Missourians file petitions to get marijuana measures on future ballots

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COLUMBIA - Three separate individuals filed three different initiative petitions with the Missouri Secretary of State's Office Wednesday and Thursday to change state marijuana laws. These filings follow Tuesday's election, during which three states, including border state Arkansas, approved medical marijuana initiatives and three more states passed recreational marijuana initiatives. 

The petitions all have different purposes, but attorney and medical marijuana advocate Dan Viets said he is certain medical marijuana legalization will be on the November 2018 ballot and pass.

"Thousands of Missourians who need marijuana for medical purposes for the relief of pain, spasms, other injuries and ailments are now treated like criminals. That should end," Viets said.

Viets said he believes the support for medical marijuana has dramatically increased. A 2014 poll conducted showed 70 percent of adults are in favor of doctors prescribing small amounts of marijuana for their patients. As of Tuesday, medical marijuana was legal in 28 states.

Medical marijuana almost was on the November 2016 ballot, but a measure fell short of the required signatures after election authorities invalidated more than 10,000 signatures that were on the wrong form.

Joy Sweeney of the Council for Drug Free Youth said she believes increased access through legalization leads to more youth use, harming what she calls the "most vulnerable population."

"We have a scientific process for approval of medicine in this country and it doesn't involve voting. No other medicine is voted on," Sweeney said.

Viets said he does not think legalization of medical marijuana in Arkansas will lead to a significant number of people bringing marijuana across state lines. 

"The Arkansas program is a very limited program, and there may be some patients from Missouri who obtain recommendations from their doctors and go to Arkansas to purchase marijuana for medical use. There may be some of them who come back to Missouri with that marijuana," Viets said.

Viets said he has not seen a single case where someone has gotten in legal trouble for taking medical marijuana across state lines from Illinois, a bordering state where medical marijuana was legalized in 2013.