Some students at Missouri Western have a solution to Missouri’s budget problem: cannabis.
Several members of the Western student body have become participants in a state wide initiative to legalize, tax and regulate cannabis. Show-Me Cannabis, the group behind the initiative, is attempting to procure 150,000 signatures by April. If the group achieves this, the intitaive to legalize marijuana will appear in the ballot in November along with the general election for President.
Paul Newton, a Western student and supporter of the initiative, said that a recent article in The Griffon News made him realize that University President Robert Vartabedian had no real plan to solve the budget crisis.
“The only thing he thinks is that it’s going to happen year after year,” Newton said. “It’s about creating so much more tax revenue. It’s not about pot smoking.”
The legislation, if voted on in November, will regulate and tax marijuana for people above the age of 21. Melody Patton, another Western student, believes that the legislation will also benefit Missouri farmers.
“The benefit from agricultural hemp alone,” Patton said, “I mean, the Midwest is prime soil, prime land for growing hemp. Our farmers could greatly benefit.”
The group said that they will have a table stationed in Blum union for hopefully a month. They hope more students will get involved.
“We want to turn the university into a place where we can educate students out there,” Newton said.
Once the legislation is on the ballot, Patton believes that Missouri residents will support it.
“I think if it’s on the ballot people will vote for it,” Patton said. “No revolution has ever been won without the students.”
Patton has received some opposition from others while trying to obtain signatures for the petition to get the legislation on the ballot.
“I was told I should be executed, by a former law enforcement [officer],” Patton said. “He told me himself, ‘if I could, I’d execute you all.’”
All political groups that want to solicit students for signatures on campus must first receive approval from Judy Grimes, associate vice president and dean of students.
“My role in working with this particular situation was to explain the process the group needed to go through to reserve the space as well as what the guidelines are that must be followed in a petition drive,” Grimes said.
With an energized political season coming close, Grimes hopes that she sees more petitions and political groups being active on campus. As energized as the topics may be, Grimes hopes students remain civilized and act respectful.
“This is an institution of higher learning,” Grimes said. “We expect people to be able to debate—agree and disagree—in a constructive manner.”
The group meets weekly in the East Hills Library basement. This Saturday, a former law enforcement officer will be speaking on behalf of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a group of law enforcement agents hoping to legalize cannabis.