These are letters written by Show-Me Cannabis supporters and submitted to Missouri newspapers.
If you are interested in contributing a letter, please email Show-Me Cannabis Regulation Executive Director John Payne at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can suggest talking points, help edit the letter, and give you the contact information for papers in your area.
Submitted to the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch by Michael Votaw of Saint Louis and published on January 5, 2013:
Many proponents of marijuana legalization don’t really like to admit it, but marijuana isn’t the magical, harmless drug that they want it to be. We’d be fools to think that anything is completely harmless.
According to CDC statistics, marijuana use contributed directly to about 150 deaths in 2010. SAMHSA surveys from that same time show about 5 million people identified as heavy marijuana users, and this statistic corresponds very closely to those who identified as either physically or psychologically dependent. If you were so inclined, you could come up with all kinds of statistics on how marijuana negatively affects people’s lives.
But all of this is no worse than the perfectly legal drugs we use every day. Those 150 dead equal about 0.0008% of the 18 million current marijuana users. Cigarettes, on the other hand, killed 393,600 people, or 0.6% of the 56.8 million current smokers. Nearly 60% of cigarette users identify as heavy smokers, compare that to just 25% of marijuana users.
We could go on comparing the harmful effects of marijuana and tobacco, and similarly for alcohol, all day, but the point I’m trying to get to would still stand: if we truly feel that marijuana is so harmful that it should be outright illegal, why are tobacco and alcohol tolerated?
How do we explain that? How do we explain that we’ve, rather arbitrarily, decided that it’s okay to use one dangerous drug over another? If marijuana is illegal because of its potential harmfulness, then shouldn’t we prohibit tobacco and alcohol as well?
Alcohol can be very harmful, but our society is able to mitigate these dangers through better regulation and better education. A vast majority of Americans drink alcohol, and a vast majority of us do so responsibly. The same goes for marijuana. Keeping marijuana illegal, while tolerating alcohol and tobacco, means that our substance laws are inconsistent, arbitrary, and based not on reason, but on emotion.
This letter generated another supportive letter, “Drug Laws Do More Harm Than Good,” published in the Post-Dispatch on January 8th, 2013.
Dismantling the Myths About Legalization Advocates, submitted as an op-ed to the Springfield News-Leader by Marc Spess:
When people think of those who advocate marijuana legalization, they often think of scruffy, tie dye-wearing, young (and lazy) adults who have low morals. Some people would undoubtedly like police to crack down on these individuals, many of whom steal to finance their addictions, deal to school kids, and are essentially drains on society.
This is what I was taught to believe growing up. President Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan started the highly marketed “Just Say No” campaign, and it was the dreaded weed that fried your brain like an egg in a frying pan. Those of us who grew up in the 1980s saw this message daily between animated cartoon breaks and school posters.
For most of us respect, understanding and compassion were not qualities we associated with cannabis smokers. Cracking down on marijuana use and cracking down on criminal behavior were one and the same.
So why should anyone pay any attention to the activities of the local activists associated with groups such as Springfield NORML and Show-Me Cannabis Regulation? First, these groups discourage the irresponsible use of cannabis. When it comes to underage use, impaired driving, and dealing marijuana at schools, we all agree that these activities should remain illegal. Almost all of the reformers I have met and spoken with believe we should treat and regulate cannabis like alcohol.
Secondly, reformers are concerned about helping medical users. Several NORML members have stories of tragic events in their lives where cannabis either helped or could have helped their loved ones’ conditions. Just this week, I spoke to a new member who lost her husband due to the overuse of prescription painkillers. The medications destroyed his liver and led to his untimely and unnecessary death. When the woman discovered that cannabis is an effective pain management alternative without those potentially lethal side effects, she chose to stand up for other patients in the same situation.
Another member suffered back injuries, and, again, his prescription opiates caused massive liver damage. Cannabis has allowed him to treat his pain without damaging his liver, which, according to his doctors, has prevented his death. These individuals are the most ardent supporters because they have experienced firsthand how medical cannabis has aided residents of our city.
Finally, marijuana law reformers are not all the leftwing stereotypes many believe them to be. Many reformers identify as libertarians, who support limited government, individual rights, and personal responsibility. Libertarians adhere strictly to the rule of law, especially the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and they believe the federal prohibition on cannabis violates the constitutional limits on federal power. From this perspective, if the government can exceed its authority on marijuana, it can do it in other realms such as health care, taxes, and religion. Furthermore, these individuals see our obviously ineffective policy of prohibition as a big waste of scarce taxpayer resources that could be used in better places.
