The politics and perils of pot: Even supporters of legal marijuana urge a ‘No’ vote on Missouri Amendment 3

Even supporters of legal marijuana are part of a broad coalition opposing Missouri’s Amendment 3, a Nov. 8 vote on legalizing recreational pot.

They warn the amendment would fail miserably in its peculiar “social justice” mission of offering marijuana sale licenses to minorities; would flounder in its promise to provide promised marijuana conviction expungements; and would even create a powerful, unaccountable state “Chief Equity Officer” that could inject tenets of Critical Race Theory into all aspects of state government.

“That Chief Equity Officer is given broad authority to develop educational programming with no oversight from the Legislature, the governor or anybody,” warns Jasper Logan of the Missouri Constitutional Conservatives PAC. “That can be interpreted in a lot of ways, and this person can be just cranking out this woke programming.”

Logan says the apparent justification for the position is to grow minority participation in marijuana sales. But he says Amendment 3 itself might just preclude that anyway.

“You read into the amendment, and it’s not good for minorities who want to get into this industry,” Logan tells The Heartlander. “They’d basically be limited to a lower-class of license called a micro business license, and all the real licenses would go to the mostly white people who currently have medical licenses for marijuana.”

Eapen Thampy is a Kansas City-based lobbyist for legal marijuana, yet strongly opposes Amendment 3 through the Crossing Paths PAC – which promotes “moving Missouri past the war on drugs,” but nonetheless started a No on Amendment 3 campaign.

Thampy’s group opposes the licensing scheme in the amendment, which he calls a “licensing monopoly and scam” favoring those already in the state’s medical marijuana system. And he notes that, while ostensibly legalizing recreational marijuana for those 21 and over, Amendment 3 also puts civil and misdemeanor criminal penalties for possession of 3 to 6 ounces into the state constitution – and keeps in place felony charges for 6 or more ounces.

“I’m not aware of any other legal item of personal property” the government restricts the ownership of, he says, citing unlimited possession of alcohol and firearms.

“You and I can disagree on whether marijuana should be legal, or if there should be a possession limit and so forth,” Thampy tells The Heartlander. “But in our American tradition, the role of a constitution is to restrain the government, not the individual. It’s absolutely inappropriate to put these kinds of ideas in the Missouri Constitution – especially in a format where they can’t be easily changed. …

“Attitudes over these issues have been changing for quite some time, and it’s absolutely bizarre to me that we would put criminal penalties in the constitution where our elected representatives can’t influence and affect them over time as these attitudes do, in fact, change.”

Logan agrees it’s improper to place such provisions into a state constitution.

Opposition to Amendment 3 includes a strikingly broad range of ideologies and thinking on whether it’s even a good idea to legalize marijuana. While not taking a position on that, Logan says the unusual diversity of opponents to the amendment can help defeat it.

“It’s really important we approach this from multiple angles, because we can’t win on an anti-marijuana message,” Logan says. “We have to motivate conservatives, but we also have to make people who support legal marijuana see that this is a scam.”

Even Amendment 3’s promise of automatic expungement of nonviolent marijuana-related convictions is hollow, Thampy argues. Many drug crimes aren’t labeled “marijuana,” so just unearthing them to expunge them would be a logistical nightmare, he says.

None of this even touches on the social ills and false promises of legal pot – which other states that have legalized it can attest to. Experts point to rampant addiction, crippled emergency room budgets, fetal harm, psychotic events, increased crime and violence, more dangerous roads, increased teen suicides and a more robust black market.

“Voters really need to understand what they’re getting themselves into,” says Dr. Kenneth Finn, an internationally recognized expert in both pain and cannabis in Colorado, “because here in Colorado we had what we would describe as unintended consequences. We didn’t know or realize that these things were going to happen. And now the states that are following suit cannot claim ignorance. This is going to be their legacy when they start to see things go sideways, ’cause they will.

“I actually have a lot of friends here in Colorado and across the country that tell me that they have buyer’s remorse. They voted for legalization of marijuana, and then these things started to happen. They said if they had known that you were going to have butane hash oil explosions and cartel issues and impaired driving and suicidality and psychosis, they wouldn’t have voted for it. 

“My liberal friends said, ‘Oh yeah, I think we should do it. We’d make the money, it’s harmless, it’s medicine, it’s plants, it’s herbal, etc.’ And then these things started to happen, and they finally came around and came to me and said, ‘You know what, if I had known that what you were telling me was actually true, I would not have voted for it.’”

One tell-tale sign of both the politics and perils of pot: The vast majorities of municipalities in Colorado, California and other legal marijuana states have voted not to allow dispensaries inside their city limits, Finn says.

“Why is that?” he asks. “Because they know what’s going to happen. You’re going to have increased homelessness, crime, driving impairment, drug use, overdoses, access to kids, high-potency products. I mean, there’s just a laundry list of public health concerns.”

And while a pro-pot advertisement in Missouri claims legal weed will actually help law enforcement officers do their jobs, that’s not what police tell The Heartlander – or what The Los Angeles Times found in California.

“Just take into account how many people will be high and driving,” one Kansas City officer told The Heartlander on condition of anonymity. Moreover, non-invasive field tests aren’t great at detecting the level of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, in a driver, says Wisconsin State Crime Laboratories.

California, The Times writes, “set out to simultaneously cripple illegal operators and reduce marijuana-related criminal penalties to address racial injustices imposed by the long-running ‘war on drugs.’ Far from reducing illegal weed, those efforts instead allowed the black market to flourish after legalization with the help of organized crime operations that run massive unlicensed farms and storefront dispensaries in plain view, bringing crime and terrorizing nearby residents. And those raided by police are often up and running again within weeks or days.”

“When pot became legal here, the vast majority of communities didn’t want anything to do with the drug,” The Times adds. “Five years after the launch of legal pot, some two-thirds of California cities prohibit brick-and-mortar retail cannabis stores …”

Meanwhile, The Times concludes, legalization of recreational marijuana only “triggered a surge in illegal cannabis on a scale California has never before witnessed.” The state “failed to address the reality that decriminalizing a vast and highly profitable illegal industry would open the door to a global pool of organized criminals and opportunists.”

Is that Missouri’s fate?

“I can’t believe we haven’t learned from tobacco and alcohol and opioids,” says Finn, “and now we’re just layering another addiction-for-profits substance into an already-stressed health care system and into our communities.”

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