Fair Access Missouri Defends Marijuana Possession Felonies "Necessary...To Protect The Businesses"
We've covered the Fair Access Missouri marijuana legalization proposals here, highlighting that although we agree generally with the open market licensing framework, we fundamentally disagree with their endorsement of personal possession and homegrow limits. Indeed, the Fair Access Missouri campaign explicitly proposes felony charges for any individual who possesses more than two times the possession limit.
Today, in a post in the Missourians for Cannabis Facebook group, Fair Access Missouri campaign advocate and Oklahoma resident Ellie McDaniel defended felony charges for marijuana possession over the proposed limits, saying:
"...from a business perspective, if no limits are put into place then individuals can run product through the black market, which then hurts the businesses."
"I do know thousands of people that have bought thc on the black market though. Cannabis businesses have to be protected..."
"...someone does not get in trouble until they possess over twice the amount of the legal limit, which means you could have 16 ounces of dried flower (that is a freaking pound of cannabis), 24 plants growing, 8,000 mg of thc infused products, and 56 grams of resin or extracts. That is a crap ton of cannabis if you ask me. I just don't understand why an individual without a business license would need to possess more than this. Our initiative is fantastic! "
In a prior interview with Greenway Magazine, McDaniel said "I choose cannabis because I believe it can offer me an opportunity to make a significant amount of money..." and “I got into cannabis many, many years ago", presumably when even modest possession in most states put people in jeopardy of felony charges and prison time.
Missouri State Representative Shamed Dogan, a Republican from Ballwin, has slammed the prospect of continued criminalization of marijuana possession, writing in 2019 that:
"I have long been an outspoken critic of our country’s failed War on Drugs. It is primarily a war on marijuana compared to much more harmful drugs. It is overwhelmingly focused on arresting and incarcerating nonviolent drug users and addicts instead of drug traffickers who engage in violence. And it has harmed millions of families by incarcerating far too many people for far too long...
Possession arrests far outweigh arrests for sales across all categories of drugs, including cocaine and opiates. In both 2017 and 2018, possession arrests made up 93% of all drug-related arrests. Marijuana possession arrests alone made up over half of all drug-related arrests. Furthermore, in the midst of the opioid epidemic which killed over 1,000 Missourians in 2017, less than 400 arrests were made in 2017 and 2018 for the sale of heroin, cocaine, and other opiates. More than 7 times as many arrests were made in both years for the possession of those drugs. In terms of racial disparities, African-Americans represent 10.9% of the total population but made up 27.75% of marijuana possession arrests in 2018. African-Americans were therefore arrested at a rate 155% greater than expected based solely on their proportion of the population. Accounting for their respective proportions of Missouri’s population, African-Americans were arrested for marijuana possession at a rate 193% higher than Whites. Overall, African-Americans made up 22.92 of all drug arrests in 2018, meaning they were arrested at a rate 110% greater than expected based solely on their proportion of the population. This despite extensive research showing that blacks and whites use marijuana and other drugs at similar rates.
All of this data screams for a need for Missouri to overhaul our War on Drugs. Law enforcement resources should be redirected towards arresting and prosecuting violent drug traffickers, not drug users or low-level dealers. We should be worried about the most dangerous and addictive drugs such as fentanyl, heroin, cocaine, and meth, and not about marijuana. And we should make sure that the laws are enforced in a racially neutral manner."
Representative Dogan has proposed a legalization framework without possession limits, which we have covered in detail.
New Haven MO Police Chief Chris Hammann told Crossing Paths that "It makes zero sense to continue criminalizing marijuana possession at any level. Not only does enforcing possession limits waste valuable law enforcement time and resources that could be spent protecting society from violent criminals, marijuana prohibition enforcement undermines the relationship between law enforcement and the community."
Former Columbia MO Police officer Gamal Castile said, "So Ellie McDaniel is really no different than any drug dealer. She wants to make a profit and wants her share of the market (her turf) protected. The difference is instead of toting a gun herself, she wants to use the guns of police officers to enforce her turf."
As legalization efforts in Missouri move closer to reality, Crossing Paths PAC will continue to defend true legalization without bad ideas like possession limits. Twitter thread on this issue here.
Edit: It's ironic but Fair Access Missouri funders include convicted marijuana felon Ed Pilla, who pled guilty to possession of marijuana with intent to distribute (61 plants and 11 pounds) in 2009. Pilla has donated $5000 to Fair Access Missouri according to recent Missouri Ethics Commission reports.