What I’m saying may seem surprising to many readers, but from my conversations with many local cannabis law reformers, they share the same concerns as the general public. They just believe that cannabis prohibition does nothing to stop drug abuse while unjustly punishing medical and responsible recreational cannabis users.
Submitted to the Saint Joseph News-Press by Show-Me Cannabis Regulation Executive Director John Payne and Published on 12/13/2012:
In “Legal pot a terrible idea” (Dec. 7), the editors express concerns about the effects of cannabis (colloquially known as “marijuana”) legalization upon road safety and young people. Although quite understandable, this anti-legalization argument misses the point.
Driving under the influence of marijuana remains illegal in both Colorado and Washington, and no one is suggesting that it should become legal. In fact, legalization will allow police to focus more of their time on important matters, such as impaired driving, instead of arresting more than 750,000 Americans annually for simply possessing cannabis.
Moreover, if more permissive cannabis laws cause chaos on the highways, it would be reflected in fatality reports from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. However, according to a study by University of Colorado-Denver economics professor Daniel Rees, the data show just the opposite; states with medical marijuana laws experience a 9 percent drop in fatal automobile accidents compared to those without such reforms. The study’s authors argue that this phenomenon is largely driven by people substituting cannabis for alcohol. Cannabis users also are less likely to drive than drinkers, as most cannabis users partake at home while drinkers often drive to bars.
Similarly, no one is arguing that anyone under the age of 21 should be allowed to use marijuana, but the editors fail to present any evidence that marijuana prohibition actually stops kids from using the plant. That’s because it doesn’t.
The complete failure of our prohibitionist policy is reflected in the fact that more high school seniors now smoke cannabis each month than smoke cigarettes, a product that is completely legal for many seniors. That was not true 30, 20 or even 10 years ago, but we have dramatically reduced levels of cigarette smoking in this country at all age levels through a combination of taxation and education. However, efforts to reduce marijuana use, especially among teenagers, have been entirely ineffective because we cannot tax a black market, and illicit drug dealers do not check ID.
Neither the editors nor I want to see teenagers using marijuana or anyone driving under the influence, but laws against responsible adult possession and use of the plant only misdirect scarce law enforcement resources from these real problems.
Submitted by Steven Groce, Attorney, to the Springfield News-Leader:
It’s About Freedom
Submitted by Walter Smith to the Trenton Republican Times:
When I was a kid growing up there was cannabis everywhere. I was told that “those were hemp fields, left over from the hemp factories.” As a farm owner, I am forbidden to raise hemp, because the government labels the plant a public danger because, although it does not produce psychoactive buds, it is the same plant that marijuana is grown from, and the government claims it cannot distinguish the budding form of the plant from the non-budding form. However, hemp is used for industrial purposes such as paper, textiles, clothing, biodegradable plastics, construction (as with Hempcrete and insulation), body products, health food and bio-fuel.
It is also an incredibly sustainable crop. According to a 1916 Department of Agriculture Bulletin 1916, hemp is one of the faster growing biomasses known to man. Currently, thanks to a federal ban on its production in the United States, China is the leading producer of the crop.
How does this sound for a green jobs plan? Since hemp is self sustaining and has beneficial qualities, let’s legalize it and genetically modify it to enhance those qualities. We can also legalize marijuana and put a sin tax on its recreational use similar to what Washington and Colorado voters approved in November. That will allow farmers to raise two profitable crops and bring factories back to the USA.
Submitted to the Riverfront Times by Matthew Cornelison of Hazelwood:
On December 28th, the RFT reported a criminal case in which two 17-year-olds posing as marijuana dealers robbed and shot a man who had contacted them via Facebook looking for pot. Although the police should be commended for quickly apprehending the assailants, this violent crime never should have occurred because it could have been prevented with better policies.
Marijuana is not known to cause violent behavior in users; in fact it’s relatively safe as far as drugs go. The trouble is caused by the black market – where there is no recourse through the law for a deal-gone-wrong, where there are no identification checks for minors, and where there are no warning or product information labels to assure a person of what he is purchasing. If we want to see a reduction in drug related crimes like this one, then it’s up to us to take the crime out of cannabis by removing it from the hands of black market drug dealers. In 2011 cannabis arrests represented 49.5 percent of all U.S. drug arrests, which suggests that there would be quite a reduction of black market enterprise and subsequently lower crime rates if cannabis were legalized and regulated.
