For some, April 20th is exactly what it sounds like — the 20th day of April; for others, 4/20 is a worldwide celebration of all things weed. As suburban legend has it, the 4/20 backstory can be traced to five high school students from San Rafael, California, who called themselves “the Waldos” and wanted to get high after class. Since then, the day earned a cult-like following and has grown into quite the occasion for many places around the world. However, in Missouri — where any use or possession of marijuana still remains firmly illegal — the joint certainly isn’t quite as jumping.
Spliffs in the states
It was 22 years ago that California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana. Since then, 28 other states have joined them, and nine states have allowed state-wide recreational use since Colorado and Washington pioneered the movement in 2012. This year, history was made again when Vermont became the first state to legalize recreational use of marijuana through the state legislature. Now in the minority, Missouri has continued to shoot-down marijuana-related legislation, but that hasn't kept supporters from trying.
Medical Marijuana Broadly legalized
Recreational Marijuana Broadly legalized
No Broad Marijuana legalization laws
Looking to puff, puff pass in the legislature
This year, various groups with different plans to get medical marijuana legalization approved are all hoping to find footholds in the Missouri legislature this session as they have for the past several years. Some of these different avenues include creating a 4 percent tax on medical marijuana that would go to supporting veterans, a 15 percent tax that would fund medical research and one that would set up a plan and rules for individually licensing dispensaries.
While the Columbia City Council doesn’t support any particular bill, in February, the council did unanimously agree to show support of Missouri medical marijuana legalization in general. One of the issue’s biggest supporters on the council is Secondward Councilman Michael Trapp, who says that one of his biggest motivators is the positive effects legalization could have on diminishing the opioid epidemic.
Smoking-out the opioid epidemic
In 2017, the U.S. was declared in a state of crisis when it came to opioid addiction and overdose, and according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the government poured $900 million into stopping the 91-daily opioid-overdose deaths in the county this past year. In Missouri, the Centers for Disease Control estimates the rate of the state’s opioid overdose rose 30.1 percent from 2015 to 2016, making it the 11th highest increase in the U.S. that year.
The CDC has identified over-prescription of opioids as one of the leading contributors to the epidemic. One of the biggest arguments against marijuana legalization and consumption continues to be the belief that marijuana is a “gateway” drug, which increases the likelihood of trying and ultimately becoming addicted to other substances, including opioids. However, two new studies released on Monday from the journal JAMA Internal Medicine suggest medical marijuana could help curb the crisis, according to the Associated Press. Essentially, the studies found that in places where prescribing medical marijuana was legalized, the number of opioid prescriptions dropped 6 percent; in places where recreational marijuana was allowed, that rate dropped another 6 percent.
“To me, (the opioid epidemic) is an important and dire enough situation to take some edgier policy,” Trapp says. “To act out locally and go against federal and state law would be a big ask for our local police officers, but I hope (the Missouri legislature) will put it on the ballot, and we’ll have some kind of medical marijuana law at the end of 2018.”