Want to write about cannabis?

Then you’ve come to the right place! MU NORML is seeking daily cannabis content contributors and everyone is welcome. This is a great opportunity to establish your name in the growing cannabis community by having your work published online.

If you are interested, please send an email with the subject line “It’s NORML to smoke cannabis” to laurien.rose@gmail.com and include the following:

• Name, as you would like it to appear on your work (pen names are fine)

• A sentence or two about yourself and why you’d like to contribute your work. What are your passions? What sparked your interest in cannabis?

• Content ideas: What do you want to write about? We can help shape your ideas. If you’ve got something already written, send it our way and we will send it back to you with either editing notes or an explanation for rejection. You will have a chance to review all edits before the story hits publication.

We are not looking for fiction, personal essays or poetry.

Got questions? Feel free to ask.

Marijuana Cultivation Ordinance Columbia, MO

Dear Friends,

A very important meeting regarding the proposed Columbia personal use marijuana cultivation ordinance will take place next Thursday, May 8 at 5:30 p.m. A “joint” meeting of the Columbia Board of Health and Substance Abuse Advisory Commission will take place that afternoon at the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services located at 1005 W. Worley in Columbia. These two citizen groups have been asked by the Columbia City Council to review and make recommendations concerning the ordinance proposed by Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe which would place prosecution of six or fewer marijuana plants under city ordinance where defendants would not face the possibility of prison or jail.

The ordinance encourages the Court to make use of a form of probation known as Suspended Imposition of Sentence (SIS) and require defendants to engage in counseling or perform community service work. The Court is also authorized to impose fines of up to $250.

This ordinance would amend the two initiatives passed by the voters of our city in 2004 by overwhelming margins which deal with general adult possession of up to one and one quarter ounces of marijuana and possession for medical use of the same amounts.

Current state law provides for five to 15 years in prison for as little as attempting to sprout one seed. If such activity is within 2,000 feet of the outer edge of the property of any school or school bus, the penalty range increases to 10 to 30 years or life in prison!

Please make plans now to attend this very important meeting which is specifically for the purpose of hearing citizen input regarding this proposal.

Sincerely,

Dan Viets, Missouri NORML Coordinator
and Show-Me-Cannabis Board Chair

Signature Drive News

Hello all,

It’s been a busy month for everyone locally in the movement as we’ve been trying to gather signatures and train new canvassers. Things are beginning to really get ironed out and we have over 100 volunteers trained and collecting signatures out there so far! If you’re in the Columbia area and would like to be trained, we are holding a training session beginning at 6:00 p.m this Monday, December 12 in Middlebush 132 on Mizzou’s campus. For those who aren’t familiar with campus, Middlebush is on the corner of 9th and University. Please encourage your friends to come out and volunteer with Show-Me Cannabis Regulation! We’ll need all the signature gathering help we can get! Also, if you know of any business that would be willing to be a permanent signing location here in Columbia, encourage them to have their staff attend the training this monday or email us and we can schedule a training for them at another date.

If you’re in the Jeff City area, don’t worry about making it up to Columbia on Monday because we’ll be coming to you Wednesday! SMCR will be hosting a training starting at 2:00 p.m. Wednesday, December 14 in McClung Park in Jefferson City. After the training we will launch a signature gathering drive at that location until 6 p.m., so if you simply want to sign the initiative without volunteering to canvas for signatures yourself, show up around 4:00.

Lastly, I had the wonderful opportunity to write a guest editorial for the Maneater this week about our signature drive and our efforts to regulate cannabis like alcohol. You can read that column in full on the Maneater’s website.

Hope to see you all next week!

It’s Official: Carnahan Approves Petition for Circulation

Show-Me Cannabis Regulation, a Columbia-based coalition of drug law reform groups, has gained approval from Secretary of State Robin Carnahan to begin circulating a petition to legalize cannabis in the state of Missouri. The official proposal can be seen here. If successful, the proposal, which lists the change of statutes, would make cannabis usage legal for all state residents over the age of 21. The law also allows for persons under the age of 21 to use cannabis for medical purposes under the supervision of a licensed physician and with the consent of a guardian.  Missouri’s General Assembly would be capable of taxing up to $100 per pound of dried cannabis. On top of this, anyone currently imprisoned or on probation for non-violent, cannabis-related offenses would be released upon its passage.

The law explicitly acknowledges that its passage would not protect anyone who has been operating a vehicle impaired or selling cannabis to minors, nor would it protect workers who are fired for impairment while on the job.  It does, however, allow for personal not-for-resale cultivation in a 10×10 area, distributing and selling from a licensed cannabis establishment, and leasing property to any adult lawfully possessing or using cannabis.  The Department of Health and Senior Services would be given a deadline of February 1, 2013 to set up a license and fee system for cannabis establishments and would be barred  from requiring any personal information from customers other than a photo I.D. for age verification.