Washington and Colorado both passed initiatives in 2012 ending cannabis prohibition in their states, and an additional sixteen states and the District of Columbia have enacted medical marijuana laws. Missouri is full of hundreds of dedicated activists who work diligently bringing this issue to the fore of public conversation. Show-Me Cannabis Regulation continues toward their ultimate goal of putting the legalization and regulation of cannabis before public vote, and any readers who are interested in learning more should visit their web page (Show-MeCannabis.com). Crimes like this one in show that ending cannabis prohibition is as urgent as stopping a robbery.
Submitted by Brian Auchly to the Saint Charles Journal:
In November, voters in Colorado and Washington decided that the recreational use of cannabis should be legal for all adults and regulated like alcohol. Additionally, eighteen states and the District of Columbia have decided through democratic processes that the medical benefits of cannabis should be protected by law. As happened at the end of alcohol prohibition, states are telling the federal government that they will no longer enforce the prohibition of cannabis, and Missourians will likely see the issue on their ballots in the near future.
The movement for cannabis law reform is growing, and the reformers have good reasons to demand change. Every year, thousands of otherwise law-abiding Missourians are arrested and thrown into the criminal justice system for possessing cannabis. If the person receives a jail sentence, the family will be divided, and the convicted person will be unable to help provide for them. Children may have to grow up without one or both of their parents.
Regulating cannabis like alcohol would also help keep it away from our children. The National Institute on Drug Abuse’s Monitoring the Future survey shows that over 80 percent of high school seniors students say it is either fairly or very easy to buy marijuana illegally. On the other hand, stores that sell alcohol and tobacco must obtain permits that are hard to obtain and easy to lose. Legal cannabis would be kept behind the counter, and clerks would be required to check identification, making it harder for minors to obtain.
The two most important questions Missourians must decide about cannabis prohibition are does it actually protect us, and does it even appreciably prevent cannabis use? The numbers show that the answer to both questions is a resounding “No!”
Submitted to the Hazelwood Patch by Matthew Cornelison of Hazelwood:
“Could Pot Be Legal in Missouri, Ever?” (11/11) leads readers to believe that the Show-Me Cannabis petition drive was unable to garner enough signatures to put the initiative on the November 2012 ballot because most Missourians don’t like the idea of legalizing cannabis in Missouri. This assumption, however, is made in haste.
A more plausible explanation is that Show-Me Cannabis simply didn’t have enough funding last year to complete the mission. However, they had nearly 500 active volunteers, which is more than most ballot initiative campaigns could ever hope for. Show-Me Cannabis spent less than $25,000, yet received over 65,000 signatures, which is impressive considering that most initiative campaigns pay professional signatures more than three dollars per signature.
As a petitioner who collected signatures here in Hazelwood every Tuesday evening during court hours at City Hall, I submit that the proposal to legalize and regulate cannabis, once explained, was well received by the people of Missouri. On multiple occasions, voters who don’t like marijuana and who were initially against legalization ended up signing my petition. Upon consideration of the failures of drug-war policy, voters who are opposed to drug use willingly sign their support for ending cannabis prohibition in Missouri. In fact, support for the initiative has come from an increasingly broad spectrum of voters as education on the subject replaces the superstition and stereotypes developed by the propaganda of old.
Show-Me Cannabis is alive and well, and readers can expect to see a continual effort on the part of activists to bring legalization and regulation of cannabis into public deliberation. Colorado and Washington have declared an end to cannabis prohibition, and sixteen states have medical marijuana laws.
Could pot be legal in Missouri, ever? Considering the numerous scientific polls showing that a majority of Americans want to legalize and regulate marijuana like alcohol with support growing steadily, the answer is a resounding yes!
Submitted to the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch by Matthew Cornelison of Hazelwood
According to “President’s Pot Comments Prompt Call for Policy” (12/15), President Obama is not planning on using the federal government to prosecute marijuana users in Colorado and Washington, where voters legalized adult use of cannabis. However, we’ve heard this line before. The President promised not to interfere with medical marijuana states then gave federal agents free rein to conduct SWAT raids on medical marijuana dispensaries. The continuing federal efforts to harass legal cannabis retailers and consumers show us that either the President lied, or that he has no real control over his own Justice Department.
