Rep. Chris Kelly: "Not At All Sure I Can Deal (No Pun Intended) with Marijuana"

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Rep. Chris Kelly -
Rep. Chris Kelly

Last week, we introduced the two state legislators who have publicly expressed interest in either marijuana legalization or decriminalization bills.

Rep. Rory Ellinger hopes to introduce bills that would make possession of 35 grams or fewer a municipal infraction and a second bill that would make record expungement possible. He shared his ideas with us here.

Rep. Chris Kelly, however, was a bit harder to reach. He just got back to us via email, and shared both his support and misgivings about full marijuana legalization in Missouri.

Here's the quick and dirty version: Kelly supports marijuana legalization, but he's not sure this is the right time to introduce a bill. He feels it's certain to fail and could be an unnecessary distraction, though he is still considering the idea. A legalization bill at this point would be more about raising awareness of the issue, Kelly says. Check it out:

Here is my position on the issue.

I support full legalization. I would also support most efforts to decriminalize but think they are almost almost always ineffective as legal tools, resulting in a clouded legal position. The law should be clear; legal or illegal. I am for legal. I would also probably support legalization of medical marijuana but believe that those bills are usually tools to achieve legalization, although I do understand that there are legitimate medical uses.

I don't know yet whether I will offer legislation to legalize. The factors which will weigh heavily are these:

1. A legalization bill is certain to fail. The reason to offer it is to increase awareness of the issue with legislators and with the public in general.

2. The bill will generate a great deal of public scrutiny and controversy, thereby consuming a lot of legislative time, energy and a lot of whatever tolerance my fellows might have for my issues.

3. I have several more important issues to work on. Those are: a state-wide general obligation bond for higher education and other state capitol improvements, Medicaid expansion, and the reform of the sexual offender registry, all of which have some chance to pass. I will also be the ranking Democrat on the Budget Committee and that takes a lot of time.

Given that combination I am not at all sure I can deal (no pun intended) with marijuana. I am still thinking about it.

Some people are operating under the misconception that, if only I were educated sufficiently on the subject, I would come to understand its importance and would then see the light and offer the bill. I can assure you and your readers that, having been a judge for seven years and heard many marijuana cases and having observed the legal scene, I do understand the issue and do not need further education from "experts". I can also assure them that my decision will not be influenced by advocacy. I already share the necessary conviction with the advocates. My ambivalence arises not from uncertainty regarding the issue, but from uncertainilty about my ability to do justice to the issue while not distracting from those other matters above.

I am also considering whether to attempt to get support and funding for some kind of study that would produce empirical information regarding the cost of the current law. How much are we paying to keep marijuana illegal?

You hear that marijuana activists? Get off his dang lawn. He knows what you want.

We'll keep in touch with both Reps. Kelly and Ellinger if and when their bills see the light of day.

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