Outside of every Missouri library on Wednesday may be a representative of Show-Me Cannabis Regulation (SMCR) for the organization's Spring Into Action event. Convincing registered voters to sign a petition to regulate cannabis, also called marijuana, will be the goal of 1,200 association volunteers. They need 150,000 signatures by May to get the measure on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Recruiter Justin Barks was outside the Tuesday, explaining to citizens the benefits of regulating marijuana.
"We'd like to see the cannabis industry in Missouri regulated, taxed and made legal for those 21 years and older," Barks said. "It's a drug. It's a house plant. God made the seed. If one cancer patient could be helped with cannabis, then it's worth it to me."
Barks said he and other SMCR petition collectors believe prohibiting marijuana from 70 years ago is not working, and that it represents a failed policy. "It would be better to have laws in place so 10 year olds couldn't buy cannabis. And a better, open system also would be good so that people would know what they are actually buying."
Editor's Note: Cannabis is the proper term for the plant genus, which falls in the category of psychoactive drugs that exhibit either stimulant, depressant or hallucinogenic properties.
Cannabis has been deemed Missouri's No. 4 crop. But the underground market and agricultural hemp uses can't always be discussed, given the current legal circumstances. Agricultural hemp has a different composition, and can be used as a food and paper source.
Before cannabis was made illegal in 1937, Missouri was one of the top hemp-producing states in the country, according to the Show-Me Cannabis Regulation website.
Barks said even a 1942 government-produced film, “Hemp for Victory” touted Missouri as an ideal place for its production. He said the film was circulated to promote cannabis farming as part of the war effort due to hemp’s value as an industrial crop.
"If we legalize cannabis, Missouri could corner that market. Right now, we can't use hemp, which is a $400 million import market each year for the U.S.," he said.
An interesting tidbit on the organization's website reflects the plant's application.
Cannabis is known to have been grown in China at least 6,500 years ago for household purposes, such as cloth, paper, oil for food and industry, and for medicine. U.S. founding fathers George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were both large producers of industrial cannabis, and Benjamin Franklin owned a mill that made hemp paper.
The organization's materials state that in 2009, more than $300 million flowed out of the United States to meet consumer demands of a booming global agricultural hemp industry, with the majority of that money going to China.
Barks said as of a couple weeks ago, SMCR had 20,000-plus petition signatures, but with so many efforts under way across the state, it was not yet known what the accurate count is. The organization is headquartered from Kansas City, but its secretary is St. Louis resident John Payne, who works as a research assistant at the Show-Me Institute.
The group's website states nearly 30 million Americans last year met their consumer demand of cannibis from a federally illegal market, emphasizing it would be preferable and prudent to have accountability and oversight of such a market.
Watch a video overview that accompanies this article of SMCR's full spectrum of initative considerations.