Although cannabis certainly possesses many medical properties, medical marijuana laws create a grey area wherein recreational and medical cannabis users alike are still subjected to undue harassment from the law and from society. The only policy change that clears the smoke out of that grey area is an outright end to cannabis prohibition and a subsequent end of the criminal black market and government oppression to which cannabis users have been relegated.
Imagine that you are comfortably resting at home with your wife and 7-year-old child; the family pets are playing about; you are sipping a beer and enjoying your life. Suddenly your door is blasted open and a squad of threatening men wearing combat gear and brandishing assault weapons storm in. They shoot your Pit Bull and Corgi because they were barking, killing the Pit Bull. Your child screams, not knowing if these men are going to kill the whole family. You are thrown in jail, and your house is ransacked. They have the “right” to do this because they found a six-pack of beer in your fridge. Is that acceptable in a free country? That’s the sort of scenario that could occur if alcohol were still prohibited, and it happens to cannabis consumers every day in the United States.
Lest readers think I am exaggerating, the particular situation I described is based upon the SWAT raid on Jonathan Whitworth and his family in Columbia, Missouri in 2010. Police only found a trace amount of marijuana and paraphernalia.
The federal government is in no hurry to change their drug policies, but fortunately the states are ending their failed prohibitionist policies and replacing them with sensible regulation. Legalization efforts are taking place here in Missouri through groups such as Show-Me Cannabis Regulation, and Missourians can expect to see this issue continually pushed toward public vote.
Submitted to the Lake Sun Leader by Gleenwood Charles Cory of Camdenton
Voters in both Washington and Colorado approved ballot initiatives legalizing marijuana on Election Day, and those laws took effect in December. It is time we move towards similar reforms here in Missouri.
As a life-long Missourian, I have seen tremendous damage from our failed war on marijuana. The state of Missouri arrests around 20,000 people every year for possession of marijuana. Many of these people are good, hard-working mothers and fathers, who are stripped from their families and placed into prisons – a far greater moral failing than anyone’s decision to ingest a plant.
Millions of Americans use cannabis, and they will continue to do so regardless of whether it is legal. Prohibition has failed: It failed with alcohol, guns, and marijuana. By trying to enforce an unenforceable law, we are just creating disrespect for the law and sending the money from marijuana sales to violent drug cartels and street gangs, costing tax payers millions of dollars a year. However, Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron estimates that by legalizing and regulating cannabis, the state of Missouri would gain nearly $150 million annually in revenue.
Many people say that we must think of the children when it comes to cannabis, but we would better protect our children by eliminating the dangerous black market. That would also free law enforcement to focus on protecting citizens from violent crimes, including protecting our children at school. Regulating cannabis would also mean that retailers would be required to check customers’ identification, as they do now with alcohol.
Ending cannabis prohibition would also have economic benefits. Hemp has over 50,000 uses and would create income for our farming communities. The Hemp Industries Association estimates that Americans bought $452 million worth of hemp products last year, but all of that hemp had to be grown abroad – mostly in China – because of laws prohibiting hemp cultivation. If Missouri’s farmers had access to that market, it could allow new businesses to flourish and create jobs for our starved economy.
Submitted to the Kansas City Star by (SMCR board member) Amber Langston of Kansas City:
On December 18th, the Star reported, “South KC Boy Scouts do a good deed, bust up marijuana farm.” While it is obviously good policy to instill respect for the law generally, the moral ground for enforcing cannabis (“marijuana”) prohibition is extremely questionable.
Cannabis production and use by adults are victimless crimes. Increasingly, “busting up a marijuana farm” means throwing seriously ill people into prison for their medicine, seizing the assets of private citizens, and creating incentives that direct police away from violent crime.
Prohibition policy is far more damaging than cannabis itself. A criminal drug conviction can mean the loss of federal education aid, housing, food stamp eligibility, and countless job opportunities – creating often insurmountable barriers for at-risk youth to become productive members of society.
The press should not continue to blindly glorify the failed “war on drugs.” Instead, let us ask, “Is cannabis prohibition moral?” Every day more Americans agree that not only are our cannabis laws expensive and ineffective, they are also manifestly unjust.
Did the Boy Scouts do a good deed busting up a marijuana farm? That depends on your definition of good. One thing is for certain: it won’t stop anyone from using marijuana.