Is Missouri ready to join Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C., in legalizing marijuana? The St. Louis Post-Dispatch thinks so.
The editorial board for St. Louis' metro daily newspaper has often supported legalizing pot, especially with this region's history of hemp agricultural production. But a week after Show-Me Cannabis filed the first round of paperwork to get the issue on the 2016 ballot, the Post-Dispatch published a piece headlined, "Editorial: Could pot legalization make Missouri's 2016 ballot? Let's hope so."
"Let the great pot debate of 2016 begin," the editorial says.
John Payne, executive director of Show-Me Cannabis, tells Daily RFT he didn't expect to hear support from the newspaper before the group collects the approximately 160,000 signatures needed for the issue to officially go on the ballot.
"I think it's a sign of how seriously they take us and the issue more generally," says Payne.
The Post-Dispatch first points to the economic benefits of legalizing weed in Missouri, a state that relies on agriculture, energy research and life sciences to grow its economy.
"There might be no other state in the nation that could benefit more from a new tax on the sales of legal pot that could fund various state needs, such as Missouri's underfunded schools," the editorial board says.
But as conversations often do in St. Louis, the editorial turns its focus to Ferguson, where the police shooting of a black teen has broken open a nationwide dialogue about how the underpinnings of St. Louis law enforcement intersect with race.
For starters, black drivers are 66 percent more likely to get pulled over by police than white drivers in Missouri, despite the fact that white drivers are more likely to have drugs in the car, according to a 2014 report from the attorney general.
"The result? Too many young black men and women in prison for offenses that wouldn't lead to prison for middle-class whites," the editorial says.
Legal weed comes with its own set of problems, the Post-Dispatch notes, such as the potential for abuse or conflict with federal or neighboring states' laws. But that's no reason for Missouri to miss its chance to jump front and center into a cause that's already supported by a majority of Americans.
"Missouri should thrust itself to the forefront of the debate, primarily because of its location in the center of the country and its reliance on agriculture and life sciences as major economic drivers," the editorial sums up.