As Missourians prepare to vote in November on whether to legalize medical marijuana, proponents have support from someone who used to prosecute federal laws.
Former U.S. Attorney for Kansas Barry Grissom said Saturday that the federal classification of marijuana as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, along with heroin, is “absurd” and he said advocates of marijuana legalization were patriots because they are standing up for individual liberty.
As a federal prosecutor, Grissom said, “I soon became a true believer that enforcement of cannabis laws was immoral.”
Grissom was the keynote speaker at a conference in Kansas City of the Missouri Cannabis Industry Association.
Association chairman Dan Viets called Grissom one of the most “outspoken, articulate and effective advocates” for marijuana legalization.
Missouri voters will decide three ballot measures to legalize medical marijuana. Two would amend the Missouri Constitution and a third would legalize cannabis by state statute.
One constitutional amendment, promoted by an organization called A New Approach Missouri, would allow doctors to prescribe cannabis for 10 specific medical issues, including epilepsy, cancer, chronic pain and PTSD. The measure would tax medical marijuana sales and direct the revenue toward health for veterans through the Missouri Veterans Commission.
The second constitutional amendment is promoted by Springfield, Mo., lawyer and physician Brad Bradshaw. It would create a state research institute that could determine what medical conditions can be treated with marijuana. It also would direct some tax revenue for veterans’ health care.
The third ballot measure is called the Missourians for Patient Care Act. Its proponents say it would be easier to set up a regulatory framework for medical marijuana under a statute that can be amended than it would a constitutional amendment that could only be changed by another vote of the people.
Grissom, who was appointed U.S. attorney by former President Barack Obama and served from 2010 to 2016, said public support for marijuana legalization has risen from 12 percent in 1969 to 61 percent now. If he was running for elective office, Grissom said, “I’m going to ride that horse.”
The former prosecutor also noted that cannabis legalization is not a partisan issue, pointing out that Hillary Clinton lost the electoral vote in North Dakota, Arkansas and Florida — three states that approved medical marijuana.
Grissom said that even before he stepped down as U.S. attorney he paid a surprise visit to the Washington office of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, and said “I’m here to help.”
Now in private practice, Grissom told his audience at the Crowne Plaza hotel that he does not use cannabis. But he said he believes it is bad public policy to use resources to prosecute and incarcerate people who do.
Grissom said legalizing marijuana creates jobs and money that does not go to cartels or other bad actors. But he said existing banking laws and regulations remain a challenge to those who would become entrepreneurs in a legal marijuana environment.