Missouri House Kills Medical Marijuana Bill; Fight Moving to the Ballot

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (May 2, 2016) – A Missouri bill that would have legalized medical marijuana was voted down by the Missouri House of Representatives last week. Had the bill been signed into law, it would have set the stage to block in practice the federal prohibition on marijuana. But the fight for medical marijuana is not over with a push to put the issue on the ballot gaining steam.

Rep. Dave Hinson (R-98) introduced House Bill 2213 (HB2213) in January. Titled theMissouri Compassionate Care Act, the legislation would have legalized the use, sale and cultivation of marijuana for medical use in Missouri, something unlawfully banned by the federal government.

Although HB2213 easily passed the House Emerging Issues Committee and the the House Select Committee on General Laws earlier this year, it was defeated by a single vote, 67-66, on April 21.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA BALLOT INITIATIVE

Despite the failure of HB2213, the push to legalize medical marijuana in Missouri continues. There is a well-organized effort to place language on the November ballot that would bolster access to medicinal cannabis. New Approach Missouri will have to gather 157,788 valid signatures to place the measure on the ballot. That would represent the number of registered voters equal to 8 percent of the total votes cast in the most recent governor’s election from six of the state’s eight congressional districts.

The organization has gathered 235,000 signatures so far. It has until May 8 to reach its goal.

“We’ve tried to look at the 23 existing states that already provide medical cannabis as a therapeutic to their patients and take the best practices from each of those states, and use that to make the most robust, complete, and safe program for the State of Missouri,” New Approach Board President Lee Winters said.

EFFECT ON FEDERAL PROHIBITION

Legalization of medical marijuana would remove one layer of law prohibiting the possession and use of cannabis in Missouri, but federal prohibition would remained in place.

Of course, the federal government lacks any legal authority to ban or regulate marijuana within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.

While state actions do not alter federal law, they do take a step toward thwarting in effect the federal ban. FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By easing the state laws, the Missouri legislature could have removed some of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.

Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly-budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.

A growing number of states are now simply ignoring federal prohibition. Colorado, Washington state and Alaska have all legalized both recreational and medical marijuana, and 23 states now allow cannabis for medical use. With nearly half the country legalizing marijuana, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition any more. The feds need state cooperation to fight the “drug war,” and that has rapidly evaporated in the last few years with state legalization stopping the ban.

NEXT STEP

If you live in Missouricontact New Approach Missouri to get involved in the ballot initiative.