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Missouri Republican files legislation to legalize marijuana

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — GOP state Rep. Shamed Dogan filed a constitutional amendment to legalize the use of marijuana in the state of Missouri Tuesday.

“I think the war on drugs has been a failure — and the most glaring failure of it has been the fight against marijuana,”  Dogan told The Missouri Times. “We’ve spent billions of dollars fighting against a drug which is, in the grand scheme of things, the least harmful on the list of what is currently illegal. We spend the most resources and time on it, and it’s time that ends. The public has come to that conclusion, but our laws have been pretty slow in catching up with that.”

Dogan’s proposed amendment would establish the “Smarter and Safer Missouri Act,” allowing Missourians over the age of 21 to use marijuanna and removing it from the state’s list of controlled substances. Use would be regulated similarly to alcohol and would retain the current 4 percent tax on medicinal use and implement a 12 percent tax on recreational marijuana — among the lowest tax rates in the country. The collected funds would go toward infrastructure, veterans, and drug treatment programs, Dogan said. 

The amendment would also offer automatic expungements for people who have only been convicted for marijuana offenses and release for those serving time. 

Dogan said he was the first GOP representative to file to legalize marijuana. 

A similar bill was proposed by Democratic Rep. Peter Merideth last year, but failed to make it to a committee hearing.  

If approved by both chambers, the measure would come to a vote of the people in 2022. The state’s medical marijuana program took the same route to get to the 2018 ballot, winning on Election Day with 65 percent of the vote.

“That passed in a broad cross-partisan way,” Dogan said. “It was popular all over Missouri in all different areas of the state. People sent the message they wanted to legalize it for medicinal purposes, and with that program, you’re enabling law enforcement to look the other way when some people use it, but send other people to prison for using it. I don’t think that’s a tenable situation for very long.”

Dogan said the amendment was short by House standards, with the new language running around six pages. 

“One of the things a lot of Republicans have been critical of in terms of the ballot initiative process is that a lot of people put things in there that are more appropriate for a bill,” he said. “This is simple to understand and lets state and local regulation do their parts.”

The move received support on social media, with Zuri Davis of the Reason Foundation, Democratic advocate Elad Gross, and fellow House Republican Rep. Tony Lovasco applauding the amendment.

Chris Vas, executive director of conservative group Liberty Alliance, simply replied with: “No thank you.”

Sixteen states have legalized marijuana so far, with Arizona, New Jersey, Montana, and South Dakota joining the ranks in November. Other red states, including Texas, are set to consider the issue in the new year.  

The state’s first legal medical marijuana sales took place in October.