Pro-marijuana group expands fight in state
KANSAS CITY (AP) — A group that successfully worked to have penalties for marijuana use relaxed in Columbia is considering expanding its campaign to Kansas City and Springfield. Opponents are already gearing up to fight back.
Though a petition drive to put the issue to a statewide vote failed earlier this year, Show-Me Cannabis Regulation said last week it is thinking of another statewide push in November 2014, The Kansas City Star reported.
In 2004, 62 percent of Columbia residents voted to make marijuana the "lowest law enforcement priority." A similar effort could be made in Kansas City and Springfield, said Amber Langston, the group's campaign director.
"We think those are incremental steps that could really help in getting a statewide measure passed," Langston said.
She said the statewide effort's failure was caused more by a lack of resources than a lack of support. The group fell well short of the 145,000 signatures it needed.
Roughly 30 percent of Americans live in areas where penalties for marijuana use have been relaxed by changes in state law and voter referendums.
Some Missouri opponents of the effort are vowing to fight to keep current marijuana laws. John Hagan III, a Kansas City ophthalmologist, said the drug is illegal for good reasons.
"Every study so far shows far more detrimental effects than anything beneficial," said Hagan, editor of Missouri Medicine magazine, in which he recently wrote an editorial that attacked any effort to "make Mary Jane an honest woman."
"Just because more states are doing it doesn't mean you shouldn't fight it," Hagan said.
Opponents say marijuana is addictive, dangerous and can lead to harder drugs such as cocaine and heroin.
Proponents of less-restrictive laws say legalizing weed would create jobs, industrial hemp and tax revenue. It also would allow police to focus on more serious crimes, they contend.
R. Keith Stroup, founder of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said he thinks Missouri has a chance of changing the law — either medicinal marijuana or decriminalization — in the next few years.
"It's a conservative state, but it's not a Deep South red state," he said.
The head of the Missouri State Highway Patrol is opposed to the effort.
Col. Ron Replogle said many states have relaxed marijuana laws are "dealing with many negative results in the public safety arena."