Medical marijuana is legal in 30 states plus the District of Columbia. (Recreational use is legal in nine of those jurisdictions). A Quinnipiac poll released in January showed that 91 percent of voters support the legalization of medical marijuana.
In Missouri, a decision will be made on medical marijuana this year — during the legislative session and/or at the ballot box in November. There are three different initiative petitions pending with the Secretary of State’s office. (There’s no need to delve into the weeds about the relative advantages and disadvantages of those petitions just yet). Suffice it to say that, one way or another, Missouri is going to go to pot.
Last month’s Quinnipiac poll reported that 58 percent of voters believed that the use of marijuana should be legal in the United States. Seventy percent of Democrats and 33 percent of Republicans believe marijuana use should be legal. If medical marijuana must be decided on our November ballot, who do you think the backers of the three different initiative petitions will endeavor to get out to the polls? (Hint- not Hawley voters).
Republicans can moot this issue ahead of the midterm election by legalizing medical marijuana this legislative session. As Republicans currently control the House, the Senate, and the Governor’s Mansion, there is no need for Republicans running in 2018 to have to battle with medical marijuana backers’ efforts to get out the vote. If we pass medical marijuana through legislation, we increase the chances our Republican candidates can win in November. And the backers of the medical marijuana initiative petitions could invest their money into growing their businesses (and Missouri’s economy) instead of using that green to get out the (Democrat) vote in November.
To their considerable credit, many Republicans in the House are already leading on this issue. As of this writing, Rep. Jim Neely’s HB1554 has 21 co-sponsors, 15 of whom are Republicans.
However, Neely’s bill only applies to terminal patients. To make this issue moot for those with a business interest in backing the pending initiative petitions, the scope of HB1554 should be broadened. The bill should make it legal for doctors to prescribe medical marijuana not just to terminal patients, but to patients with chronic, debilitating, or other qualifying conditions, too. It would also be ideal to get the bill to the Governor’s desk prior to the May 6th deadline to submit signatures in support of the initiative petitions. (Then maybe there will be less signatures for Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft to sort).
There is a lot at stake in 2018, as we all know. Remember, the bill to repeal Obamacare failed by one vote in the Senate last year. Many people blamed Sen. John McCain when it failed, but Missouri was to blame, too. McCaskill’s “no” vote counted just as much as McCain’s did.
I’ve heard some say that we should “let the voters decide” this issue. But I don’t find it persuasive because we know: (1) an overwhelming majority of voters support legalizing medical marijuana, and (2) the voters will get to decide the issue of recreational marijuana. Further, if we “let the voters decide” on medical marijuana this November, it could change the outcome of the U.S. Senate race and the balance of power in the United States of America. Is it worth taking that unnecessary risk?
Finally, as I have previously pointed out to my fellow Republicans, legalizing pot is consistent our party’s core principles. After all–
Government exists to protect us from each other. Where government has gone beyond its limits is in deciding to protect us from ourselves. – Ronald Reagan
Republicans co-sponsoring Neely’s medical marijuana bill – HB 1554 – as of Feb 9, 2018:
- Nick Schroer,
- Jean Evans,
- Bryan Spencer,
- Phil Christofanelli,
- Donna Lichtenegger,
- Shamed Dogan,
- Robert Cornejo,
- Cheri Toalson-Reisch,
- Travis Fitzwater,
- Shane Roden,
- Mike Stephens,
- Andrew McDaniel,
- Rob Vescovo,
- Chuck Bayse,
- Jim Hansen
Jennifer Bukowsky is a constitutional and criminal defense attorney in Columbia, Missouri. She is also a regular Missouri Times columnist and a weekly guest on the Gary Nolan Show. She serves on the Missouri Supreme Court’s Task Force on Criminal Justice, on the Board of Directors of the Show-Me Institute, and on the Steering Committee of the Federalist Society–Jefferson City Lawyers Chapter.
Jennifer defended a client who was found “not guilty” of murder – the only “not guilty” on a Boone County murder in over 50 years. She also won the release of a man who was wrongfully convicted and served over 20 years – since age 14 – for a murder he did not commit. Jennifer has received numerous awards for her skills as a trial and appellate attorney.
Jennifer was a Trump delegate at the RNC in 2016. She previously served as an adjunct professor of law for the University of Missouri, and as the youngest-ever President of the Boone County Bar Association.
Jennifer received a J.D. with highest honors from the University of Missouri School of Law. She is also a CPA.