A key legislative committee in Missouri’s House of Representatives has approved a bill to legalize medical marijuana.
The State House Committee on Legislative Oversight voted 7 to 4 today to pass House Bill 1554, reports Eapen Thampy, a medical marijuana lobbyist. The proposed law, filed by Representative James Neely, would expand “the definition of investigational drug, biological product, or device so that it can include medical cannabis.” Under this provision, “a dispensing organization or manufacturer of an investigational drug, biological product, or device that has successfully completed phase one of a clinical trial but has not been approved for general use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and remains under investigation in a clinical trial can be made available to certain eligible patients who have terminal illnesses.”
This bill also “changes the law regarding the use of hemp extract to treat intractable epilepsy to authorize the legal use of medical marijuana to treat terminal illnesses”, and “authorizes the Department of Health and Senior Services to issue medical cannabis registration cards to any Missouri resident, 18 years old or older, who can provide a statement signed by a doctor stating that the individual suffers from a terminal illness and may benefit from treatment with medical cannabis and that the individual has considered all other treatment options currently approved by the FDA and all relevant clinical trials conducted in Missouri.”
Advocates of a Missouri initiative to legalize medical marijuana have collected enough signatures to put the measure on the November general election ballot.
“This Sunday, our petition drive to place medical cannabis on the November ballot surpassed 200k total signatures”, says New Approach Missouri. This surpasses the 160,000 signatures required to put the measure to a vote. However, given that some of the 200,000 signatures may not be valid (such as duplicate signatures or signatures from those not registered to vote in Missouri), the group will be continuing to collect signatures with a goal of reaching 300,000.
If the initiative is placed on the ballot, and approved by voters, “a statewide system for production and sale of medical cannabis and medical cannabis products” would be established, with patients also allowed to grow their own cannabis. “Instead of creating a short and restrictive list of qualifying conditions, this initiative puts power in the hands of a state-licensed physicians, not politicians or bureaucrats, to determine who will benefit from medical cannabis.”
While marijuana reform efforts continue at an excruciatingly slow pace in state legislatures — Vermont became the first state to free the weed at the statehouse just last month — the initiative and referendum process continues to serve as a direct popular vote alternative to the crap shoot that is trying to get a pot bill through two houses and signed by a governor.
There are at least six states with a serious shot at legalizing either recreational marijuana or medical marijuana via the initiative process this year. In one state, a medical marijuana initiative has already qualified for the ballot; in another, plentiful signatures have already been handed in for a legalization initiative; in three others, signature gathering campaigns are well underway; while in the last, a legalization initiative hasn’t been officially filed yet, but already has serious financial backing.
By the time we get past election day, we should be looking at a legalization victory in at least one more state and medical marijuana victories damned near anywhere an initiative manages to get on the ballot. In the last election cycle, marijuana reform initiatives won in eight out of nine contests.
Here are the 2018 contenders:
1. Michigan — Legalization
The Michigan Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has already completed a petition campaign and handed in more than 365,000 raw signatures in November for its legalization initiative. It hasn’t officially qualified for the ballot yet, but it only needs 250,000 valid voter signatures to do so, meaning it has a rather substantial cushion. If the measure makes the ballot, it should win. There is the little matter of actually campaigning to pass the initiative, which should require a million or two dollars for TV ad buys and other get-out-the-vote efforts, but with the Marijuana Policy Project on board and some deep-pocketed local interests as well, the money should be there. The voters already are there: Polling has shown majority support for legalization for several years now, always trending up, and most recently hitting 58% in a May Marketing Resource Group poll.
2. Missouri — Medical
New Approach Missouri’s Right to Medical Marijuana initiative would legalize the use of medical marijuana for specified medical conditions and create a system of taxed and regulated medical marijuana cultivation, distribution, and sales. The campaign is well into its signature gathering phase and reported this week that it already has 175,000 raw signatures. It only needs 160,000 verified valid voter signatures, but has set a goal of 280,000 raw signatures to provide a comfortable cushion. Signature gathering doesn’t end until May 6. There is no recent state polling on the issue, but medical marijuana typically polls above 80% nationally.
3. New Mexico — Legalization
The Land of Enchantment has a unique path to a popular vote on marijuana legalization: A measure before the legislature, Senate Joint Resolution 4, would, if approved, take the issue directly to the voters in November. New Mexicans would vote on a constitutional amendment to legalize weed, and if they approved it, the legislature would meet next year to promulgate rules and regulations. The measure passed one Senate committee on Friday, but still faces another Senate committee vote, a Senate floor vote, and action in the House, and the clock is ticking. Supporters have only about two weeks to move this bill before the session ends. If it can get before the voters, it could win: A poll last week had support at 61%.