The initiative would amend the Missouri Constitution to reflect these changes if passed. Signatures must be obtained from 8 percent of registered voters who participated in the 2008 gubernatorial election in six of the nine Missouri congressional districts. The deadline for collecting signatures is May 1, 2012. If these signatures can be attained, the issue will appear on the ballot for November 2012.

To qualify for the 2012 ballot, the petition must collect enough signatures in six of Missouri's nine congressional districts.

The constitutional amendment's signature requirement is equal to 8% of registered voters who participated in the last gubernatorial election. This number must be reached in two-thirds of Missouri's congressional districts.

If anyone in the Columbia area is interested in helping gather signatures for this petition, MU NORML will be holding a training session for signature gathering at 7 p.m. Wednesday, November 16 in Middlebush 133 on Mizzou’s campus. It’s important to note that you must be certified and have an official petition form when gathering signatures. If you cannot make it to the meeting but would like to know more about how to help out, please register as a volunteer with Show Me Cannabis Reform.

Illegal Drugs “Will Not be Tolerated” in Oklahoma

In Oklahoma, a person can face life without parole along with up to $50,000 in fines for a first time non-violent drug offense, thanks to the passing of House Bill 1798, which enables this sentencing for anyone convicted of manufacturing hashish, cultivating marijuana, or selling. The Senate voted on the bill, 44-2, and the House approved it, 75 to 18, allowing the Legislature to pass it, back in April 2011. Under this House Bill, anyone facing a second offense will have doubled sentences and will be unable to receive a suspended sentence or probation.

Mark Woodward, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Board of Narcotics, stated that the bill is meant to “send a message” that illegal drugs “will not be tolerated” in Oklahoma, but don’t you think life in prison is a little extreme for selling weed? Convicts are given shorter sentences for causing bodily harms to people – meanwhile, non-violent offenders are facing life in prison. Not only is this unfair to the sentenced person and their families, but each day in an Oklahoma prison costs $56 per person, which will then cost about $20,000 a year.

Many of you may have heard about Patricia M. Spottedcrow, the 25-year-old Oklahoma mother of four who was given a ten-year sentence for selling $31 worth of marijuana to an undercover cop back in February. Two years were added onto her sentence when police found marijuana in her jacket pocket as she was being picked up to go to prison. Her sentence has since been reduced to eight years. Her fifty-year-old mother,  Delita Starr, who was present at the time of the undercover cop’s purchase, is facing a 30-year suspended sentence with no incarceration, but with five years of drug and alcohol testing.

Patricia Spottedcrow, mother of 4, was sentenced to ten years in prison for the sale of marijuana to an undercover police officer.

“The punishment does not fit the crime,” said Josh Welch to Tulsa World, an Oklahoma City attorney who represents Spottedcrow. “We are pleased Judge Davis recognized her sentence needed to be modified, but we are simply not pleased with the amount of time that was modified,” Welch said. “I don’t walk away from this feeling good even with four years knocked down, and I’m not going to give up until she is released.”

Spottedcrow and Starr were both offered plea deals of two years in prison, because this was their first offense, but they took their chances and entered a guilt plea to the judge, without a prior sentence agreement. If you are ever faced with a similar situation, never enter a “blind guilty plea” like this.

This court case led to an uprising across the nation, with the creation of online petitions and donations to her children. A rally was held in Oklahoma City, featuring @waynecoyne of the The Flaming Lips.

State Senator Constance N. Johnson introduced Senate Bill 986, which would end life sentences without parole for nonviolent drug offenses and require the state Pardon and Parole Board to review all existing life without parole sentences for those offenses. The measure also addresses punishment enhancements for felony offenses. However, and as we all could have suspected, this bill has been completely disregarded by the state legislature.

Johnson continues fighting to reduce the sentencing for non-violent offenders facing life in prison, as she made an appearance at the parole board hearing for Larry Yarbrough, a 61-year-old who is seventeen years into his life sentence for possession of an ounce of cocaine and three marijuana cigarettes after having previous felony convictions, including distribution of marijuana and distribution of LSD in the 1980s.  There are currently 48 prisoners facing life in prisonin Oklahoma for non-violent, drug-related offenses.

Oklahoma State Senator Constance N. Johnson is fighting to reform the laws on drugs within the state.

“We have murderers, rapists and child molesters getting paroled, but here is a husband, father, grandfather, business owner and community servant who could spend half his life in prison costing the state millions of dollars,” said Johnson.  “We have people serving less time for greater amounts of drugs than what Mr. Yarbrough was convicted of—an ounce of cocaine and three marijuana cigarettes. Surely 17 years is a long enough punishment for his crime.  In the name of justice and common sense, I urge Governor Fallin to accept the board’s recommendations,” she added.

