The state of Missouri is considering two petitions asking for a statewide vote on legalizing marijuana use.
Each would amend the state’s constitution, which raises the ballot hurdle: It would take more than 155,000 valid signatures scattered across at least six congressional districts to get either measure to voters in 2016.
After that, a simple majority could embed legal weed in the state’s controlling law.
Legalizing marijuana use is something of a national trend, and it may be that Missouri voters deserve a chance to decide the issue — giving ordinary people a voice on controversial questions is what the initiative process is all about.
But Missourians pondering a signature on a marijuana petition have two starkly different options. One petition slightly loosens the regulatory grip on pot. The other would remove those restrictions entirely, giving Missouri the most liberal pot law in the country.
Petition 2016-008 would legalize marijuana possession for personal and medical uses — without any age restrictions. Author Mark Pedersen, who lives in Colorado, says cannabis is a nontoxic “food” that should be available to anyone.
“Just the fact that cannabis comes with euphoria is not a reason to deny it to anyone,” he wrote in an email.
Under Pedersen’s plan, marijuana users would not face a DUI citation if stopped while driving. And more: if passed, anyone now in jail for “non-violent, cannabis-only offenses” in Missouri would immediately be released. Medical marijuana would be tax-free.
“It’s a personal freedom thing,” Pedersen said.
The second petition, 2016-009, is far more narrow.
It limits marijuana to users 21 and older and bars operation of a car or other vehicle while high on grass. It also proposes a 25 percent tax on the retail price of store-bought bud, allocating the cash to public safety pensions, education, cities and counties and drug abuse counseling.
Most importantly, it limits how you to “six marijuana plants and 12 ounces of usable marijuana,” plus limited amounts of extracts and marijuana solids.
While the two proposals are separate, the possibility of confusion is high, particularly if both end up on the ballot. That confusion could doom any movement to legalize pot in the state.
Kansas Citians are familiar with the problems that crop up when voters sign petitions without clearly understanding their language (see: Chastain, Clay). Pot supporters should pay attention to what they are asked to autograph.