A pair of Missouri lawmakers on Tuesday filed resolutions urging President Joe Biden to end marijuana criminalization, provide executive relief to those caught up in the drug war and condemn what some view as racial disparities in how athletic organizations apply drug testing standards.
Missouri has become a hotbed for cannabis policy reform efforts in recent weeks, with lawmakers introducing proposals to legalize marijuana at the state level while activists continue to work to put the reform on the state’s 2022 ballot.
As those broader policy proposals move through the process, Rep. Dottie Bailey (R) has put forward a resolution that condemns the decision by international sports associations to ban U.S. sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson from participating in last year’s Olympics after testing positive for marijuana while this year allowing a Russian skater to compete despite testing positive for a banned performance-enhancing drug.
Richardson herself said she felt the decision-making in the separate cases spoke to a racial double standard. And Bailey’s resolution agreed that “this double standard is indicative of extreme anti American and racial bias.”
The measure calls on Biden to “end the domestic prohibition against marijuana, support our American athletes, and condemn the racist double standard that kept an American Olympic qualifier from competition for marijuana use.”
It further calls on the House clerk to prepare the resolution to be sent to the president and congressional leaders upon passage.
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Separately, the chair of the Missouri Missouri Legislative Black Caucus, Rep. Ashley Bland Manlove (D), filed a resolution that more broadly addresses the need to end cannabis prohibition and provide executive relief to those caught up in the drug war.
Her measure cites campaign promises Biden made to decriminalize marijuana, expunge prior convictions and take steps to legalize medical cannabis. It also references a letter sent to the president, signed by members of the Missouri legislature and led by activist Weldon Angelos, that demanded mass pardons for people with federal marijuana records.
The resolution reiterates that call. It says that the Biden should “grant a general pardon to all nonviolent federal marijuana offenders and work to uphold his campaign promises of decriminalizing cannabis generally and legalizing cannabis for medical purposes.”
These measures were introduced weeks after a Republican Missouri lawmaker unveiled a bill to tax and regulate adult-use marijuana in the state. It would provide opportunities for expungements, authorize social consumption facilities and permit cannabis businesses to claim tax deductions with the state.
Rep. Ron Hicks (R) filed the omnibus legislation, titled the “Cannabis Freedom Act.” He said in a memo to colleagues that the measure was drafted in a way that thoughtfully incorporates elements from “every marijuana bill filed this session” to create a “free but tightly regulated market for legal marijuana.”
Meanwhile, another Missouri Republican lawmaker is again making a push to place cannabis legalization on the ballot. But some activists aren’t waiting on the legislature to take action to refer the issue to voters, with one campaign officially launching signature gathering in January for a separate reform initiative.
Rep. Shamed Dogan (R) recently pre-filed his joint resolution to place a constitutional amendment on legalization on the 2022 ballot. He introduced a similar proposal last year, but it did not advance.
Under that plan, adults 21 and older could purchase, possess and cultivate cannabis for personal use. It also does not specify allowable amounts.
Separately, the group New Approach Missouri, which successfully got a medical cannabis initiative passed by voters in 2018, announced last summer its plans to put the reform proposal on the ballot through its new campaign committee Legal Missouri 2022.
The organization tried to place the issue of legalization before voters in 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic derailed that effort.
Despite the health crisis, activists managed to collect 80,000 raw signatures within months, though they needed 160,199 valid signatures to qualify.
A different campaign, Fair Access Missouri, is separately exploring multiple citizen initiatives with the hopes of getting at least one on the ballot next year. Three of the four would create a system of legalized cannabis sales for adults 21 and older, while another would simply amend the state’s existing medical marijuana program.
Another state lawmaker filed a bill earlier this year to decriminalize a range of drugs including marijuana, psilocybin, LSD, MDMA and cocaine.
The measure’s introduction came after a Republican Missouri legislator filed a separate bill to give residents with serious illnesses legal access to a range of psychedelic drugs like psilocybin, ibogaine and LSD through an expanded version of the state’s existing right-to-try law.
Nearly one out of every 10 jobs that were created in Missouri last year came from the state’s medical marijuana industry, according to an analysis of state labor data that was released by a trade group last month.
Separately, there’s some legislative drama playing out in the state over a proposal that advocates say would restrict their ability to place Constitutional amendments on the ballot.