A group that advocates for the legalization of marijuana in Missouri spoke to about 100 people Monday in the Cape Girardeau Public Library. The audience was almost equally split between opponents and supporters of the idea.
Representatives from Show Me Cannabis argued marijuana’s prohibition is a failed policy that does little to deter violent crime.
Franklin County State Representative Paul Curtman, a Republican, says the current marijuana laws are not necessary. He says there should be more focus on violent crimes.
“I think that we ought to make sure we are locking people away for seven years if we believe they are going to be a direct threat to somebody else’s life or property,not necessarily because they got caught passing an ounce of marijuana,” Curtman said.
The group is circulating a petition to bring the marijuana issue to the ballot next year, and has crafted legislation it hopes will be introduced during the next legislative session.
St. Louis police officer Gary Wiegert says all the paperwork and manpower that go into enforcing marijuana laws are a drain on public coffers. Taxpayer money, he says, should be used to put violent criminals away.
Wiegert says out of everything to worry about that could harm Missourians, marijuana is low on the totem pole.
“We have to prioritize what police officers do, and I don’t think that’s a very good use of police manpower with these marijuana arrests,” Wiegert said. “Let’s face it, St. Louis has some big problems, we got meth problems, we got heroin problems, we have cocaine problems, we have all these other big drug problems. We have burglaries, robberies, you name it.”
Opponents argued legalized pot would increase drug abuse and would not provide the tax windfall that supporters expect.
Colorado and Washington have already passed laws that legalize recreational marijuana use. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has said the Obama administration will allow those states’ marijuana laws to go into effect.