by Duell Lauderdale
Tomorrow, I am voting Yes on Amendment 3. I am also a conservative Republican. The amendment would change the Missouri Constitution to legalize marijuana for adults over age 21, allow individuals to grow their own marijuana, and set up a licensing scheme for legal sales of marijuana in Missouri. I believe that marijuana prohibition has always been an abridgement of individual rights as understood by our Founding Fathers. America is a nation founded on the idea of individual liberty. These arguments have been fleshed out many times over the past decade of drug reform in America, so I am going to address some arguments against Amendment 3 and the most important reason I think you should support it.
There are two main opponents to Amendment 3. First, there are traditional prohibitionists. They believe that there is no limit to what the government can impose on us to make us participate in healthy behaviors. I don’t believe I can convince this group as I have a fundamentally different view of the duty of government. I believe government is instituted to protect life, liberty, and property. Prohibitionists believe government should push us to be healthy, moral, and otherwise raise us from cradle to grave. I believe my view is more in line with conservatism and the other with big government progressivism. The second set of opponents are self-described supporters of marijuana legalization. Why would they be a “no” on this amendment and why do I disagree? Their arguments consist of three major points.
First, they argue that legalization should be passed through the legislature and into statute rather than the constitution. I work in the Missouri legislature as a staff member. I know the chances of passing a legalization bill are slim to none. Modest marijuana reform proposals have come before the legislature many times in the past and been stopped dead in their tracks long before coming close to passage. This argument is just not based on the political reality of Missouri politics.
Secondly, they argue that the licensing system for marijuana business is too restrictive, making it hard for entrepreneurs to get involved in the legal marijuana trade. This is a fair concern with the amendment, but the idea that we will get something better from the legislature is a pipe dream. When the legislature passed a modest bill to legalize CBD oil for medical purposes several years ago, the amount of licenses the state created could be counted on one hand. Lacking a serious alternative proposal or plan to achieve a more free-market marijuana legalization plan, I cannot take this argument against Amendment 3 seriously.
The third and final argument is that Amendment 3 adds criminal prohibitions to the Missouri Constitution because it stipulates a maximum possession of three ounces with penalties for going over. What this argument ignores is that it also adds to the Missouri Constitution legalization of far more marijuana than the amount an average individual consumer would normally carry. For those who don’t know, three ounces is far more than the average person needs to feel intoxicating effects of marijuana. Furthermore, current statute allows for no amount of legal marijuana possession. Every year, thousands of Missourians are fined, arrested, and/or given criminal records for minor possession of marijuana. This is a travesty in comparison to the other objections to Amendment 3 coming from certain supporters of legalization.
My support for Amendment 3 rests on that final point. If we believe that marijuana legalization is the best policy, we can’t stand to wait another several rounds of elections for a better law to pass. We must protect those possessing personal amounts of marijuana from government penalty in the form of fine, jail, and criminal record. Vote Yes on Amendment 3 to take some big steps toward a more humane drug policy in the state of Missouri. Whatever problems you might have with the amendment, they pale in comparison to allowing the status quo to continue.