Cannabis initiative approved for circulation in Missouri

More than 40 proposed ballot initiatives for the November 2012 election have been approved by the Missouri Secretary of State’s office for circulation. Topics vary from increasing the minimum wage to $8.25 per hour, to limiting the interest rates charged by payday loan businesses. Two initiatives would legalize cannabis (commonly known as marijuana) for individuals 21 years or older. They would not only make medical cannabis available to individuals with a physician’s recommendation, they would release individuals incarcerated or on probation or parole for non-violent, cannabis-only offenses. In addition, the proposals would create licensing processes for cannabis businesses and allow a tax of $100 per pound. One proposal is for a statutory amendment and the other is a for a constitutional amendment.

These initiatives were submitted by Dan Viets, an attorney in private practice in Columbia, Mo., who specializes in the defense of marijuana cases. Viets has served for many years as the Missouri State Coordinator for NORML. So far 16 states, including Washington D.C., have enacted laws to legalize medical marijuana. Another initiative would add a tax of $1 on each package of 20 cigarettes. The estimated $20 to $100 million revenue would go to the Healthy Missouri Fund for tobacco education, tobacco cessation programs, and enforcement of the Master Settlement Agreement. The proposed tax would affect only those companies that were not part of a 1998 settlement among big tobacco firms and attorneys general in 46 states. However, not all of these initiatives will make it to the ballot on election day. Petitioners must collect tens of thousands of signatures from Missouri registered voters

In 2010, although there were 23 initiatives approved, only six actually made it on the ballot. Some groups file multiple versions of the same proposal and then decide later which one will be circulated for signatures. All petition pages must be submitted to the Secretary of State’s office by 5 p.m. on May 6, 2012. Missouri is one of only 24 states that allows its citizens the opportunity to make changes in state laws and the Missouri Constitution through the petition process. State law sets forth specific requirements for citizens who seek to conduct a petition drive. All of these requirements must be followed in order to get a measure on the ballot. The booklet, “Make Your Voice Heard” places all the relevant laws in one place.
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