The first step has been taken toward putting a referendum on the legalization of marijuana on Missouri’s ballot next year. A group calling itself Show-Me Cannabis has submitted the paperwork so it can begin circulating petitions. Their goal is to make marijuana legal for use by anyone over the age of 21. Among the supporters is St. Louis medical marijuana activist Mark Pedersen. Pedersen says he suffers from an illness cause by prolonged lead exposure, and uses the drug himself. He says he has taken the stories of chronically ill, medical marijuana users to lawmakers in Jefferson City, only to be turned away. “The overwhelming answer I hear is, I’m sorry. I agree with you, but this is a carrer killer. We could never vote for it. A career killer is not good enough. People are suffering.”
That’s a big part of the reason Show-Me Cannabis is attempting to take the measure straight to voters. They believe the direct route to the ballot box gives them a realistic chance of passing the law. “The people are the ones who should be making the decision on something as crucial as this,” Pedersen says. “We need to allow the people to make that decision. Not the lawmakers but the people.” They will meet fierce opposition on a number of fronts, not the least of which will be anti-drug groups who believe passage is unlikely, but that other damage can be done. Dan Duncan, from the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse says, “We would be very concerned that a movement like this would go even further to give a message to our kids that this is a safe, harmless drug when in fact it’s not.” Duncan says there are simply too many risks to making pot legal.
“It’s not true that everybody that uses marijuana is gonna end up on cocaine, or methamphetamine or heroin,” he says, “but it is true that that most people that do those drugs, the drugs with the greater lethality, have all used drugs like marijuana prior.” It’s one of many topics upon which he and Pedersen couldn’t disagree more. “Cannabis is safer than table sugar,” Pedersen insists. “I would be happy to argue that with anybody who is a prohibitionist. The facts are on our side.” Duncan, again disagrees. “The way science is weighing in, it tells us, no way, it’s just not a good idea.”
To get the measure on the ballot, proponents need to get signatures from a percentage of voters in each of 2/3 of Missouri’s congressional districts. Five percent is required for a ballot initiative, and eight percent for a constitutional amendment. They haven’t decided which they will pursue. They’ve got until May of 2012 to get the signatures. If they succeed, voters would take up the question the following November. That would be the same day sas the presidential election.
via : KPLR
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