Editorial Roundup: Missouri

Kansas City Star. August 15, 2022.

Editorial: Missourians will vote on recreational marijuana soon. Will politicians overrule them?

Last week, Missourians learned a constitutional amendment that would legalize the use of recreational marijuana for anyone over 21 will appear on a statewide ballot later this fall. Almost immediately, and on cue, opponents of the proposed referendum went on the offensive, including at least one GOP lawmaker.

“All we’re doing is creating new criminal penalties for marijuana,” state Rep. Ron Hicks, a Republican from Defiance, told the NPR affiliate in St. Louis, adding that the amendment would lead to a monopoly in the marijuana industry.

Before we make hasty judgments, let’s give the public a chance to dig a little deeper into the 38-page initiative. Given their chance to seriously deal with this question, the state’s lawmakers have punted time and again.

Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft announced Tuesday that the petition by Legal Missouri 22 to legalize recreational pot had gained enough signatures for a statewide vote. The measure, which would legalize recreational cannabis use for adults ages 21 and older, will appear as Amendment 3 on the Nov. 8 ballot.

The initiative includes measures that could do a lot of good, primarily by ending the wasteful prosecution of minor possession offenses. Those already convicted of nonviolent marijuana offenses could get their record expunged. And anyone of legal age could buy and grow the plant with certain restrictions.

We’re all for giving the public the opportunity to deal directly with this issue — something that the legislature wouldn’t do.

In the last legislative session, Hicks’ pro-marijuana legislation stalled at the state Capitol, where Republican-majority lawmakers have routinely refused to approve recreational marijuana use.

Hicks wants another crack at the legislative route, telling the radio station: “If we’re going to legalize this, let’s legalize it through the legislature where there’s a framework and everybody’s involved in it, not large corporations from out of state and not the largest lobbyists in our state.”

That’s on brand. GOP lawmakers such as Hicks are fond of telling Missourians what’s best for them. Republicans foolishly fought a voter-approved referendum on Medicaid expansion all the way to the state Supreme Court and lost. Voters must decide the merits of the recreational cannabis proposal, not politicians and judges, who have resisted the trends followed by many other states.

We haven’t weighed in on full legalization of adult-use cannabis. For now, we reserve judgment on the issue until later in the fall, when we will vet the pros and cons of this petition thoroughly.

We can see, though, that positives in the initiative include new state revenues and judicial reforms. Missouri would collect tens of millions of dollars per year from state taxes on retail marijuana sales, according to budget estimates.

Voters should look closely at how the initiative would put a cap on business licenses, and view skeptically the influence of deep-pocketed, out-of-state marijuana businesses.

But Missouri legislators opposed to the measure should stand down. If voters disapprove of the amendment, then by all means, go forth with a comprehensive plan that protects the state’s interests but meets the needs of business owners and consumers.

Based on shifting views in recent years to decriminalize cannabis, we’ve pushed for a statewide vote on recreational pot. In 2018, Missourians overwhelmingly approved legalizing medical marijuana, becoming the 33rd state to do so. Five other states have since, in some form, approved the use of pot for medical reasons. Last November, a Gallup poll showed 68% of Americans support the full legalization of cannabis.

Commercialization of the marijuana industry is a slippery slope. Drug abuse counselors and others raise reasonable concerns about the impact of marijuana decriminalization on use of other more dangerous drugs. Those worries should be weighed carefully, but recreational pot is legal in 19 other states, including Illinois and Colorado.

Now it’s Missouri’s turn to weigh in on marijuana legalization — without the meddling of lawmakers.

___

St. Louis Post-Dispatch. August 14, 2022.

Editorial: Asking other states to help Missouri rape victims should highlight GOP’s cruelty here

It has come to this: Missouri Democrats recently reached out to Illinois and Kansas officials, asking them to secure Medicaid funding for low-income Missouri rape victims who have to travel out of state for abortion services due to Missouri’s extreme new abortion ban. It’s a chilling reminder that Missouri has turned its back on some of its most vulnerable citizens, to the point that they have to flee to neighboring states like refugees from some oppressive regime.

Missouri’s ruling Republicans should be ashamed of this situation — but there’s no indication they are. Pro-choice political candidates in Missouri this year should prioritize keeping the issue front and center.

Minutes after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on June 24, Missouri’s GOP leaders activated a law that makes abortion illegal from the moment of conception, even in cases of rape or incest, except in medical emergencies. It means most women or girls in Missouri who seek to terminate a pregnancy — even child-rape victims — will have to travel to a state where abortion is still legal.

For low-income Missouri women, this isn’t always as simple as jumping in the car and taking I-70 east or west. Lack of reliable transportation, inability to get paid time off work and other financial issues mean Missouri’s law not only victimizes women as a whole but victimizes poor women in particular.

President Joe Biden last week signed an executive order designed to address the quandary that red states like Missouri have created in their rush to outlaw abortion rights. It allows states where abortion is legal to provide Medicaid assistance to women from other states to travel there for abortion services. Because federal law prohibits use of federal funds for abortion except in cases of rape or incest, this help is likely to apply only to those victims.

Even at that, Republicans are widely expected to mount a legal challenge to Biden’s order. That would be consistent with the stated goal of some Missouri legislative Republicans of preventing any Missouri women from leaving the state for abortion services — even to the point of proposing bans on what kind of information those women can obtain, and threatening legal action against out-of-state doctors. In their zeal to deny women everywhere the right to control their own bodies, forced-birth extremists are ready to scuttle other core American rights like freedom of speech and interstate travel.

For now, though, it’s still legal for Missouri rape victims who are desperate for abortion services to go out of state to get them. Having to ask neighboring states to help those victims, even as Missouri seeks to victimize them again, is a jolting illustration of just how ill-served Missourians are by their Republican-controlled Legislature. Democrats in this year’s midterms should be reminding voters of that at every turn.

END