Shouldn’t Missourians have a Choice?

Written by Mark Pedersen

Written by Mark Pedersen

October 16, 2022

These words were originally my answer to a Facebook post regarding the “Legal MO 2022 / Amendment 3” initiative.

I’ve always been blatantly frank when it comes to Cannabis reform.  I want what is best for ALL Missourians. That means giving ALL Missourians a choice; to be able to choose REAL legalization, or something less. Its only right. Then the majority of Missourians could expect a fair outcome. That’s the way our elections are supposed to function.

The majority rules.

Elections without legitimate choice are not Democratic. 

I know it’s hard to hear for some, particularly if all one is concerned with is being able to shop at dispensaries for recreational Cannabis and being able to partake in a “joint” or a “dab” without fear of arrest. After 25 years of consuming as a patient, believe me, I get it.  My hope is that you, Missouri’s voting public, would realize that this issue is much bigger than that. 

During the last ten years, I have been threatened; my family and the organizations that I have founded…for supporting patient rights. Not by law enforcement. Not by the pharmaceutical industry or religious groups.  By Missouri “activists” and those who fund them. 
I have been ridiculed for making statements on TV like,

“Cannabis is safer than table sugar”.

Something MOST of you should know by now is true. 

I have been boo’ed while speaking regarding patient rights… at a “NORML” event. The then President of Greater STL Norml openly instigated the “boo’ing”.  At that time, I was the Vice President.

Why?  I think that’s a good question. In virtually every case, those who were attacking me spoke openly about how they WANTED to see Cannabis prohibition end.  The big question then is, why would they want to silence me?  Why don’t they want Missourians to have more than just one choice?
I know much has to do with the fact that many don’t really understand the process of changing the law.  I still read and hear advocates confused regarding the differences between “initiatives” and “House” or “senate” bills. Most don’t realize that Missouri’s citizenry have only had the write to self-govern (the initiative process) since 1907. What’s more, only 16 state have the right to a “Direct Initiative”, like we have here in Missouri. And in those states, politicians are pushing hard to strip us of that right.

What’s the difference between HB’s, SB’s and initiatives?

Just in case there is someone reading this who is not clear on the difference, lets clarify.

House and senate bills are drafted by state representatives and senators, exclusively. It’s possible that you could draft something, then beg a law maker to introduce it, but once it gets in their hands, it’s no longer yours. What’s more, the longer it moves around in the statehouse, the less it will resemble the original draft. I’ve known some bills that, in the end, not only were devoid of any real value, but in some cases, produced the opposite outcome.
You see, in our state capital, just like every state capital across this country, passing new laws is more about pushing through personally profitable (for the politician) policy, rather than law that actually benefits constituents. In American politics, politicians for the most part DON’T actually work for their constituents.
Everything is weighed out by the law maker for it’s monetary value and/or it’s ability to garner political clout.

Back when I still lobbied at our state capital, I couldn’t tell you how many times I was told by Representatives and senators that they “sympathize”, but their involvement with Cannabis reform was a “career killer“.
One Representative who supported my work told me on the House Floor, “If you would have brought pockets full of cash, you would have stood a greater chance of success.”

Once a bill is in the hands of a lawmaker, the most involvement that an average individual can have would be after a bill has moved past any of it’s many stages, and then after it has passed. Of course, the crowds usually only gather when it’s something so reprehensible that constituents are driven to rise up in protest. That’s when you’ll see them gathering in the statehouse to try to persuade corrupt lawmakers to somehow do the right thing. There’s often some yelling and always a lot of begging. I used to be one of those begging, usually with a group of chronically and terminally ill patients in tow.
I’ve been involved in a number of lobbying trips and protests… in multiple states. In Missouri, I’ve spoken to the press beneath the Jefferson statue and in the Rotunda (the video is on Youtube). In our Statehouse, the Democrats would “smooze” us while the Republicans would give us smirks and the “cold shoulder”.

Patients have gathered in Colorado’s Statehouse virtually EVERY month since the passage of their “recreational” initiative. Why? Because of their ever dwindling medical Cannabis policy. That happens with poorly written law.
It was because of Colorado lawmakers outlawing the production of Cannabis oil by caregivers that I was arrested back in 2015. They said the process was “too dangerous”, even though I demo’ed making FECO to the Thornton Police Department, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Department and the Colorado State Highway Patrol.
A lot of patients died unnecessarily because of that unconscionable move. Today, there is essentially NO LEGAL caregiving available for Colorado’s chronically and terminally ill.

I recently canvassed medical and recreational dispensaries across half of Colorado regarding Cannabis oil for a Denver patient needing it for her father. He was suffering from Stage 4 lung cancer. You see, as it is here in Missouri, the vast majority of Colorado Cannabis dispensaries stock only recreational products; mostly candies and “dabs”.
Only after an exhaustive search did I find one dispensary south of Denver that produced (questionable at best) FECO. During our last conversation, the daughter told me that, out of desperation, she was considering ordering it illegally from a Florida “MOM”, (mail-order-marijuana), who purported to have made it the correct way.

So, what about initiatives?

Missouri is quite fortunate in being 1 of 16 states that can do a “Direct Initiative”. With a “Direct Initiative”, if citizens collect enough signatures from across the state, they can by-pass our elected lawmakers, even the Governor, and put an issue on the General Ballot….so the voting public can decide.

No begging…no compromise.

Repealing bad law, particularly that which appends our state Constitution is extremely difficult. Even just removing or appending a line or two is a major process.  This is only part of the reason why “Baby Steps” don’t work in Cannabis law. READ MY ARTICLE
Believe me, gathering signatures, though crucial, is far from being the whole process.  And, even gathering signatures is quite daunting, particularly for those without the major money to hire PAID signature gatherers, as we have seen demonstrated by the “Legal Mo” group.

I have never said that those with other viewpoints should not have a voice, even though in past years, I have endured MANY lies regarding my initiatives from recreational advocates seeking to silence me.  What my opponents have deliberately withheld from the public is the fact that if BOTH of our initiatives were on the ballot, voters would be able to vote for BOTH.  What does that mean? It means that this is not an “either/or” matter.  YOUR VOTE IS NOT WASTED. Cannabis consumers would get whichever receives the most votes.  And in so doing, Missourians could conceivably glean whichever granted the most freedoms. Unlike normal elections where you are forced to pick from only choices someone else, a politician or profiteer, has picked for you, you would be able to choose EVERYTHING you wanted without the risk of nothing passing.

After working with the Missouri Secretary of State and Attorney General’s Office for over a decade regarding Cannabis and the initiative process, as well as my involvement in other states, I think I understand how this works.

Missourians have suffered for far too long at the hands of prohibitionist law makers and “pot profiteers”. It’s time we end prohibition once and for all. And truly “free the medicine”.

“Cannabis is nontoxic. Cannabis is food. Cannabis is the single most important medicine of the 21st century.”

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