Although Oklahoma currently has some of the harshest drug laws in the nation, Johnson believes that there is hope for reform, especially after the passage of House Bill 2131, a sentencing reform bill sponsored by the Republican legislative leadership, which removes the governor from the parole process for nonviolent offenses, expands community sentencing eligibility, and provides for GPS monitoring of nonviolent offenders.

Johnson stated, “Fortunately, other state and local officials are beginning to see that the current system has filled our prisons to near capacity, cost the state millions in tax dollars, and still isn’t working…We took a step in the right direction in the legislature this past session passing major reforms for our state’s correction system under House Bill 2131, which will save our state millions of dollars, and still protect the public from the state’s most dangerous, violent offenders. These were great first steps but we have even more to do this coming session and beyond.  We need to ensure that offenders’ sentences fairly match their crimes, both as a matter of human decency and fiscal responsibility.”

The #Occupy Movement: What Could it Mean for Drug Reform?

Unless you’ve been literally hiding out under a rock with no outside social contact for the last month, you’re sure to by now have heard at least something about the #OccupyWallStreet protest and the subsequent #Occupy gatherings that have been cropping up in cities around the nation and world. So now that the media and political elites have shown they are finally ready to acknowledge the protests, we get to hear everyone’s new opinions on “What these protests mean for [fill in anything here].” The unique thing about these protests as opposed to some other recent grassroots political movements is that they have such a wide potential and an extremely diverse base. Where the media were able to immediately paint a picture of the Tea Party as a bunch of wacko white right-wing Christian racists who couldn’t spell and didn’t understand simple political terms like ‘socialism,’ ‘communism’ or ‘Czar,’ the #Occupy protesters seem to be made up of people from all over the racial, religious and even political spectrums, and even mainstream media outlets like the New York Times are having a tough time putting the movement in a box.

This to me seems to be the strongest and most vital aspect of the #Occupy movement. Because all of our societal structures are in immediate need of broad, sweeping reform, We the People simply do not have enough time left to focus on just two or three hot-button issues. We want change, REAL change, in broad and sweeping ways, and we want it YESTERDAY. We want an end to the War on Drugs. We want an end to burning fossil fuels that are destroying our environment, destroying our economies, and allowing our resources to be hoarded by a greedy few. We want an end to a Federal Banking racket that gambles away OUR money to make themselves richer. We want an end to this system that encourages people to ascend to richness and wealth while relying on keeping the poor in an endless cycle of imprisonment and debt. We want these things and a long laundry list of more, and most of it boils down to trimming the government back to what we started from in the first place: our constitution.

So back to my original question: what does this mean for us, the drug reform community? It means we have a huge, active base that is paying attention. We have a group of people who are willing to wear many hats, carry batons for many causes, and change the world for good for the sake of our very futures. There are people all over the country who are finally not only paying attention, but they’re volunteering. They’re protesting. They’re reading a lot. They’re tweeting, taking pictures and videos of police encounters and sharing articles with their friends, family and loved ones. They’re voting; they’re getting their peers registered to vote. They’re writing letters to the editor and making signs and voting in polls and making damn sure that their voice rings out loud and clear at all of the precious few opportunities they get to air it.

What does the #Occupy movement mean? It means, my friends, that we are no longer alone, and we would do well to find the others.

Drones fighting the drug war?!?

U.S. military drones are policing international skies… to find pot.

I wish that was a typo.

Apparently, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, the U.S. started secretly using “unarmed drones” about a month ago to combat the drug war in Mexico. It’s no surprise that extra enforcement was chosen as the solution; Mexican presidents have a long history of crackdown-enforcement solutions that do nothing but puff up the death toll. So now we have flying robots spying on people (only spying, we’re assured) in foreign countries. No wonder they kept it secret. It’s sort of illegal, since Mexican laws restrict foreign military intervention. Not to mention all the national sovereignty issues implicated (as if Uncle Sam gives a fuck about your weak little country’s supposed ‘sovereignty!’). Relax! We’re the good guys here, situation’s under control now. Our control.

But make no mistake; this is just the beginning. It won’t take too long for the government to sneak some weapons aboard these drones, especially with the buddy-buddy relationship that appears to be forming between drug warriors of the U.S. and Mexico. With a drug-war justification, an already desensitized public will have little air left in their lungs to yell about the injustice of it. When will our government realize that even if we weren’t broke and in record-setting nail-biting mountains of debt, we’d never have enough money to eradicate the cannabis plant from the globe? It’s too hearty a plant, and it’s kept alive by an even heartier and ever-growing culture. Press on, keep reading and for the love of pot keep your eyes trained on Mexico.