“Highlights with Hegeman” for the Week of Aug. 22: Recreational Marijuana

We enjoy something not only as Americans, but as Missourians, not everyone can claim. Years ago, the Missouri Legislature allowed citizens to gather petition signatures and place something on the ballot for everyone to decide. This allows people to go around the Missouri General Assembly on those occasions when they believe there is no time to wait for what they believe is a critical idea.

In recent years, several states have started to add medical marijuana laws to their books. In fact, in 2018, 65 percent of Missouri voters said “yes” to the concept of medical marijuana. Our state now has a system in place for qualifying individuals to buy doctor-approved medical cannabis.

Now, a group of Missourians has gone out and gathered enough signatures to put another question on the ballot. This time, it is to allow the recreational use of marijuana in Missouri. This proposal will be on the ballot in November. If voters approve this idea, it would then be legal for people 21 and over to buy or grow marijuana for personal consumption. In addition, the state would charge a 6 percent tax on the sale of cannabis, which is estimated to bring in approximately $46 million in the first year alone. This money would go toward veterans’ homes, drug treatment programs and public defenders.

While I realize more than a dozen other states have already put such a law on their books, I have to wonder where we draw the line. For dozens of years, there have been multiple studies with a wide-ranging number of findings on marijuana’s effects on people of all ages. While I understand the immediate effects medical marijuana can have for cancer patients and others, I have to wonder what either smoking or eating edible versions of cannabis will do to people who start on it at 21.

I would ask people to think carefully about this. As I said earlier, we do not have all the answers about marijuana’s overall effect on people. I pray we are not moving into a dangerous situation to appease a few people who would like to see a major law changed simply because they believe the time is right.

As always, please feel free to call, email or write with your ideas or concerns. My Capitol office number is (573) 751-1415, my email is dan.hegeman@senate.mo.gov and my mailing address is Room 332, State Capitol Building, Jefferson City, MO 65101.