to vote on the measure again or put the vote back up to the public for final approval.
Criminal defense attorney Daniel Dodson advocates for the reform because he has seen the lack of access to medical marijuana turn into a matter of life and death.
"I had a client within the last few months, a military veteran, who had suffered from PTSD. When he was able to smoke marijuana, he was able to manage it pretty well. When he got caught up in the criminal justice system, he couldn’t smoke marijuana and he ended up committing suicide,” Dodson said.
Dodson says it’s common for military veterans to end up in the criminal justice system. Once that happens, they are subject to random drug testing. This keeps them from being able to use marijuana for medicinal purposes.
The advocacy groups say they are not leading an extreme movement.
“We’re not even that radical. We’re just trying to decriminalize. We’re not trying to legalize the cultivation and the use of cannabis with this petition. We’re simply trying to make it where someone’s life wouldn’t be ruined if they’re caught cultivating the plant,” Chittum said.