4. Ohio — Legalization
Responsible Ohio tried to legalize marijuana in 2015 via a “pay to play” initiative that would have created a growers’ oligopoly limited to cash-heavy early supporters who financed the entire campaign. Ohio voters didn’t buy that, so some of the players are back again with what they’re calling the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Amendment. It hasn’t been officially filed yet, but would reportedly have a “free market” approach to a system of taxed and regulated cultivation, distribution, and sales, and it would allow for personal cultivation. Organizers say they have $3 million already for signature gathering and campaigning. They will need 305,592 valid voter signatures and they have a goal of July 4 for getting them.
5. Oklahoma — Medical
The Oklahoma medical marijuana initiative, State Question 788, has already qualified for the ballot and will go before the voters during the June 26 primary election. The initiative legalizes the use, cultivation, and distribution of medical marijuana to qualified patients. A January Sooner poll had support at 62%, a fairly low level of support for medical marijuana, which typically polls above 80% nationwide. But this is Oklahoma.
6. Utah — Medical
The Utah Medical Cannabis Act would allow patients with certain qualifying conditions to use medical marijuana. It limits the numbers of dispensaries and growers, and patients could only grow their own if they reside more than 100 miles from the nearest dispensary. Patients could not smoke their medicine, but they could vaporize it. The Utah Patients Coalition is currently in the midst of its signature gathering campaign. It needs 113,000 verified voter signatures by April 15, and it has the money in the bank, including $100,000 from the Marijuana Policy Project, to get it done. A series of polls last year had support levels ranging from 69% to 78%.
Kansas City voters have passed an initiative to decriminalize marijuana.
Marijuana will soon be decriminalized in Missouri’s most populated city after voters gave approval tonight to Question 5. The initiative decriminalizes the possession of up to 35 grams of cannabis for those 21 and older, making it a simple $25 ticket. Under current law possessing 10 to 35 grams is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail; possessing less than 10 grams is a misdemeanor but with no jail time for a first offense, although subsequent offense can result in up to a year in jail.
Below is the exact ballot question approved by voters:
Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander has given approval to an initiative that would legalize cannabis for those 21+.
In addition to legalizing cannabis for those 21 and older, the initiative would legalize medical cannabis for minors; given they have a qualifying condition and receive a recommendation from a physician.
The approval gives advocates the go-ahead to begin collecting signatures in an attempt to put the measure to a vote of the people in the 2018 general election. They must collect 82,000 valid signatures by May of next year to accomplish this.
A similar measure fell just 23 signatures short last year of being on the November ballot.
Governor Jay Nixon (D) has signed into law a bill that allows for the expungement of most cannabis convictions, both misdemeanors and felonies.
Senate Bill 588 would allow those convicted of cannabis misdemeanors to expunge (remove) it from their record after a three year period; this would mean that the charge would not appear on a criminal background check. Those convicted of felony possession would also be allowed to have the charge expunged, though they would need to wait seven years rather than three. In either instance, fines will need to be paid in full for an expungement to occur.
Jeff Mizanskey, a Missouri man who’s been in prison for over 20 years serving life without parole for a cannabis charge, will be set free tomorrow, September 1st.
Jeff, who was arrested in 1993 on his third non-violent cannabis-related charge, and was sentenced to life in prison without parole as part of the state’s three-strike law, had his sentence commuted by Governor Jay Nixon in May, which led to a parole hearing on August 6th. Officials quickly decided to grant Mizanskey parole after being imprisoned for 21 years. Jeff, who’s 61-years old, will officially walk free from Jefferson City Correctional Center between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. tomorrow.
Missouri State Senator Bob Dixon, a Republican from Springfield, has filed Senate Bill 451, a proposal to allow for the expungement of most cannabis convictions from all public records.
Senate Bill 451 was drafted by a Missouri Bar Association committee, and has the support of the Missouri Bar Board of Governors, the Missouri Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.
If approved into law, those with cannabis convictions – other than Class A felonies – would be eligible to have the charges removed from their records. A provision in the bill specifically authorizes an individual who has his record expunge to deny that the charge ever occurred.
A bill that would require the release of any offender serving life without parole for marijuana offenses has moved forward in the Missouri legislature. House Bill 978, introduced by Representative Shamed Dogan, was assigned this week to the House Corrections Committee, and a hearing was immediately scheduled for next Wednesday, March 4, at 8:00 a.m. in House Hearing Room 5. The bill would require the release of 61-year-old great-grandfather Jeff Mizanskey, who has been incarcerated for twenty-one years on a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
The nonprofit organizationShow-Me Cannabis plans to file paperwork this week for a ballot initiative that would ask Missouri voters whether or not they want to legalize the possess, use and sale of recreational cannabis. The group, which will file the petition with the Secretary of State’s Office, is aiming to put the initiative on the 2016 presidential election ballot.
According to John Payne, executive director of Show-Me Cannabis, the initiative will be a constitutional amendment, legalizing cannabis possession and sales, while also allowing those with non-violent cannabis possession charges to have them expunged from their records.